You’re not alone if you think hoisting a weighty barbell is the only way to see gains in your shoulders, as it seems to be one of the most popular points in any gym that you visit.
And this is perhaps due to the fact that the key to developing cannonball shoulders is activating all three heads of your deltoids – the anterior, lateral, and posterior. And although most people hanker straight for the barbells and cable in the gym, the humble dumbbell is actually the ideal equipment to get you the results you desire.
Providing you vary your exercises, you can see excellent results from dumbbell exercises, whether you perform them in the gym or at home. But it’s equally important to ensure your nutrition is on point and your form is faultless if you want to develop cannonball shoulders that will improve the tone and definition of your upper body.
Exercises like the 30/30 push press, lateral raise, and reverse fly are ideal dumbbell shoulder workouts, and we introduce these a little later on.
But first, let’s look at why the key to your shoulder success lies in working out the three heads of your deltoids.
According to Physiopedia, the deltoid is the prime mover of shoulder abduction, and strengthening each of the deltoid heads can greatly reduce the risk of injury in your shoulders and increase your upper body strength.
From an anatomical perspective, the deltoid is a triangular-shaped muscle spilt into three groups:
1] Anterior deltoid – rotates the shoulder joint by drawing your arm inward and is vital to upper arm movement.
2] Lateral deltoid – rotates the shoulder joint laterally and enables your arm to move outward.
3] Posterior deltoid – rotates the shoulder joint laterally, which allows your arm to move backward and outwards, moving your arm towards your spine.
According to Verywellhealth, the deltoids are integral to the functionality of your shoulder joints in the following way:
“[The] motor function which the deltoid is responsible for includes shoulder abduction, shoulder flexion, and shoulder extension.”
Essentially, the deltoid muscles enable your shoulder to move in each direction, so it’s vitally important that your delts are strong and well looked after.
While many of us are motivated by body aesthetics, there’s more to strengthening your delts than just looking good. In fact, the benefits of strengthening your shoulders are far-ranging and include:
When you think about it, almost every arm or upper body workout involves your shoulders in some respect. It stands to reason, then, that strengthening your shoulders will improve your ability to perform a broad range of exercises, which will, in turn, contribute to your weightlifting success.
Beefing up your deltoids will also increase your resilience to injury. If your shoulders are weak, you will find it increasingly difficult to perform a range of tasks, whether it’s daily household chores, heavy lifting, or playing sports. It’s impossible to understate the vital role that your delts play in your upper body composition, so actively seeking to work them out will yield impressive benefits to your strength and weightlifting potential.
As well as improving the aesthetics and composition of your upper body, broadening and strengthening your shoulders will improve your self-confidence. Your posture and the way you carry yourself stems from your shoulders, and pushing your shoulders out in many real-life situations can significantly improve the way you feel about yourself.
So, regardless of your motivation, working your deltoids is critical if you want to see significant gains on your shoulders. And now that we’ve explored the benefits let’s look at some tried and trusted ways in which you can get big shoulders at home, using only dumbbells.
As we mentioned in the introduction, people often think that they need to use the barbell to see gains in their shoulders. But with more and more people working out from home, we’re here to tell you that it’s perfectly possible to build cannonball shoulders exclusively with the help of the humble dumbbell. Here are three dumbbell shoulder exercises that you can add to your workout schedule to see results:
With your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart, hold your weights by your shoulders. Then, lower into a quarter squat and push up through your heels. As you rise, press the weights overhead, holding them in position for 20-30 seconds. The hold is where you will feel the most resistance, so be sure to use weights that enable you to hold them for sufficient time without shaking. After the hold, slowly return your arms to the starting position. Try doing two sets of ten reps to get you started.
This is a nice and simple one and will work your triceps as well as your deltoids. Begin by holding your weights at your side with your palms facing one another before raising your arms out in a straight line, stopping just before you get to the level of your shoulders. Slowly return to the start and repeat between ten and twelve times, for up to three sets.
Begin by holding your dumbbells with your palms facing inwards, and bend forward at your waist until you’re looking at the ground. Don’t bend too far, and ensure there is a slight bend in your knees and keep your back straight. Then bring the dumbbells straight out from your body in a motion that mimics a bird flapping its wings. Then bring them back to the starting position to complete the motion. Try three sets of ten reps.
When designing your home workout, it’s so vital that your form is good. When you’re in the gym, it’s possible to observe others and learn from their technique or ask a PT for advice about a certain exercise. Obviously, at home, you’re very much left to your own devices. If you’re unsure of your form, check out some YouTube videos from channels that you trust to get a good idea of how you should be lifting.
What’s more, you need to ensure your nutrition is on point, particularly on your workout days. Make sure you’re taking on sufficient protein before and after your workouts, as this will help your muscles repair and grow more effectively. With good form and appropriate nutrition, you will soon see the rewards of your home workout.
There’s no way to answer this question without generalizing. You need to lift suitable weights to match your body type and lifting goals. As a rule of thumb, you should begin by lifting weights that you’re capable of lifting between 10-15 times, maintaining proper form. There’s little merit in opting for 20kgs on each arm if you can’t perform a single rep. Equally, if your weights are too light and you’re not putting your delts under sufficient stress, you won’t see results. It’s a good idea to work out at the gym a couple of times to find your range and buy the appropriate weights to match your lifting needs.
In order to build big shoulders from home, you should aim to perform these exercises 2-3 times every week. Don’t be tempted to overdo your shoulder exercises, as your muscles need time to recover and repair. If you work out every day, you increase the risk of injury and won’t see adequate gains. If you’re extremely committed, it’s possible to increase your workout days slightly, but you shouldn’t work your muscles on consecutive days.
Of course! While dumbbells are great for working out your shoulders, it’s possible to get the results you desire by relying on bodyweight exercises at home if you don’t have access to the required equipment. Exercises like inclined push-ups, plank to dog down, and pike push-ups can all contribute to working out your deltoids and building bigger shoulders from home. As with dumbbell exercises, make sure your form is good and allow your body time to recover. Just because you’re not using weights, it doesn’t mean you should perform these exercises every day.
In spite of what you might have previously thought, it’s perfectly possible to build big shoulders at home with dumbbells. While the barbell and certain machines in the gym will certainly help shape and strengthen your shoulders, they’re not actually required.
However, if you want to see results, you need to ensure your form is perfect and you’re following a nutritious diet. On your workout days, make sure you take on sufficient protein so your muscles have a chance to repair themselves and afford yourself ample rest days while your muscles grow.
Then, providing you use appropriately weighted dumbbells, the three exercises that we’ve introduced above will help you so strengthen your deltoids and build bigger shoulder muscles from home, exclusively using dumbbells.