April 9


Benefits, Muscles Worked and Variations of the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Benefits, Muscles Worked and Variations of the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

There are numerous exercises that you can benefit from, but there are quite a few that you just cannot ignore. The dumbbell shoulder press is one such exercise that has plenty to offer, but only as long as you know how to execute it well in the first place.

A lot of people will tell you a lot of different things about the dumbbell shoulder press, complicating matters for someone who wants to benefit from said exercise. For this reason, here is an elaborate guide to the benefits, tips, muscles worked and variations of the dumbbell shoulder press. 

What is a Dumbbell Shoulder Press?

If you are desperate for a hulking physique, or simply want a stronger upper body, you will need to give your shoulders the much-needed attention to get the results you want. Bulky arms will do you no favors, especially if you have coat-hanger shoulders. 

Fortunately, the road to broader and stronger arms is simple if you start with the dumbbell shoulder press, also referred to as the dumbbell overhead press.

Apart from developing your upper body strength, dumbbell shoulder press will make you broad and strong enough to catch everyone’s attention. In fact, you will be the guy that everyone will ask for to load overhead lockers on an airplane, not entirely a benefit but a confidence booster nonetheless.

By using dumbbells instead of a barbell, you ensure that each side of your body broadens and grows equally strong, since you can’t exactly rely on one shoulder to handle all the weight alone.

Muscles Worked

When it comes to the movement of the dumbbell shoulder press, it is no different from the strict press. If done correctly, it can cause the significant growth of the upper chest, triceps and the shoulders. Depending on the angles, grips, and variations of the shoulder press, you can highlight certain aspects of your posterior, anterior and the overall region of your shoulders.

The primary muscles targeted by the dumbbell shoulder press are as follows:

  • Upper chest
  • Traps
  • Deltoids, i.e., anterior, medial and posterior shoulder
  • Triceps

Dumbbell Shoulder Press Variations

With dumbbell shoulder press, you have a lot of variations to work with. Not only will you not get bored doing the same exercise over and over again, but you can address weaknesses while stimulating your shoulders from different directions for the best possible results.

If you wish to learn more, here are some of the common, yet most effective, dumbbell shoulder press variations you can benefit from.

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    With the seated variation of the dumbbell shoulder press, it allows the lifter to move weight with as much shoulder strength and strict form as possible. This is because of how the position restricts the lifter’s capacity to extend to engage the upper pecs while increasing leverage into the press at the same time.

    Due to this, you will get ‘active’ direct movement to strain the shoulders. With less leverage in the seated position, it will increase demand on the shoulder muscles without depending on the supporting cast.


    The standing dumbbell shoulder press variation is mostly the same as the seated variation. The only difference here is you will stand to use the hips, core, and legs to even out the movement, which also creates back tension to make way for an inclined chest/shoulder pressing movement.

    Enough emphasis cannot be placed on the fact that this variation needs to be executed strictly, extending the back ever so slightly to press overhead for powerful movements.


    Partial or half reps are mostly frowned upon, but what most people do not realize is that the partial dumbbell shoulder press has a lot of benefits. It is more specifically used to isolate a range of movement for increased muscular strength and growth. At the same time, it is perfectly suitable for those with injury concerns.

    Just like a quarter or half squat, partial dumbbell press training can increase overhead muscles mass and lockout strength for athletes in particular. It can also play a vital role in strength development.


    This variation is named after none other than the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is brutal when it comes to shoulder development, designed for training schemes with higher and moderate reps to develop the shoulder muscles, including the anterior, medial and posterior deltoids. Due to the sweeping motion, this variation of the dumbbell shoulder press proves to be a specific and effective way to increase the size and shape of the deltoids.

    Neutral Grip

    There are times when you may want to limit the stress on your shoulders, which is where the neutral grip variation comes in. Apart from decreasing stress, the neutral grip dumbbell shoulder press trains the shoulder muscles for endurance, mass, and strength.

    Benefits of the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

    If you are still not entirely convinced about the dumbbell shoulder press, you will think otherwise once you evaluate its benefits. Do note though, the different variations highlight some benefits more than others, which is why you need to fully understand and realize the modifications mentioned above.

    Greater Muscles Mass

    With the help of dumbbell shoulder press, you can quickly build hypertrophy. You will also benefit from muscular activation as the dumbbells gain new muscle fibers while synchronizing movement coordination, no different from other benefits associated with unilateral training. 

    Work the stabilizer muscles

    With the dumbbell shoulder press, you are forced to move each weight separately with each hand. You are primarily using your stabilizer muscles, and through continuous exercise will improve balance and control of the upper arms and shoulders. 

    Achieve symmetry 

    Unilateral training is known for being highly efficient at increasing muscle mass, unilateral strength, and movement. Similarly, dumbbell shoulder press exercises do this and so much more, mostly greatly benefiting muscular/strength asymmetries and/or addressing asymmetrical movement patterns. 

    Get wider shoulders 

    Since the exercise involves the use of dumbbells, you will find it easier to hold and maneuver weights freely than you ever could with a barbell. That is not all, as the dumbbell shoulder press targets the lateral deltoids intensely, even more than barbell movements. If everything goes as planned, you will develop ‘capped’ shoulders, thus granting you a V-shaped look. 

    Who Should Use Dumbbell Shoulder Press? 

    Now the real question you need to be asking yourself is who should use the dumbbell shoulder press. You need to understand that not just anyone can do whatever exercise their heart desires. If you are new, you will need to consult with a coach or gym instructor to plan out what exercises you need to perform based on what you are trying to achieve.

    With that out of the way, here is a look at the different scenarios under which you will need to use the dumbbell shoulder press:

    People lacking Strong Bones 

    If you are one of those people that are suffering from weak bones, you should look no further. The dumbbell shoulder press just like other strength training exercises increases bone strength. While lifting, the weight of the dumbbells strains the bones, which in turn causes them to adapt accordingly. Your bones will respond to this stress by bolstering mineral density, which also decreases the chances of osteoporosis. 

    People lacking Strength 

    Those significantly lacking the necessary strength to carry out exercises will find the dumbbell shoulder press to be of great use to them. Since the exercise targets numerous upper body muscles simultaneously, improving strength will be as easy as 1-2-3. Women, in general, will greatly benefit from the dumbbell should press, especially if they want to improve upper body strength. 

    Losing muscle as you grow old can make it difficult for you to pick a can of soup over your head. For this reason, the exercise is a must to do now and for years to come to maintain your independence and health. Remember that even if you don’t exercise daily, it is never too late to start.

    People lacking Stability 

    People do not realize that they lack the stability needed to carry out complex tasks, or even pick up weights for that matter. After several workouts of the dumbbell shoulder press, you will notice a drastic change in your shoulders, arms, and torso. The movement of the exercise strengthens the stabilizer muscles of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists and keeps your joints in place. 

    There is no denying the fact the exercise does not directly affect the muscles of your torso, but they do help in maintaining your posture as you lift weights. Eventually, there will come a time when your overall balance and core stabilization will be at an all-time high.

    People lacking in Other Areas 

    The dumbbell shoulder press has a lot more to it than meets the eye, as is evident with how it can positively affect other areas of your life. For instance, with regular shoulder press exercises, you can enhance your performance in other activities, like the bench presses and triceps-based exercises.

    By continuing the dumbbell shoulder press, you are strengthening your shoulders, so much so you will decrease the risk of injuries while carrying out activities like softball, swimming and other actions which require the use of your upper body and arms.

    Tips on executing Dumbbell Shoulder Press

    The dumbbell shoulder press offers a lot of benefits, but the only problem is that it is an exercise that can be done wrong quite easily. It does not have to be wrong in the way that you would hurt yourself, but its effectiveness is not as much as it should be. To prevent this from happening, here are some tips for your consideration. 

    Get into Position 

    To get into position for the dumbbell shoulder press, keep the dumbbells on the floor in front of your bench. Learn forward to grab the dumbbells, and in one powerful movement pull the dumbbells off the floor, returning back to the bottom position of the press.

    Lighten the Weight

    If you think you can start with heavier weights, you are wrong on so many levels. Despite exercising every now and then, you still need to start small. You need to start with dumbbells that are 25% lesser than the weight you usually use for other exercises. 

    The Dumbbells shouldn’t bang into each other 

    Under no circumstances should you slam the dumbbells into each other, as it will put the tension on your shoulder joints rather than the shoulder muscles. If that does not convince you, consider how annoying it can be for others. 


    To maximize core stability, hold your breath at the bottom. While passing the sticking point, exhale. On the way down breathe in, pushing out your chest while allowing your shoulders to meet the dumbbells.

    Dig your Feet In 

    Dig your feet in and keep your core tight to use the power of your legs to push your hips backward. You will not only engage your core but will solidify your base of support too. 

    If your legs are not locked in, you will lose core stability and power. You will need to keep the tension on at all times since flailing your limbs around will not help you pull off a tricky rep.

    Once you are done with your exercise, don’t let go of the dumbbells just yet. Let them down slowly and gradually and place them back on the floor so you can start over again for the next set.

    With all the information provided above, you should now be able to determine whether the dumbbell shoulder press is beneficial for you in the first place or not. If you do find it to be of use, you will find the tips above to be of great use to you, so much so, you will get more out of the exercise than you possibly could have before. In fact, you will build stronger, broader and developed shoulders in no time. Here’s a quick reminder. Consult your GP before beginning any exercise program.