Variable-Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press


Variable-Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

One of the biggest benefits of dumbbells is that they allow a greater or freer range of motion than the barbell counterpart. Since both hands can move in any direction, you can move your arms out to your sides a bit to better focus on the middle delts, or even bring your arms more to the front (think of the Arnold press) to better recruit the front delts.

Bodybuilders love this exercise because variable-grip dumbbell shoulder press uses three different hand positions during the repetition: (a) pronated grip, (b) neutral grip, and (c) supinated grip. Pressing the dumbbells upward with palms facing forward (pronated grip) works both the anterior and the lateral head of the deltoid. Pressing the dumbbells with palms facing together (neutral grip) makes the anterior deltoid work harder, minimizing lateral head involvement. Holding the dumbbells with palms facing backward (supinated grip) maximizes anterior deltoid effort.

Variable-Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press Technique – Proper Form

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit on a straight-back bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor while holding a pair of dumbbells. Begin the exercise by holding the dumbbells with your palms facing back (supination).


Variable-Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Variable-Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

EXERCISE TECHNIQUE (MOVEMENT): During the press, rotate the dumbbells so your palms face together (neutral grip) at the midpoint, finishing the upward press with your palms facing forward (pronated grip) at lockout.

Exercise Variations

  • Standing variable-grip dumbbell press. Performing the exercise while seated upright is the stricter version than standing and prevents cheating the dumbbells upward using momentum.

Replacement Exercises

There are plenty of other alternative front deltoid exercises that do the same thing. Choose any other of the following exercises for building a massive deltoids.

Muscles Involved in Seated Variable-Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  • 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)

Key Points & Common Mistakes

  • 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.
  • The dumbbell handles should be in line with each other and parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your wrists straight and directly above your elbows.
  • Maintain your erect torso position.

Closing Thoughts

Variable-grip dumbbell shoulder press will have slightly different effect on your shoulder and forearm muscles, and the twisting action mimics that od punching in martial arts.

Variable-grip dumbbell shoulder press is the best example to see all the advantages of using dumbbells to perform shoulder press movement.

The range of motion is much greater than when using the barbell. The contraction is also better at the top of the movement because the hands are close to each other when the arms are straight. The position of your hands is totally free, which makes it as natural as possible. In general, your thumbs are turned toward your head, but you can also turn them toward the back or the outside. Only dumbbells give you so many choices for your hand grips. The variable-grip dumbbell shoulder press is an excelent example of this grip diversity.

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