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A Shoulder Workout for Better Posture

Stand up taller and ditch neck pain with these 10 exercises.

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person holding weights to their chin with their elbows straight out

Photo courtesy of Charlee Atkins

For building strong arms, biceps and triceps exercises are great—but most of us have weak shoulders, thanks to years of leaning over a desk, your cell phone (womp, womp) and hunching over your handlebars.

The good news is, all it takes are some upper body strength exercises to pull them back into the proper position, improve your posture, and reduce neck pain.

Not to mention, almost all upper body movement—both when you’re performing exercises or during everyday activities—involves your shoulder in some way. That means working those muscles will allow you to perform tasks and exercises with heavier weights without injury.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a workout of some key dumbbell shoulder exercises you can do anywhere. All you need is a set of dumbbells to give this workout a go. (Note: choose a weight that feels like a major challenge during the last two reps.)

How to use this workout: Each move below is demonstrated by Charlee Atkins, certified personal trainer and founder for Le Sweat. Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps each, resting as needed between sets. Then continue to the next move.


Goalpost Overhead Press

Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms bent at 90-degree angles, elbows wide and in line with shoulders, palms facing forward. Press the weights up until arms are straight overhead. Hold for one second, then take three seconds to lower the dumbbells back to start. That’s one rep. Repeat.

person with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms bent at 90-degree angles, elbows wide and in line with shoulders, palms facing forward.person with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended straight up

Hammer Shoulder Press

Start standing with feet under shoulders, soft bend in knees, holding a pair of dumbbells at chin height, arms narrow in front of body and bent, palms facing inward. Press weights up overhead until biceps frame face. Hold for one second, then take three seconds to lower the dumbbells back to start. That’s one rep. Repeat.

person standing with feet under shoulders, soft bend in knees, holding a pair of dumbbells at chin height, arms narrow in front of body and bent, palms facing inwardperson standing with feet under shoulders, soft bend in knees, holding a pair of dumbbells straight up, arms narrow in front of body and bent, palms facing inward

Front Raise Palms Down

Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight, palms facing body, weights resting on quads. Keeping elbows straight, lift arms until they reach shoulder height. Then, slowly lower back down. That’s one rep. Repeat.

person standing with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight, palms facing body, weights resting on quadsperson standing with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight, palms facing body, weights held straight up at shoulder height

Front Raise Palms Up

Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight, palms facing up, weights resting on quads. Lift arms until they reach shoulder level. Then slowly lower back down. That’s one rep. Repeat.

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person standing with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight, palms facing up, weights extended to shoulder level

Cuban Rotation

Start by standing with dumbbells in each hand, elbows bent 90 degrees, in line with shoulders, and dumbbells raised to head height. Without moving upper arms, rotate forearms down until they’re parallel to the floor. Raise dumbbells back up to the starting point. That’s one rep. Repeat.

standing with dumbbells in each hand, elbows bent 90 degrees, in line with shoulders, and dumbbells raised to head heightperson standing with dumbbells in each hand, elbows bent 90 degrees, in line with shoulders, and dumbbells raised to head height

Lateral Raise

Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing body, arms at sides. Raise arms out until they’re parallel to the floor at shoulder height. Return slowly to start. That’s one rep. Repeat.

person standing with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing body, arms at sides.person raising arms out until they’re parallel to the floor at shoulder heigh

Arnold Press

Start standing with feet under shoulders, soft bend in knees, holding a pair of dumbbells at chin height, arms narrow in front of body and bent, palms facing body. Open elbows out wide to sides until inner arms face forward and then press the weights overhead, rotating palms away from body. Return to start. That’s one rep. Repeat.

person standing with feet under shoulders, soft bend in knees, holding a pair of dumbbells at chin height, arms narrow in front of body and bent, palms facing body.person opening elbows out wide to sides until inner arms face forwardperson pressing the weights overhead, rotating palms away from body.

Upright Row

Start with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing toward body, and weights touching quads. Pull elbows up and out wide to lift the dumbbells to chest. Reverse movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Repeat.

person with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing toward body, and weights touching quads.person pulling elbows up and out wide to lift the dumbbells to chest

Arm Circle

Start standing with legs shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended out to sides at shoulder height, palms facing floor. Make small, clockwise circles with arms, initiating the movement from the upper arm/shoulder joint not the wrist. One rotation is one rep. Repeat.

person standing with legs shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended out to sides at shoulder height, palms facing floor, making small, clockwise circles with arms

Shoulder Shrug

Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, and hands at sides. Lift shoulders up toward ears, then slowly lower back down to start. That’s one rep. Repeat.

person standing with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, and hands at sides.person lifting shoulders up toward ears