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The Best Dumbbell Exercises for the Shoulder
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The shoulder is an often overlooked part of the body but it is imperative for everyday movement. It is essentially the lynch pin that connects the upper body musculature. The shoulder has the largest range of motion of any ball and socket joint in the body. Because of this, it is critical to keep the shoulder strong and stable. Aim for two sets of each exercise with 12 to 15 repetitions and do these exercises one to two times per week.
Respect the Flex
The standing front raise targets the anterior deltoids. This exercise is essential for shoulder strength because it recruits multiple auxiliary muscles. These muscles work together to create a strong and stable shoulder. Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of you with your palms facing your legs. Exhale and keeping the arms straight, bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height. Lower the arms and repeat.
Retention of Extension
To strengthen the posterior deltoid as well as the latissimus dorsi -- which can be a tough muscle to engage -- perform a bent over row. Learning how to use those muscles together creates collective strength within both groups of muscles. The back and core often act as stabilizers for the rear delt so training those muscle groups together is optimal. Using a weight bench, stability ball or chair, rest the left knee and the left hand on the surface. While bent over at the waist, hold one dumbbell in the right hand. Exhale and bring your elbow up as far as you can. Movement should be felt in the shoulder blade. Repeat on other side.
The Logistics of Synergistics
The standing overhead press recruits not only the anterior deltoids but many of the anterior upper body muscles as well -- the pectoralis major, serratus anterior and biceps. Learning how to use these muscles synergistically enhances overall shoulder strength. Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand just above chest level. Exhale and press the dumbbells upward so they gently touch over your head. Without using momentum, bring the weights down slowly to the starting position.
Internal and external rotation target the smallest muscles in the shoulder -- the supraspinatus and infraspinatus. Because of their size, these muscles are tough to target individually and rotations are the best way to work them. Although they are small, they provide significant support to the larger surrounding groups -- most notably the shoulder. Both exercises can be done lying on your side. For the internal rotation, grasp the dumbbell with the arm closest to the floor and bring it up to the chest. Staying in the same position, switch the dumbbell to the hand furthest from the floor and bring the arm up so it is perpendicular to the body.
Kelly N. Vance is an ACE-certified personal trainer and accomplished fitness and nutrition writer who has worked in and written about the fitness industry for 10 years. Her additional qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a minor in English and multiple fitness certifications.