Whether you want to lift your groceries more easily, improve your posture, or look more toned in a sleeveless shirt, strengthening your deltoids (the main muscles in your shoulders) is key. We curated this list of exercises with the help of Anthony Wall, director of professional education at the nonprofit American Council on Exercise. You’ll need a set of light dumbbells. (Most people should start with 1 to 3 pound weights, then increase to heavier weights if desired as they get stronger.)
For all three exercises, start with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions. As you get fitter you can add a second set.
Standing shoulder extension
Stand behind a table with your legs in a split stance, right leg in front. Set yourself up by bending at the hips and placing your right hand on the table, keeping the arm straight.
With your left arm, form a 90-degree angle at the elbow, then move the arm backward, straightening it as you exhale. Keep your shoulder in place and make the movement come from your arm. Hold the arm in the extended position for 15 to 30 seconds (continue breathing while you are doing this), then inhale and bend the elbow again, returning to the starting position. After 8 to 12 reps with the left arm, switch sides so your left leg is in front, your left hand is resting on the table, and your right arm is working.
Dumbbell lateral raise
Begin standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands at your sides, palms facing your body, and a dumbbell in each hand. Exhale as you raise the dumbbells, turning your thumbs slightly upward until your arms are level with your shoulders. Keep your wrists in a neutral position and avoid arching your back. Inhale as you lower to starting position.
Seated dumbbell press
Begin seated on a chair or a weight bench with your back against a backrest, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lift your arms into a “goalpost” position, with palms facing forward, elbows bent 90 degrees, and a dumbbell next to each ear. Exhale as you straighten your arms and push the dumbbells up, keeping your back straight throughout the movement. Then inhale as you slowly bend your arms back to the goalpost position.