Boulder Shoulder Basics — How to Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

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

A pillar of constructing greater, stronger shoulders for each physique opponents and strength 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 prone to encounter it early in your fitness journey. Whether or not as part of your new workout routine or as a brand new motion you wish to dip your toes into, it is advisable know find out how to shoulder press with dumbbells with correct approach. Right here’s find out how to accomplish simply that. 

Editor’s Word: The content material on BarBend is supposed to be informative in nature, however it shouldn’t be taken as medical recommendation. When beginning a brand new coaching routine and/or eating regimen, it’s at all times a good suggestion to seek the advice of with a trusted medical skilled. We’re not a medical useful resource. The opinions and articles on this web site will not be meant to be used as analysis, prevention, and/or therapy of well being issues. They aren’t substitutes for consulting a professional medical skilled.

Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Earlier than you decide up a pair of dumbbells, you’ll have to make just a few selections relating to find out how to carry out the motion: Do you wish to carry standing or seated? What grip will you utilize? Relating to the dumbbell shoulder press, variability means versatility.

This guide 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 finding some dumbbells and a stationary bench, get into the correct beginning place. Sit down and push your toes into the bottom. Then, with a pronated grip (palms dealing with outward), carry the dumbbells to their beginning place simply outdoors of your shoulders.

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

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 immediately 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 muscles and stop 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

Convey the dumbbells again right down to their beginning place by bending your elbows and reversing the urgent motion. Make sure you 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 pressure whereas performing the dumbbell shoulder press. 

Dumbbell Shoulder Press Units and Reps

Even when you have a choice for one more overhead pressing variation, contemplating how basic the carry is, the dumbbell shoulder press ought to be one thing that you simply’re not less than able to. Listed below are just a few methods to include it into your routine.

  • For Freshmen: 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 customize the dumbbell shoulder press, it’s essential to establish and distinguish between the errors that may happen whereas performing the carry. 

It is best to at all times keep away from technical adjustments that put you at risk of injury. Nonetheless, within the means of tailoring an exercise to your specific needs, preferences, or bodily construction, chances are you’ll find yourself discovering a variation that works even higher. 

The mistakes detailed beneath fall into each of those classes. Understanding the distinction may help you develop a extra complete understanding of the dumbbell shoulder press, in order that if you happen to 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 upper 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 difficulty, you may merely be going too heavy to carry with good form. By maintaining your back flush towards the bench, or opting out of a backrest fully, you possibly can goal your shoulders extra immediately. 

Forcing Unnatural Motion Patterns

Your distinctive anatomical construction signifies that another person’s cues could not work nicely for you. Take into account that the dumbbell shoulder press shouldn’t trigger ache or discomfort at any level through the carry, and forcing unnatural motion patterns can cut back your stability and put you at an elevated threat of harm. 

Earlier than you write off the dumbbell press fully, tinker along with your elbow place (how vast you could have your arms) and grip (how a lot you allow your wrists to bend) to see if that resolves any nagging discomfort. Don’t attempt to completely replicate the best way another person performs the press. 

Not Locking Your Elbows Out

Should you’re avoiding a full range of motion as a result of a possible harm, or as a solution to enhance time underneath pressure in a selected portion of the carry, be happy to ignore this one. Some gymgoers begin their careers with out ever studying to fully extend 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 way of a full vary of movement from the get-go not solely reinforces good habits, however makes lighter weights more practical for muscle growth

Dropping the Dumbbells

It could appear foolish while 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 essential a part of the dumbbell shoulder press.

Even when your gym is equipped so that you can drop the dumbbells on the ground, doing so creates a security hazard that’s simple sufficient to keep away from. 

Take into account 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 motive to chuck them from shoulder-height onto the ground. 

Dumbbell Shoulder Press Variations

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

Listed below are just a few well-liked 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 maintaining your palms dealing with one another all through the carry. 

Should you’re experiencing shoulder ache, a impartial grip could decrease the strain on your shoulder when in comparison with a extra externally-rotated place. Retaining your upper arm tucked towards your torso whilst you press reduces the second arm — or, how a lot torque there may be 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 interact all three heads of the deltoid in addition to some small, often-overlooked muscle mass 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 could be useful in just a few totally different situations: Some bodybuilders tout the advantages of working with partial repetitions to maximize time under tension, get a greater pump, or throughout burnout units on the end of their workouts

The partial-repetition shoulder press is fairly easy — arrange as you usually would, however cease both midway up or midway down as a substitute 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

Should you’re interested by energy coaching, you must most likely be accustomed to the dumbbell shoulder press, however that doesn’t imply you want to do it. Should you lack the equipment to carry out the dumbbell shoulder press, or it’s simply not your factor, you possibly can check out just a few options to hammer your shoulders.

Barbell Overhead Press

Barbell exercises allow you to take a look at your energy like no different. Should you actually wish to see simply how a lot weight you possibly can push over your head, the barbell overhead press could be your only option on push day.

Along with blasting your shoulders, the barbell overhead press hits quite a few muscle teams, making it nice for developing overall upper body strength. Conditions for performing the carry embrace 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.

Should you’re attempting to push by way of a plateau in your overhead press, incorporating the push press could be useful as a result of it permits you to carry supramaximal masses. It’s additionally a quite common strength-based accent motion for Olympic lifters, who specialize fully on getting huge weights overhead. 

Landmine Press

The landmine press provides a variety of advantages moreover constructing your shoulders. Because of 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 may help you establish and tackle imbalances in muscular energy, dimension, or stability. 

Muscle groups Labored by the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

You’re most likely dumbbell shoulder urgent for the shoulder gains, however like all compound movements, it’s essential to use a wide range of muscle mass for stabilization and assist. Listed below 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 through 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 increase up) your arm, significantly through the first half of the train. 

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

By enjoying round along with your grip and upper arm position, chances are you’ll discover that you would be able to goal extra of the anterior head or the medial head of your deltoids. 


As with all urgent actions, your triceps interact through the dumbbell shoulder press to extend your elbows and lock the weights out over your head. In addition they help stabilize your arms through 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 upper back to a point. Muscle groups 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 lower back can stifle your urgent energy in the identical method {that a} home constructed upon a weak basis is vulnerable to collapse if examined by harsh winds. 

Advantages of the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Should you’re undecided whether or not or not you have to be doing the dumbbell shoulder press, take into account a few of the advantages listed beneath. There’s most likely one thing right here for you, regardless of your fitness goals. 

Greater Shoulders

The barbell overhead press could provide the most bang on your buck when it comes to pure overhead energy, however the dumbbell shoulder press can’t be overwhelmed in terms of hypertrophy.

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

Refined changes to your grip and elbow place provide help to stimulate your shoulders from all angles. Additional, the grab-and-go comfort of dumbbells permits to rapidly carry out depth strategies like drop units and supersets.

There’s A number of Versatility

You’ll be able to tweak and tailor most dumbbell actions to suit your actual wants and bodily structure. Implements like barbells or weight machines can lock your physique into a selected movement pattern. Should you worth versatility and luxury while you hit the weights, go for the dumbbell shoulder press. 

Could Assist Tackle Imbalances

Working with two separate implements like a pair of dumbbells brings your stabilizers entrance and heart. Small muscle mass in your upper back and shoulder girdle should work time beyond regulation to make sure every little thing runs easily whilst you press.

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

This additionally permits you to identify 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 while you carry out the dumbbell shoulder press. This provides you a lane to deal with the difficulty and get proper again to coaching. 

Unparalleled Comfort

In a busy gymnasium, you possibly can swap out two pairs of dumbbells much more rapidly than you possibly can unload a barbell — nevermind getting access to a squat rack to press in within the first place. Dumbbells are additionally easy to store at home and are extra sensible to journey with. 

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

Who Ought to Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Nonetheless undecided if the dumbbell shoulder press is best for you? Verify and see if you happen to fall into one of many following classes.


Should you’re simply getting began in your strength training journey, constructing a familiarity with the dumbbell shoulder press will solely provide help to. You could lack the energy to press severe weight with a barbell, however the further vary of movement offered by the dumbbell variation of the carry is price capitalizing on as you turn out to be extra accustomed to the motion sample.


Large shoulders give the impression of massive every little thing. Nicely-developed shoulders fill out shirts higher and your waist seems thinner. Since you possibly can actually isolate your shoulders with the dumbbell shoulder press, it’s an ideal carry to assist develop a extra aesthetic physique.

(Nearly) Everybody Else

Whether or not you’re at the gym trying to pack mass onto your shoulders, build strength overhead, or if you wish to enhance your general health, the dumbbell shoulder press is usually a welcome boost 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 accustomed to it and be capable of carry out it to a point. Pushing one thing over your head is an important facet of wholesome human motion, in spite of everything. 

Demolish Your Delts

The dumbbell shoulder press ought to be among the many first movements you master in the gym. 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 at all times out there in your again pocket.


Should you’ve obtained some lingering questions concerning the dumbbell shoulder press, you would possibly discover the solutions you’re searching for 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 take pleasure in doing.

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

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

This relies fully on the type of program you’re working. When you’ve got a devoted shoulder day, the dumbbell shoulder press could possibly be an ideal compound carry to start out your workout. Relying in your break up, it might additionally match nicely right into a push day, or a common upper-body exercise.

How do I determine what variation works finest for me?

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

Alternatively, if you happen to’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 motive. There’s worth within the previous adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t repair it.”

Featured Picture: Slatan / Shutterstock

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