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The way to Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

What’s the suitable method to practice your shoulders? The reply to that query will change relying in your targets, preferences and degree of expertise — because the saying goes, there’s multiple method to pores and skin a cat. Beginning with the fundamentals, although, you might have the dumbbell shoulder press.

A pillar of constructing greater, stronger shoulders for each physique rivals and energy athletes alike, the shoulder press harkens again to one of many earliest ideas in energy coaching: lifting one thing heavy over your head and getting stronger within the course of. 

A person with muscular shoulders doing the dumbbell shoulder press.
Credit score: Slatan / Shutterstock

The dumbbell shoulder press stays one of the vital easy urgent variations, so that you’re more likely to encounter it early in your health journey. Whether or not as part of your new exercise routine or as a brand new motion you wish to dip your toes into, you could know find out how to shoulder press with dumbbells with correct approach. Right here’s find out how to accomplish simply that. 

Editor’s Be aware: The content material on BarBend is supposed to be informative in nature, nevertheless it shouldn’t be taken as medical recommendation. When beginning a brand new coaching routine and/or weight-reduction plan, it’s all the time a good suggestion to seek the advice of with a trusted medical skilled. We aren’t a medical useful resource. The opinions and articles on this web site will not be supposed to be used as analysis, prevention, and/or remedy of well being issues. They don’t seem to be substitutes for consulting a professional medical skilled.

The way to Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Earlier than you decide up a pair of dumbbells, you’ll must make a couple of selections relating to find out how to carry out the motion: Do you wish to carry standing or seated? What grip will you employ? On the subject of the dumbbell shoulder press, variability means versatility.

This information particularly particulars find out how to carry out the dumbbell shoulder press whereas seated.

Step 1 — Get Into Place

A person holding dumbbells over their shoulders.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

After discovering some dumbbells and a stationary bench, get into the right beginning place. Sit and push your toes into the bottom. Then, with a pronated grip (palms going through outward), carry the dumbbells to their beginning place simply outdoors of your shoulders.

Coach’s Tip: Get within the behavior of organising the identical approach each time so you possibly can give attention to working onerous.

Step 2 — Press Overhead

A person holding dumbbells over their shoulders with their arms straight up.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Earlier than you begin, brace your core and depress your scapula. Then press the burden above your head. On the prime of the dumbbell shoulder press, the dumbbells ought to be straight above your wrists, your wrists above your elbows, and your elbows above your shoulders.

Coach’s Tip: Keep away from leaning again excessively on the bench, which might recruit chest muscular tissues and forestall most recruitment of the deltoids.

Step 3 — Management the Descent

A person holding dumbbells over their shoulders back to starting position.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Carry the dumbbells again right down to their beginning place by bending your elbows and reversing the urgent motion. You should definitely full a full repetition by bringing the burden again to your beginning place.

Coach’s Tip: Decelerate and management the eccentric to extend time underneath stress whereas performing the dumbbell shoulder press. 

Dumbbell Shoulder Press Units and Reps

Even if in case you have a desire for an additional overhead urgent variation, contemplating how elementary the carry is, the dumbbell shoulder press ought to be one thing that you simply’re not less than able to. Listed here are a couple of methods to include it into your routine.

  • For Newcomers: Carry out 3 units of 8-10 reps.
  • For Hypertrophy: Carry out 4-5 units of 8-12 reps.
  • For Power: Carry out 4 units of 6-8 reps.

Widespread Dumbbell Shoulder Press Errors

Given how a lot you possibly can customise the dumbbell shoulder press, it’s necessary to determine and distinguish between the errors that may happen whereas performing the carry. 

It’s best to all the time keep away from technical adjustments that put you prone to damage. Nonetheless, within the technique of tailoring an train to your particular wants, preferences, or bodily construction, chances are you’ll find yourself discovering a variation that works even higher. 

The errors detailed under fall into each of those classes. Figuring out the distinction might help you develop a extra complete understanding of the dumbbell shoulder press, in order that in case you select to make adjustments to the carry, you’re doing so safely. 

Leaning Again Excessively

By leaning too far again, you possibly can inadvertently flip the dumbbell shoulder press right into a quasi-incline bench press, recruiting your higher chest to assist press the dumbbells. If this occurs to you, the offender could also be inadequate flexibility on the shoulder.

A person holding dumbbells over their shoulders and leaning back.
Credit score: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

If that’s not the problem, you can merely be going too heavy to carry with good type. By protecting your again flush towards the bench, or opting out of a backrest solely, you possibly can goal your shoulders extra straight. 

Forcing Unnatural Motion Patterns

Your distinctive anatomical construction implies that another person’s cues could not work effectively for you. Take into account that the dumbbell shoulder press shouldn’t trigger ache or discomfort at any level throughout the carry, and forcing unnatural motion patterns can scale back your stability and put you at an elevated danger of damage. 

Earlier than you write off the dumbbell press solely, tinker together with your elbow place (how broad you might have your arms) and grip (how a lot you enable your wrists to bend) to see if that resolves any nagging discomfort. Don’t attempt to completely replicate the way in which another person performs the press. 

Not Locking Your Elbows Out

When you’re avoiding a full vary of movement as a result of a possible damage, or as a method to enhance time underneath stress in a particular portion of the carry, be happy to ignore this one. Some gymgoers begin their careers with out ever studying to totally prolong their arms over their heads.

A person holding dumbbells over their shoulders without locking their elbows.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Keep in mind that on the prime of the carry, your joints ought to be stacked on prime of one another to make sure most stability. Working by means of a full vary of movement from the get-go not solely reinforces good habits, however makes lighter weights simpler for muscle progress

Dropping the Dumbbells

It could appear foolish if you’re first getting began, however when you’re working with heavy dumbbells, contemplating the way you’ll get them down on the finish of the set turns into an necessary a part of the dumbbell shoulder press.

Even when your fitness center is geared up so that you can drop the dumbbells on the ground, doing so creates a security hazard that’s straightforward sufficient to keep away from. 

Think about getting your spotter to take certainly one of your dumbbells when you’re completed. Alternatively, when reducing the burden again down, you possibly can carry your knees up separately to “catch” the dumbbells. There’s no cause to chuck them from shoulder-height onto the ground. 

Dumbbell Shoulder Press Variations

There are extra methods to carry out an overhead press than you would possibly assume. From grip changes, elbow place, working from a standing place versus seated, the gear you employ, and a complete lot extra, the probabilities are practically infinite. 

Listed here are a couple of common variations of the dumbbell shoulder press to get you began if you wish to experiment. 

Impartial-Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Notable for the distinction in grip, you possibly can carry out the neutral-grip dumbbell shoulder press by protecting your palms going through one another during the carry. 

When you’re experiencing shoulder ache, a impartial grip could lower the pressure in your shoulder when in comparison with a extra externally-rotated place. Holding your higher arm tucked towards your torso when you press reduces the second arm — or, how a lot torque there’s in a given location — on the shoulder. 

Arnold Press

Named for, and invented by one of many greats of bodybuilding himself, the Arnold Press permits you to hit all three heads of the deltoid by incorporating a component of rotation on the shoulder.

By rising the vary of movement on the backside of the dumbbell shoulder press, and rotating easily from an externally-rotated shoulder to an inner place, you possibly can have interaction all three heads of the deltoid in addition to some small, often-overlooked muscular tissues just like the serratus anterior. 

Partial-Repetition Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Although it could be controversial for vary of movement purists, deliberately performing some partial repetitions may be useful in a couple of completely different situations: Some bodybuilders tout the advantages of working with partial repetitions to maximize time underneath stress, get a greater pump, or throughout burnout units on the finish of their exercises

The partial-repetition shoulder press is fairly easy — arrange as you usually would, however cease both midway up or midway down as an alternative of urgent till your arms are totally straightened. Doing the underside half of the press solely will emphasize your entrance delts, whereas the highest half is all triceps.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press Alternate options

When you’re fascinated with energy coaching, you need to most likely be conversant in the dumbbell shoulder press, however that doesn’t imply you want to do it. When you lack the gear to carry out the dumbbell shoulder press, or it’s simply not your factor, you possibly can check out a couple of alternate options to hammer your shoulders.

Barbell Overhead Press

Barbell workout routines allow you to check your energy like no different. When you actually wish to see simply how a lot weight you possibly can push over your head, the barbell overhead press may be your best choice on push day.

Along with blasting your shoulders, the barbell overhead press hits quite a few muscle teams, making it nice for growing total higher physique energy. Conditions for performing the carry embody a barbell, plates, and a burning need to get after it.

Push Press

The push press has one factor going for it that the barbell overhead press doesn’t — leg drive. By bringing your legs into the equation, you possibly can push much more weight overhead.

When you’re making an attempt to push by means of a plateau in your overhead press, incorporating the push press may be useful as a result of it permits you to carry supramaximal hundreds. It’s additionally a quite common strength-based accent motion for Olympic lifters, who specialize solely on getting large weights overhead. 

Landmine Press

The landmine press gives a spread of advantages in addition to constructing your shoulders. Due to its distinctive vary of movement, the landmine press helps you to develop energy and stability whereas giving your joints a break.

The landmine fixture additionally permits you to press unilaterally, which might help you determine and handle imbalances in muscular energy, dimension, or stability. 

Muscular tissues Labored by the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

You’re most likely dumbbell shoulder urgent for the shoulder good points, however like all compound actions, you need to use quite a lot of muscular tissues for stabilization and assist. Listed here are the entire related gamers for the dumbbell shoulder press. 


It shouldn’t be a lot of a shock that the deltoids are the first muscle group used throughout the dumbbell shoulder press — it’s proper there within the title, in spite of everything. The entrance head of your deltoids contracts to increase (or elevate up) your arm, significantly throughout the first half of the train. 

A person facing away and holding dumbbells over their shoulders.
Credit score: Mike Orlov / Shutterstock

By enjoying round together with your grip and higher arm place, chances are you’ll discover you can goal extra of the anterior head or the medial head of your deltoids. 


As with all urgent actions, your triceps have interaction throughout the dumbbell shoulder press to prolong your elbows and lock the weights out over your head. Additionally they assist stabilize your arms throughout the eccentric portion of the carry as you decrease the weights again down. 

Higher Again

Whereas actually not the prime movers of the dumbbell shoulder press, all urgent actions depend on the musculature of your higher again to a point. Muscular tissues just like the mid and decrease trapezius, rear deltoids, and even your lats have an effect on how your shoulder blades transfer atop your ribcage. 

A weak or underdeveloped decrease again can stifle your urgent energy in the identical approach {that a} home constructed upon a weak basis is vulnerable to collapse if examined by harsh winds. 

Advantages of the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

When you’re undecided whether or not or not you have to be doing the dumbbell shoulder press, take into account among the advantages listed under. There’s most likely one thing right here for you, irrespective of your health targets. 

Greater Shoulders

The barbell overhead press could provide the most bang to your buck by way of pure overhead energy, however the dumbbell shoulder press can’t be overwhelmed in relation to hypertrophy.

A person with muscular shoulders facing away.
Credit score: Roman Chazov / Shutterstock

Delicate adjustments to your grip and elbow place enable you stimulate your shoulders from all angles. Additional, the grab-and-go comfort of dumbbells permits to shortly carry out depth strategies like drop units and supersets.

There’s Numerous Versatility

You possibly can tweak and tailor most dumbbell actions to suit your precise wants and bodily construction. Implements like barbells or weight machines can lock your physique into a particular motion sample. When you worth versatility and luxury if you hit the weights, go for the dumbbell shoulder press. 

Might Assist Handle Imbalances

Working with two separate implements like a pair of dumbbells brings your stabilizers entrance and middle. Small muscular tissues in your higher again and shoulder girdle must work additional time to make sure all the pieces runs easily when you press.

A person with muscular shoulders.
Credit score: Vladimir Gappov / Shutterstock

This additionally permits you to determine any side-to-side discrepancies that you simply might need. In case your left shoulder is extra versatile or highly effective than your proper, you’ll discover the distinction in a short time if you carry out the dumbbell shoulder press. This provides you a lane to deal with the problem and get proper again to coaching. 

Unparalleled Comfort

In a busy fitness center, you possibly can swap out two pairs of dumbbells way more shortly than you possibly can unload a barbell — nevermind gaining access to a squat rack to press in within the first place. Dumbbells are additionally straightforward to retailer at dwelling and are extra sensible to journey with. 

Even when the dumbbell shoulder press isn’t a mainstay motion in your exercise routine, having a normal familiarity with the train provides you the liberty to coach your shoulders in practically any circumstance so long as you might have some dumbbells on-hand.

Who Ought to Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Nonetheless undecided if the dumbbell shoulder press is best for you? Examine and see in case you fall into one of many following classes.


When you’re simply getting began in your energy coaching journey, constructing a familiarity with the dumbbell shoulder press will solely enable you. You could lack the energy to press critical weight with a barbell, however the extra vary of movement supplied by the dumbbell variation of the carry is price capitalizing on as you change into extra accustomed to the motion sample.


Massive shoulders give the impression of massive all the pieces. Effectively-developed shoulders fill out shirts higher and your waist seems to be thinner. Since you possibly can actually isolate your shoulders with the dumbbell shoulder press, it’s an amazing carry to assist develop a extra aesthetic physique.

(Virtually) Everybody Else

Whether or not you’re on the fitness center seeking to pack mass onto your shoulders, construct energy overhead, or if you wish to enhance your total health, the dumbbell shoulder press is usually a welcome addition to your routine.

A person doing the dumbbell shoulder press.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

It’s not a requirement for constructing greater shoulders, however the carry is flexible sufficient that everybody ought to be conversant in it and be capable of carry out it to a point. Pushing one thing over your head is a vital side of wholesome human motion, in spite of everything. 

Demolish Your Delts

The dumbbell shoulder press ought to be among the many first actions you grasp within the fitness center. There’s a low barrier to entry, however the carry continues to pay dividends as you progress and develop. It’s the Swiss military knife of hitting shoulders — handy, versatile, and all the time accessible in your again pocket.


When you’ve obtained some lingering questions concerning the dumbbell shoulder press, you would possibly discover the solutions you’re in search of proper right here.

Do I’ve to dumbbell shoulder press?

There are innumerable methods to coach your shoulders, starting from sports activities particular coaching, to weightlifting, to calisthenics and bodybuilding. In the end, the way you select to coach comes right down to what you get pleasure from doing.

In any case, you have to be broadly conversant in the dumbbell shoulder press and be capable of carry out it comfortably. You by no means know if you would possibly wish to plug it right into a exercise.

The place do I incorporate the dumbbell shoulder press into my routine?

This relies solely on the type of program you’re operating. In case you have a devoted shoulder day, the dumbbell shoulder press could possibly be an amazing compound carry to begin out your exercise. Relying in your cut up, it might additionally match effectively right into a push day, or a normal upper-body exercise.

How do I determine what variation works greatest for me?

When you’re uncertain of what sort of overhead press will work greatest for you, otherwise you don’t know whether or not you’d desire to face or sit whereas performing the dumbbell shoulder press, experiment!

Then again, in case you’ve began incorporating the dumbbell shoulder press, you’re snug with the carry and seeing progress, don’t change issues up and not using a good cause. There’s worth within the previous adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t repair it.”

Featured Picture: Slatan / Shutterstock



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