The 6-Minute Dumbbell Workout for Toned Arms and Shoulders

Updated on June 8, 2018
Mike Esco profile image

Dr. Mike Esco has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and has over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

The Perfect Exercise Device: Dumbbells

Dumbbells are the most versatile piece of exercise equipment available
Dumbbells are the most versatile piece of exercise equipment available | Source

The Workout

This quick and effective workout will help you sculpt your arms and shoulders in less time it takes to drive to the gym. And you don't need a bunch of equipment - just a pair of dumbbells - making it a great workout for home. I recommend 5 to 30 lbs, depending on your level of fitness. The weight you choose for each exercise should allow you to perform the recommended number of repetitions. The workout can be completed alone or right after a cardio workout, but should be performed at least twice per week for best results. Make sure you have a day of rest between. Your muscles get stronger after a good workout. Recovery is very important.

This circuit style workout combines shoulders, biceps and triceps movements that are performed with little to no rest between. Alternating each exercise allows the other muscles to recover and get ready to perform their next set. This format makes for an efficient workout.

Perform 15 repetitions of each exercise below. Use good form without excessive body movement. Go slow. One full repetition should take about 4 seconds to complete - think 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down. Each exercise should take approximately 1 minute to complete the total number of repetitions. Once complete with an exercise, immediately move to the next one. Go at your own pace, but try to not rest until the workout is complete. And if you feel up to it and have time, do another circuit or two.

I have provided detailed descriptions on how to properly execute the six exercises in the circuit. Below each exercise, you will find YouTube videos that demonstrate each movement. Please note that I did not create these videos. They are public YouTube videos developed by other experts.

Also, if you have any health concern, be sure to consult with your physician before engaging in any exercise program or physical activity.

Lateral Shoulder Raises

Targeted Muscle: Deltoids - especially the outer area

  1. Stand with a shoulder-width stance. Grab a pair of dumbbells. Keep your chest up with your back and neck in a neutral position. Your arms should be hanging by your sides and your palms should be facing inward. This is the starting position.
  2. Exhale and raise your arms out to the sides until your hands are at shoulder level. Keep the dumbbell about parallel to the floor with your pinkies a little higher than your thumbs. In other words, the dumbbell should be just slightly rotated downward.
  3. After a brief pause, inhale and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Lateral Raises Demonstration

Dumbbell Curls

Targeted Muscle: Biceps

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be straight with your elbows close to your torso. Rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward.
  2. Keeping the upper arms stationary, flex at the elbow and curl the weights while squeezing your biceps. Continue to raise the weights until the dumbbells are at shoulder level. Exhale during this portion of the movement.
  3. Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat until the suggested number of repetitions have been completed.

Dumbbell Curl Demonstration

Dumbbell Kickbacks

Targeted Muscle: Triceps

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while your palms face inward toward your thighs. Keeping your upper back straight and knees slightly flexed, bend forward at the waist. Your upper back and torso should be almost parallel to the floor. Keep your neck in a neutral position - you should not look too far up or down. Your upper arms should be close to your sides and parallel to the floor. With a 90-degree angle in for elbow, allow your forearms to point towards the floor as you hold the dumbbells. This is your starting position.
  2. While keeping your upper arms stationary, exhale and extend your elbow. Flex your triceps to lift the weights until the arm is fully straight and parallel to the floor. Focus on moving the forearm. There should be no movement in your upper body.
  3. Briefly pause at the top while flexing your triceps. Then, inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat until the suggested number of repetitions have been completed.

Dumbbell Kickbacks Demonstration

Overhead Dumbbell Press

Targeted Muscles: Deltoids and Triceps

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees slightly bent while your back and neck are in a neutral position. While holding a pair of dumbbells, bring your hands up to the level of your ears. Keep a 90 degree angle in your elbow. Your upper arm should be about parallel to the floor. Your palms facing forward.
  2. Exhale and press the weight over your head. Think of a triangle - wide at the bottom and narrow at the top - while performing this movement.
  3. Inhale and lower the weight back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat to complete the suggested number of repetitions.

Overhead Dumbbell Press Demonstration

Dumbbell Curl to Press

Targeted Muscles: Deltoids and Biceps

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Look directly ahead, keeping your chest up, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be straight with your elbows close to your torso. Rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward. This is the starting position.
  2. Keeping the upper arms stationary, flex at the elbow and curl the weights while squeezing your biceps. Continue to raise the weights until the dumbbells are at shoulder level. Then, rotate the dumbbells outward and press the weight over your head by extending your elbows, but do not lock them. Slowly exhale during this portion of the movement.
  3. Following a brief pause, reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Dumbbell Curl to Press Demonstration

Lying Dumbbell Extensions

Targeted Muscles: Triceps

  1. Lie on a comfortable surface, such as a mat. While holding a pair of dumbbells, extend your arms by pointing them toward the ceiling. They should form a 90-degree angle with your torso. The palms should be facing each other. This is the starting position.
  2. As you inhale, bend your elbows but keep your upper arms stationary. The only thing that should move is the forearm. Slowly lower the dumbbells until they are near your ears.
  3. While keeping your upper arms stationary, extend your elbows to bring the weight back up to the starting position. Exhale as you do this.
  4. Repeat to complete the suggested number of repetitions.

Note: If you do this exercise while laying on the floor, keep your feet flat and knees bent.

Lying Dumbbell Extensions Demonstration

Outline of the 6-Minute Dumbbell Workout for Shoulders and Arms

Exercise
Repetitions
Targeted Muscle(s)
Lateral Raises
15
Deltoids
Dumbbell Curls
15
Biceps
Dumbbell Kickbacks
15
Triceps
Overhead Presses
15
Deltoids and Triceps
Dumbbell Curl-to-Press
15
Deltoids and Biceps
Lying Tricep Extension
15
Triceps
Perform this workout 2 to 3 non-consecutive days per week for best results.

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