7 Best Dumbbell Exercises To Get Big Shoulders Like Rich Piana

Build massive delts like Rich Piana. (Image via
Build massive delts like Rich Piana. (Image via
Aryan Bajaj

Rich Piana was an American bodybuilder and businessman. He was the recipient of Mr. California in 1998 and also won competitions organised by the National Physique Committee (NPC) in 2008 and 2009.

Piana wasn't just known for his endeavours as a bodybuilder. He was revered greatly by his fanbase for his flamboyant and eccentric outgoing personality. He was an advocate of the '5%', a philosophy that says that currently only 5% of the world's population is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their aims and objectives in life.

Rich Piana began lifting weights at the tender age of 11. By 15, he was already competing in local bodybuilding competitions. It was his dedication to the craft of bodybuilding that led to him building such an incredible physique.

To build massive shoulders like Rich Piana's, you'll not only need his dedication and love for bodybuilding, but also a myriad of exercises you can try in the gym, to give you legendary delts. Here are the seven best dumbbell exercises that can help you in that journey:

Build Huge Shoulders Like Rich Piana

1) Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The Dumbbell shoulder press is the signature compound movement associated with strength and muscle in the shoulders.

It stimulates your entire deltoid region, allowing you to stretch completely. Dumbbells provide a superior range of motion compared to barbells. However, you can't lift as much.

As it's a unilateral exercise, you cannot compensate for the lack of strength, nor can you use cheat reps. Dumbbell shoulder presses will target your entire deltoid region while also engaging your triceps, chest and core. That will help you build massive shoulders like Rich Piana's.

2) Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are an exercise that contributes to the afterburn one experiences after lifting weights.

They're a great option for your shoulder workouts, as they hit your lateral delts in such a way that it makes it most conducive to muscular hypertrophy. They can add to the width of your shoulders, giving you those wide boulder shoulders like Rich Piana's.

3) Front Raises

Front Raises are relatively easy to perform and not as taxing on your delts as lateral raises. They target the region of your delts known as anterior deltoids. That allows you to focus on a part of your shoulders which is otherwise neglected in compound movements.

It also targets your lateral delts and engages your pectorals and biceps. While lateral raises add horizontal density to your shoulders, front raises add mass to the front of your shoulders, giving you well-rounded delts.

4) Arnold Press

The Arnold press, made popular by legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a variation of the shoulder press that is performed with dumbbells.

It essentially incorporates an additional motion into the shoulder press movement, giving you a greater range of motion and superior muscle contraction. The twisting motion that you perform in an Arnold press helps engage and strengthen your wrists and rotator cuffs, making it a great exercise for strength and mass-building in your shoulders.

5) Rear-Delt Raises

Rear delts are a small but important part of your deltoid region that is hardly targeted through compound lifts, like the shoulder press.

It's also a muscle that has great functionality in day-to-day life, meaning developing this muscle can do wonders to you in terms of strength outside the gym. It'll boost your performance and help build all-rounded delts.

6) Dumbbell Shrugs

Dumbbell shrugs target one of the most sought-after muscle groups in the upper region of your body. The trapezius, otherwise known as traps, are muscles connecting your neck to your shoulders.

Big traps can accentuate your physique to a tremendous extent, making your upper body look massive. Performing that with dumbbells can give you greater grip strength and the opportunity to fix any muscle imbalance in your trapezius. A slow, controlled shrug with relatively heavy weights can blow up your traps.

7) Dumbbell Upright Rows

Upright rows help build muscle in your shoulders as well as your upper back, making it a great compound exercise for your upper body.

Upright rows often work great as a superset with shrugs, and the two work like a dream pairing. Upright rows can strengthen your delts and help build massive amounts of muscle in your shoulder. They target your entire deltoid region and are exercises you should incorporate in your training split.


Rich Piana was a bodybuilding legend who dedicated his life to the sport. For him, things started at a very young age.

His drive to succeed helped him build the legacy he has left behind. The world of bodybuilding remembers him not just for his incredible shoulders or the rest of his physique, but also for his immense work ethic and his lovable personality.

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Edited by Bhargav


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