Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Dumbbell Overhead Press)
You can perform this variant of the shoulder press seated (as shown in this post), standing, or with alternate presses. The main advantage that it offers over the military press (barbell shoulder press) is that you do not need to move the bar around your face on the way up and down.
The seated dumbbell shoulder press develops the entire shoulder muscle group. The dumbbells allow for a greater freedom of movement than the barbell shoulder press. This greater freedom of movement (range of motion) also increases shoulder muscle activation and can also be very useful for people with shoulder injuries since the dumbbells are far less stressful to the shoulder joint.
Exercise Instructions – Proper Technique
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on a low-back seat or adjustable bench set upright with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Begin with your elbows at shoulder level but slightly forward, forearms angled in slightly so that the inner plates of the dumbbells are directly above your delts. Your palms are facing forward and your knuckles facing back.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): With your knuckles pointed at the ceiling, push the weights straight up, stopping short of locking out your elbows. At the top, they should be close to each other without touching. Then control the dumbbells all the way down until your upper arms are parallel to the floor or slightly lower, the weights at approximately ear level. Your arms should be parallel to your body, moving toward your sides as you lower the dumbbells.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press Additional Tips & Tricks
- Sit erect on a shoulder press bench with your head, upper back, and hips pressed against the pads. If one is not available, you can straddle a flat bench, but be sure to sit in an erect position with your feet flat on the floor. Maintain your erect torso position (do not lean back or lift off the bench as you press the dumbbells overhead).
- Hold your abdominal muscles taut to help stabilise your spine or, if you are using a very heavy weight, wear a weightlifting belt.
- The dumbbell handles should be in line with each other and parallel to the floor.
- Keep your wrists straight and directly above your elbows.
- Look for a smooth transition from the bottom to the top of the movement.
- Look for the identical speed and movement path with each hand.
- Avoid extending your chin forwards.
- Prevent elevating your shoulders.
- Avoid rounding your back.
- Avert from accelerating the weight by altering the speed with which you move towards the ceiling.
- Avoid any end position other than holding the weight directly over your shoulders.
- Do not allow the dumbbells to stray back and forth during the movement. The weights should move in one plane, vertically up and down, perpendicular to the floor.
- How far you lower the weight will depend on your flexibility as well as the size of your clavicle. If these two things are not well developed, then you should not lower the weight very far.
- Pronated grip dumbbell shoulder press. Pressing the dumbbells upward with palms facing forward (pronated grip) works both the anterior and the lateral head of the deltoid.
- Neutral grip dumbbell shoulder press. Pressing the dumbbells with palms facing together makes the anterior deltoid work harder, minimizing lateral head involvement. Just sit on a bench and hold the dumbbells in front of your head using a neutral grip with your thumbs facing inward. Push upward without changing the direction of your elbow (which should always face forward).
- Supinated grip dumbbell shoulder press. Holding the dumbbells with palms facing backward maximizes anterior deltoid effort.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press Substitutes /Replacement Exercises
- Barbell overhead press (in front of the head or behind the back)
- Smith machine overhead press
- Machine overhead press
Seated dumbbell shoulder press works the front and side deltoid (shoulder) muscles, the triceps (back of upper arm), and the trapezius (upper neck and back) muscles.
- Main muscles: deltoid (front, middle), triceps (except long head), supraspinatus
- Secondary muscles: deltoid (rear), pectoralis major (upper), trapezius (upper), biceps (long
head), serratus anterior, triceps (long head)
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, pectoralis major (lower)
Seated dumbbell shoulder press (seated overhead dumbbell press) is a simple and effective exercise for beginners and advanced athletes alike, working the muscles in the same way as the seated barbell military press.
Shoulder presses can be done with a bar, dumbbells, a machine, or a Smith machine. You should analyze the dvantages and disadvantages of each version and then decide which one best meets your needs.
In our opinion, this front deltoid exercise is a must for building massive shoulders. Dumbbells have numerous advantages over the bar. By bringing your hands in line with your clavicles, you will avoid stretching the shoulder joints roughly, avoid unnecessary movements to prevent the bar from hitting the face, and put the anterior deltoid in the best working position.
Furthermore, you can lower the weight farther, since there’s no bar in the middle to hit your chest, and you can vary the distance between your hands at the top of the movement.
But keep in mind one thing! Unless you are weak in the shoulder, than exercises for the front of the shoulder are not always required, especially if you are working the chest a lot. In this case, it is better to focus on the lateral and back (rear) parts of the deltoid rather then on the front.