A Dumbbell Workout for the Arms and Shoulders

Tone Up the Upper Body with this Dumbbell Workout

These dumbbell exercises will help you keep those upper arms and shoulders strong and the muscles toned. In conjunction with an all-around fitness and weight training program, you can expect to lose fat from those parts as well. Do the exercises in the order listed below. If you don't have any dumbbells available, you can use a kettlebell, medicine ball, or other available weight.

The Dumbbell Arm Curl

Ben Goldstein

Perhaps the best-known dumbbell exercise - it's certainly the most common - the curl is a classic "isolation exercise," which means that it isolates one muscle or one group of muscles. This is the opposite of a "compound exercise," like the bench press or the squat, which works out multiple muscle groups at once.

The ol' bicep curl can be performed with dumbbells, a barbell, a resistance band, a cable, or a kettlebell. The trick is to keep your core braced and the elbow close to your body so that the weight can be lifted in a relatively stable plane. In addition to targeting the bicep, this exercise also works the brachialis muscles of the upper arm.

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The Dumbbell Overhead Press

Ben Goldstein

For what might be the ultimate exercise for strong, stable shoulders, you can't go past the dumbbell overhead press. While performing the exercise in a seated position will help to stabilize the back, the standing overhead press will do a lot more to engage your core muscles and improve overall balance, which is really important for longevity and injury prevention.

While you may not be able to lift in a completely straight line, you should try to do so. When you do so, you'll notice one of the benefits of using dumbbells over barbells - there's no risk of smacking yourself in the chin with the bar as you push overhead!

There are a variety of starting positions and hand grips you can use for this exercise - take a look at the article linked above for a full rundown.

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The Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Ben Goldstein

While the tension is a little more consistent with a cable, the dumbbell triceps extension is a classic exercise that will help you build this very important pushing muscle. Performing this exercise with one arm instead of two is a good way to avoid imbalances in strength and muscle development, but it's important to use a lighter weight if you do so. The triceps makes up 70 percent of your upper arm. Want bigger arms? Target your triceps - here's how! 

Fun fact: When performed lying down, this exercise is called a "skull crusher." If you try it, you'll know why!

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The Dumbbell Front Raise

The dumbbell front raise is another great example of an isolation exercise: as the weight is lifted in front of you and the elbows are kept straight, every part of the shoulder works to keep the movement stable.

However, this movement is especially good at targeting the front deltoids, the part of the shoulder that's most visible from, well, your front. If that's a priority for you, you might want to try an underhand grip, but if you just want strong shoulders, do plenty of front raises, lateral raises, and bent over lateral raises.

Performing a front raise unilaterally, or one side at a time will help to minimize any swinging and improve your balance. It's best to use a relatively light weight and perform one to three sets of ten to twelve reps; if you start to rock back on your heels in order to complete the lift, you're probably going too heavy.

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