Build Cannonball Shoulders with Dumbbells

Want a set of cannonball shoulders? Try these shoulder strengthening exercises.

Dwight Freeney cannonball shoulders

Nothing sets off an impressive physique like a set of well-sculpted shoulder muscles. But your shoulders are more than mere "mirror muscles." They play a critical role in most upper-body movements and for stabilizing your chest during exercises like Push-Ups and Bench Presses.

For these reasons, athletes need to regularly include shoulder exercises in their strength and conditioning programs, not just to build "cannonball shoulders," but also to improve performance.

Shoulder Strengthening Exercises

Due to your shoulders' wide range of mobility, dumbbells are the best way to train them. Select a weight with which you fail after six to 12 repetitions.

Military Press

Sets/Reps: 3x6-12

  • Assume athletic stance with feet slightly wider than hip-width
  • Hold dumbbells at shoulders with palms facing together
  • Keeping back straight and knees behind toes, press dumbbells overhead
  • Lower dumbbells to shoulders
  • Repeat for specified reps

Arnold Press

Sets/Reps: 6x12

  • Stand with dumbbells positioned in the front of your shoulders, palms facing body and elbows under wrists
  • Bring your elbows out to the sides
  • Raise your elbows out while pressing dumbbells overhead until arms are straight
  • Lower in front of shoulders in opposite pattern and repeat

Cuban Press

Sets/Reps: 3x6-12

  • Stand holding dumbbells with your shoulders rotated forward
  • Begin by lifting your elbows up until they're at shoulder height; your torso and upper arms should form the letter "T"
  • Externally rotate the dumbbells up, keeping your upper arms in the same level and exhaling
  • Continue until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your hands are pointing toward the ceiling
  • Press the dumbbells up over your head as if performing a shoulder press
  • Reverse the steps to return back to starting position

Lateral Raise

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15

  • Stand holding dumbbells at your sides
  • Raise the dumbbells out to the side
  • Your arms should be parallel to the floor and your palms should face the floor

Front Raise

Sets/Reps: 3x6-12

  • Either seated or standing, hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs
  • Raise the dumbbells in front, keeping a slight bend in your elbows and your palms down
  • Stop the movement when your arms are parallel to the floor
  • You can perform the movement unilaterally or bilaterally

Rear Delt Fly

Sets/Reps: 3x6-12

  • Stand in athletic stance
  • Bend slightly at the waist holding dumbbells together beneath your chest
  • Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells out to the side
  • Keep your upper body still

Upright Row

Sets/Reps: 3x6-12

  • Stand with the dumbbells against the front of your thighs
  • Pull the weight to your chin, keeping your elbows high and shrugging your shoulders


Sets/Reps: 3x6-12

  • Holding the dumbbells at your sides, shrug your shoulders straight up
  • Hold at the top for a second, then lower back down

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