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Easy methods to Do the Overhead Dumbbell Press for Wider Shoulders and Higher-Physique Power

Typically easy is healthier on the subject of train choice. And few workouts are as easy and equally efficient because the standing dumbbell overhead press. You heave a few dumbbells to your shoulders, brace your core, and press them overhead. 

The standing overhead dumbbell press requires your shoulders, arms, again, core, and legs to all work collectively to show the next stage of stability and power in comparison with the extra acquainted barbell press. This particular press variation additionally provides muscle to the shoulders and creates an aesthetic physique.

Right here’s a complete information to this complete motion. Study the method after which add this old-school train to your program.

  • Easy methods to Do the Overhead Dumbbell Press 
  • Overhead Dumbbell Press Errors to Keep away from
  • Advantages of the Overhead Dumbbell Press
  • Muscle tissues Labored by the Overhead Dumbbell Press
  • Who Ought to Do the Overhead Dumbbell Press
  • Easy methods to Program the Overhead Dumbbell Press
  • Overhead Dumbbell Press Variations
  • Overhead Dumbbell Press Options
  • Continuously Requested Questions

Easy methods to Do the Overhead Dumbbell Press 

The overhead dumbbell press is an intricate sequence of shifting components — actually — since you’re taking two comparatively unwieldy implements and getting them safely overhead beneath management.

The train does require a level of coordination, however any lifter can grasp this motion with a bit little bit of observe and some method cues.

Step 1 — Get the Weights Into Place

Man in gym lifting dumbbells
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Start with the dumbbells at your sides and your arms straight. You may both take the weights instantly from the dumbbell rack, choose them up from a bench, or deadlift them from the ground.

Preserve your again straight and abs tight. Bend your knees barely earlier than standing up powerfully whereas performing a thumbs-up curl (hammer curl) to deliver the weights to shoulder stage. Your toes shouldn’t essentially go away the bottom, however briefly rising onto your toes is frequent.

Stabilize your complete physique when each weights are touching the entrance of your shoulders. Rotate every arm till your elbows are pointed to the edges and your fingers are dealing with ahead. Happily, you solely have to undergo this course of as soon as for every set you carry out.

Kind Tip: When utilizing heavier weights, it might be much less taxing and extra environment friendly to start with each dumbbells by your sides and lift one by one into place, fairly than attempting to deliver each to shoulder-level concurrently.

Use the identical “cheat curl” movement to deliver every dumbbell as much as shoulder stage. Nevertheless, the single-sided load would require extra core stability to keep away from rotating or swinging the physique sideways.

Step 2 — Press Straight Overhead

Muscular man in gym pressing dumbbells overhead
Credit score: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

Together with your fingers dealing with ahead and your wrists in-line with the tops of your shoulders, press each dumbbells upwards whereas holding your fingers instantly above your elbows. Because the weights go over your head, transfer them barely in the direction of one another. The weights ought to find yourself almost touching on the prime.

Your legs ought to stay barely bent all through your entire set. Preserve a impartial backbone and upright torso along with your core totally engaged. Contracting the glutes previous to urgent additionally helps to “join” your steady decrease physique to your higher physique, guaranteeing a protected and highly effective place. Don’t permit your higher physique to shift backwards as you press upwards.

Kind Tip: When some lifters fatigue all through a set, they start to start out every rep with a quarter-squat movement to propel the weights up. This will increase total-body muscle recruitment and permits heavier weights for use and/or extra reps to be carried out, but it surely additionally reduces the quantity of power produced by the shoulders particularly.

Step 3 — Decrease Beneath Management

Muscular man holding dumbbells near shoulders
Credit score: mashurov / Shutterstock

After briefly pausing the weights in a locked out overhead place, reverse the movement to deliver the dumbbells down. Make sure your torso stays upright, not leaning again. Your wrists ought to find yourself in-line with the tops of your shoulders. That is the underside place of a press. The weights don’t return all the way in which down to hold at your sides till you’ve accomplished all reps and the set is over.

All through the descent, preserve your elbows beneath your wrists. Permitting the wrists to float in entrance of or behind the elbows will drastically improve stress on the help constructions of the shoulder joint. Shifting the wrists to both facet of the elbow will scale back muscular stress on the shoulder, making the train much less efficient.

Kind Tip: If the underside/stretched place is just too excessive or painful, the most typical answer (along with particular shoulder mobility work) is to make use of your ears, not the tops of your shoulders, as a reference level.

Performing every repetition from ear-level to full lockout avoids placing the shoulder joint in its furthest vary of movement and will alleviate extreme joint stress.

Overhead Dumbbell Press Errors to Keep away from

The overhead dumbbell press method is basically, “choose up weights, then press weights overhead.” Nevertheless, there are a handful of frequent errors which may improve the danger of harm and reduce muscle recruitment. Right here’s what to keep away from.

Leaning the Torso Again

Keep an upright higher physique through the press. This not solely reduces stress on the decrease again, however permits extra higher physique muscle tissues to supply help and stability. The recruitment of the core and higher again permit greater energy output and a stronger elevate. Maintaining a vertical torso permits your higher again muscle tissues to extra effectively management your scapulae, that are important to urgent weights and avoiding harm.

Man and woman exercising in gym pressing dumbbells overhead
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Leaning your torso backwards reduces your skill to keep up a robust core as a result of pressure is transferred extra on to the decrease again. If you happen to wished to interrupt a toothpick, you’d bend it till it snapped as a result of it might stand up to extra stress when stored straight. Think about your abs and decrease again as one massive toothpick. Don’t snap it.

Leaning again additionally adjustments the urgent angle, altering the elevate from an overhead press right into a high-angle incline bench press minus the bench. This transforms an excellent shoulder train into a really dangerous chest train.

Keep away from it: Earlier than starting any overhead press, test your ab and decrease again stability and engagement by flexing your glutes and abs on the identical time. If you happen to really feel a clumsy and uncomfortable pull within the decrease again space, it means you’re doubtless out of alignment. Regulate your posture and flex once more earlier than starting your set.

Urgent With the Legs

As defined earlier in step two of the method information, your legs ought to stay barely bent throughout a set of overhead presses. This permits your shoulders to be the first movers of the weights and ensures your shoulders obtain the best stimulus.

When any lifter nears the top of a difficult set, it’s vital to stay strict and carry out each rep from the identical place. This rule applies to all workouts, with only a few exceptions.

Man exercising outdoors holding dumbbells near shoulders
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Including leg drive in the direction of the top of the set adjustments the train from a strict overhead dumbbell press to an overhead dumbbell push press. Totally different workouts are used for various functions and goal completely different muscle tissues. On this case, the added work carried out by the legs is counterbalanced by much less work carried out by the shoulders.

Keep away from it: Use physique consciousness, particularly in the direction of the top of every set. As you discover your shoulders fatiguing, finish the set figuring out that your shoulders have been sufficiently skilled with the supposed load (weight) and quantity (reps).

Utilizing leg drive to finish a number of further reps is a high-intensity method that ought to solely be carried out by skilled lifters, and will solely be carried out intentionally. Many lifters develop the dangerous behavior of utilizing leg drive with out even being conscious of it. This results in a much less environment friendly shoulder exercise.

Brief Vary of Movement

The overhead dumbbell press ought to transfer the weights from shoulder-height to full overhead lockout. Decreasing the vary of movement both by not bringing the weights low or by avoiding full lockout reduces the shoulders’ time beneath stress and reinforces poor joint mobility. This mix decreases the stimulus to construct muscle and power.

When you have pre-existing mobility points, that is a wholly completely different case. You need to by no means power your physique into unnatural and harmful positions. Nevertheless, the shoulder joint, when wholesome and dealing optimally, ought to be able to reaching a whole vary of movement.

Keep away from it: Be certain that you are taking every rep from full stretch to full lockout. The dumbbells might graze the highest of your shoulders within the backside place and your elbows ought to be totally prolonged with the dumbbells almost touching on the prime. Know that short-changing your vary of movement is just short-changing your outcomes.

If you happen to’re bodily unable to realize a full vary of movement, make constant mobility work a daily a part of your coaching. Within the video above, Coach Geo Rockwell explains easy methods to carry out scapular wall slides, the most effective bang-for-your-buck shoulder and higher again mobility drills.

Advantages of the Overhead Dumbbell Press

Urgent a pair of dumbbells overhead isn’t simply an old style check of power, relationship again to strongmen within the late-1800s. It’s additionally a traditional train for constructing a wider set of shoulders. The mix of potential dimension and power make it an extremely helpful train for almost any lifter.

Muscular man standing near wall performing dumbbell shoulder press exercise
Credit score: BLACKDAY / Shutterstock

As a result of every arm is supporting a person dumbbell, versus one single barbell supported with each arms, you want extra energy output from both sides of the physique. Extra muscle tissues are additionally activated each as stabilizers and for help power.

Equally, whereas any sort of overhead press can be utilized for hypertrophy (constructing muscle), dumbbells require extra work from every particular person shoulder. This creates the next total coaching stimulus in comparison with different shoulder press variations.

Shoulder Dimension

Shoulder presses are virtually necessary for constructing a pair of huge, spherical deltoids (shoulders). The overhead dumbbell press might be extremely efficient, first as a result of stabilizing the weights all through every set will recruit the higher again and trapezius muscle tissues, and likewise as a result of the train has been proven to activate extra deltoid muscle than different press variations. (1)

Higher Physique Power

The bench press is arguably the most well-liked measure of power in most gyms. Nevertheless, an unstated rule amongst many skilled lifters is to gauge higher physique power by placing weight overhead whereas standing, not whereas mendacity supported on a flat bench.

The overhead dumbbell press, although not essentially related to shifting extraordinarily heavy weights, can play an enormous position in constructing spectacular overhead power.

Diminished Joint Stress

The overhead dumbbell press requires every arm to carry out its personal share of muscular work whereas additionally having a level of joint “freedom” to maneuver, rotate, and micro-adjust all through the vary of movement. This freedom makes it a extra joint-friendly possibility for lifters who might not be capable of maintain a barbell with a pronated (palms down) grip and press it overhead because of shoulder, elbow, or wrist mobility issues.

Muscle tissues Labored by the Overhead Dumbbell Press

The overhead dumbbell press is a shoulder train, although a lot of higher physique muscle tissues play a big position to stabilize the physique and full the train.

Back view of shirtless muscular man holding dumbbells at shoulder level
Credit score: Satyrenko / Shutterstock


The deltoids (shoulders) are technically one muscle group consisting of three heads — the anterior (entrance), the lateral (facet), and the posterior (rear). The overhead dumbbell press considerably recruits all three heads and is a complete shoulder train.


Any sort of urgent train will recruit the triceps muscle, particularly within the latter vary of movement to realize a whole lockout place. The overhead dumbbell press considerably prompts your triceps when the load is lifted from forehead-level to full lockout.

Higher Again

The “higher again” isn’t one particular muscle. As a substitute, it’s a basic time period usually together with the rhomboids, trapezius, teres, and rear deltoids. These muscle tissues play comparable and overlapping roles in scapular motion and stability.

The overhead dumbbell press works your higher again statically within the backside place because the weights are supported, in addition to working extra actively to assist present a steady torso place for urgent.

Who Ought to Do the Overhead Dumbbell Press

You should use the overhead dumbbell press to realize a lot of frequent targets. The train can, and will, be carried out by quite a lot of lifters.

Lifting for Muscle

Attributable to its efficient position as a elementary muscle-builder, the overhead dumbbell press could be a precedence train in a shoulder-building exercise. The massive time beneath stress and important recruitment of the deltoids make it an environment friendly possibility.

Lifters With Joint Ache

As a result of dumbbells require much less fixed-pattern motion and permits lifters to regulate hand and elbow place throughout a set, the overhead dumbbell press could be a more sensible choice for lifters with present joint ache, in comparison with a barbell press.

Overhead Power Athletes

Plenty of sports activities require lifters to maneuver very heavy weights overhead. Aggressive strongmen and strongwomen, Olympic weightlifters, and CrossFit athletes can all profit from making the overhead dumbbell press a recurring accent train of their coaching to carryover to sport-specific power.

Easy methods to Program the Overhead Dumbbell Press

The overhead dumbbell press might be tailored to quite a lot of programming strategies, relying on the lifter’s particular objective.

Reasonable Weight, Reasonable Repetition

Working inside a prototypical bodybuilding set and rep scheme delivers optimum muscle features. Performing three to 4 units of 8 to 12 reps turns the train right into a severe shoulder-builder. When the presses are stored strict and leg drive is prevented, this may be an intense delt exercise.

Mild-to-Reasonable Weight, Excessive Repetition

Decreasing the load barely whereas rising the reps to fifteen and even 20 can present extra problem to your entire physique as a result of the general stability calls for are elevated, however the shoulder-focus stays a precedence. Many lifters discover they could get a greater muscular exercise with this method, since shoulder joint stress is additional diminished because of the decreased load.

Heavy Weight, Low Repetition

When utilizing heavier weights for decrease repetitions, the motion turns into an train in total-body coordination. When performing three to 5 units of three to 5 reps, missing muscular engagement anyplace from head to toe can lead to a missed elevate. This full-body help is precisely what makes this method superb for constructing power.

Bear in mind although, as weights get heavier, getting the dumbbells into beginning place turns into a way more fatiguing a part of the train, so anticipate the exhausting work to start earlier than you even begin urgent.

Overhead Dumbbell Press Variations

The overhead dumbbell press is an easy motion appropriate for many lifters and most targets. Nevertheless, changes and variations could also be applicable for any variety of causes. By adjusting hand place or stance, you’ll be able to fine-tune the train to your particular necessities with out considerably altering the outcomes.

Impartial-Grip Overhead Press

Adjusting the arm angle within the backside place can drastically change the stress utilized to the shoulder joint.

If you happen to expertise joint ache throughout any chest or shoulder urgent workouts, utilizing a impartial grip, the place the fingers face one another throughout motion fairly than dealing with ahead, is a straightforward and efficient approach to alter the arm angle and scale back joint pressure.

Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press

Some lifters might lack the core power, both because of inexperience or earlier harm, to totally stabilize through the overhead dumbbell press. Shifting from a standing place to seated can scale back pressure on the decrease again, which reduces the required core stability aspect.

An vital cue with a seated overhead press is to keep away from leaning again excessively through the motion, which might return the low again stress meant to be prevented within the first place. In case your hips/tailbone aren’t close to the back-support pad, then your again isn’t truly supported.

Single-Arm Overhead Press

The overhead press is usually completed with each arms concurrently, however utilizing one arm at a time presents a number of particular benefits. First, it permits a barely heavier weight for use. For instance, in the event you can press two 50-pound dumbbells for 5 reps, you’re doubtless in a position to press one 55-pounder for 5 reps. This has to do with muscle fiber recruitment, the central nervous system, and a handful of lifeless technical jargon.

The second main good thing about urgent one dumbbell is a good higher core stability problem, which turns the train into an environment friendly approach to prepare the abs, obliques, and whole core whereas nonetheless requiring shoulder energy.

Dumbbell Push Press

Bear in mind all these warnings about holding your knees barely bent for your entire set and never utilizing leg drive? Effectively now right here’s your likelihood. The dumbbell push press makes use of deliberate leg drive to start out shifting the load on every rep.

This added decrease physique recruitment permits a heavier weight for use and it’s additionally a wonderful approach to develop explosive energy and velocity, making the train a best choice for athletes in any sport.

Overhead Dumbbell Press Options

The overhead dumbbell press does cowl quite a lot of muscular floor, however there are a number of comparable overhead workouts which may supply comparable, generally much more efficient, advantages.

Overhead Barbell Press

One limiting issue of the overhead dumbbell press is the precise dumbbell. Whereas there are numerous well-equipped gyms, there are few gyms providing dumbbells over 100 kilos. In case your objective is to construct main urgent power, loading a barbell will ultimately develop into obligatory.

The overhead barbell press, usually referred to easily as “the press”, can also be generally thought of one of the vital elementary of all workouts, alongside the barbell again squat, barbell flat bench press, and traditional deadlift.

Landmine Press

The landmine press is an efficient various to direct overhead urgent, particularly for lifters with shoulder joint ache. The altered angle of resistance impacts the load on the joint whereas incorporating extra muscle tissues, notably the chest.

Many gyms now have landmine stations with a barbell set in a specialised stand. The train can be carried out by rigorously wedging one finish of a barbell into the nook of a room.

Kettlebell Press

The kettlebell press might seem similar to the overhead dumbbell press, however the kettlebell’s distinctive form and offset heart of gravity make it a special train with completely different method necessities.

The vary of movement is usually longer, because the kettlebell press usually begins with the load in entrance of the chest within the backside place. As a result of the kettlebell sits behind the wrist whereas the dumbbell sits atop the wrist, the shoulder stabilizers can be beneath elevated stress through the motion because the kettlebell tries to “pull” the arm into exterior rotation.


What if getting the weights into place makes me too fatigued to press?

Normally, getting fatigued throughout an train is an efficient factor. However on this case, you’re getting fatigued earlier than the train, not throughout it. If getting the dumbbells into the underside place is just too difficult, it’s since you’re making an attempt a weight that’s past what your higher again can help.

Lighten the load to a weight you’ll be able to efficiently get right into a urgent place, proceed common shoulder and again coaching, and progress accordingly.

When ought to I carry out the overhead dumbbell press?

As a result of it’s primarily a shoulder train with involvement of different muscle tissues, it’s finest suited to a shoulder-focused or “higher physique” exercise. Performing it as one of many first workouts of the exercise will help you apply probably the most focus and use comparatively heavier weights than if carried out later.

For strength-focused lifters, it’s finest to not carry out the overhead dumbbell press instantly after heavy squats or deadlifts, because of cumulative fatigue within the decrease again and legs, which might impair these muscle tissues’ skill to supply a protected base of help.

Begin the Presses

The overhead dumbbell press is an intensive train which builds shoulder dimension and higher physique power with minimal gear. No benches wanted, no barbell and rack setup, only a pair of dumbbells and a spot to face. Evaluate the method pointers and match this missed elevate into your program.


  1. Saeterbakken AH, Fimland MS. Results of physique place and loading modality on muscle exercise and power in shoulder presses. J Power Cond Res. 2013 Jul;27(7):1824-31. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318276b873. PMID: 23096062.

Featured Picture: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock


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