Dumbbell Shoulder Press – How to perform the exercise

The dumbbell shoulder press can strengthen and develop the muscles of your shoulders. But, as any other exercise, you should know how to do it properly in order to get the most out of it and to avoid injuring yourself. Here we’ll discuss the correct way to perform the exercise as well as some common mistake you’d want to avoid.

How to perform it

Use a military press bench or a utility bench with back support. Take a dumbbell in each hand and put them upright on your thighs.
Raise the dumbbells to the level of your shoulders one at a time. Use the thighs to help you do this.

Rotate the wrists until the palms of the hands are faced forward. That’s the starting position.

Exhale and at the same time start pushing the dumbbells upward. Continue pushing until you reach the top and they touch each other.
Make a short pause at the top and start inhaling while lowering the dumbbells back down.

There are other ways to do this exercise – for example, you can perform it while sitting on a normal flat bench or even while standing.
Also, there is variation named after Arnold Schwarzenegger and it’s called (surprise, surprise!) the Arnold Press. We don’t recommend you to do it if you have any problems with the rotator cuff. But if you don’t and if you wish to proceed to do the Arnold Press, you can do that by holding the dumbbells in front of the shoulders with palms facing towards you. Then you start pushing up and rotate your wrists to align the weights in the starting position which we told you about above. While lowering down you rotate the wrists throughout the lowering part until your palms are facing towards you.

Mistakes to avoid

Don’t choose to heavy dumbbells or you may risk to injure your shoulders. Go with lighter weights instead.

Also, don’t flare out your elbows. Don’t keep them pointing straight out to your sides. That way you limit your power and put too much pressure on the small rotator cuff muscles. Your upper arms should make an angle of 30 to 40 degrees with your chests.

And the elbows shouldn’t be locked at the top. If you lock them you contract strongly the triceps and take the tension of the deltoids.

Another mistake is to not use the full range of motion. If you do only partial motion range you activate the muscles only partially and this leads to the training session not being effective enough.

More advices

At the top part of the motion your elbows should be rigid but not locked. Also, the joints of your elbows should be in line with the shoulder joints.
Keep a slight curve on your back and press yourself tightly against the back support.

If you’ve chosen a tall enough bench put your head against the back rest.
Keep your knees slightly bend. Your chin should be parallel with respect to the ground.
Your spine should be in a neutral position and your lower back shouldn’t be extended.
And last, but not least, check out this video on how to do dumbbell shoulder press:

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