Build Up Strong Shoulders With a Muscle-Blasting Dumbbell Circuit

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Dumbbell Lateral Raise

No matter the sport, shoulder strength is a key component of athletic success. But shoulder health is often something we take for granted.

Training the muscles of the shoulder helps prevent injury—which is extremely important considering the shoulder can move into more than 1,600 different positions! There is more movement at the shoulder joint than at any other joint in the body.

To keep your shoulders strong, healthy and functional, try the Dumbbell Shoulder Matrix, an intense dumbbell circuit that tackles all the muscles of the shoulder in an intense, functional fashion—all while using just 10- to 20-pound dumbbells. I prefer dumbbells over barbell shoulder exercises, because dumbbells allow for more natural shoulder movements.

How to Perform the Dumbbell Shoulder Circuit
Six exercises are performed in a non-stop circuit fashion. You do two sets, with a two-minute rest between them. To begin, grab dumbbells ranging from 10 to 20 pounds and follow the workout below:

  • Set 1: Perform all exercises for 12 reps
  • Rest two minutes
  • Set 2: Perform all exercises for eight reps

1. Upright Row

  • Grasp dumbbells with overhand grip
  • Raise dumbbells straight up to shoulders
  • At top position, elbows will be above shoulders
  • Lower to starting position; repeat

2. Lateral Raise

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Keep back straight and elbows slightly bent
  • Raise dumbbells to shoulder level while keeping palms facing body
  • Lower to starting position; repeat

3. Front Raise

  • Hold dumbbells with palms facing thighs
  • With elbows slightly bent, lift arms straight out to shoulder level
  • Lower to starting position; repeat

4. Bent-Over Raise

  • Hold dumbbells next to sides
  • With knees slightly bent, bend at waist, keeping back flat and core tight
  • Raise arms to sides until elbows are at shoulders
  • Lower to starting position; repeat

5. Close-Grip Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

  • Bend at waist until torso is parallel to floor
  • Keep core tight with knees slightly bent
  • Hold dumbbells hanging down with slight bend in elbows
  • Pull dumbbells up until elbows are level with torso
  • Lower to starting position; repeat

6. Overhand Grip Wide Bent-Over Row

  • Holding dumbbells, bend at hips
  • Keep core tight and do not arch back
  • Let dumbbells hang at arm's length
  • Without moving torso, pull dumbbells and squeeze shoulder blades together
  • Lower to starting position; repeat


A strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level since 2002, Jason Spray is currently the director of strength and conditioning for men's basketball and assistant director for football at Middle Tennessee State University, where he also aids in day-to-day physical and nutritional development. Spray earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Middle Tennessee and is CSCS, SCCC, USAW, NSCA, NASE, FMS and CSCCa certified. He is also a USA Weightlifting Club coach and a certified physical therapy aide. Spray has trained athletes ranging from high school to professional and Olympic levels. He has been featured in Premier Players Magazine and is the head sports performance adviser for RSP Nutrition.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock