Standing Shoulder Press With Dumbbells

Fitness group with barbell in gym
Proper form for a standing dumbbell shoulder press. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

You might think the only way to perform dumbbell shoulder presses in a sitting position, but you can also perform them in a standing position. One benefit of the standing version is you engage more core muscles to maintain your balance and control the weight. Using dumbbells increases your range of motion and forces each arm to work independently. With a few subtle changes in technique, you can make the exercise more challenging.

Execution

The standing shoulder press with dumbbells exercise can be done unilaterally, meaning one arm at a time, or bilaterally, meaning both arms together. The dumbbells start at shoulder level with your palms facing forward. Press one arm or both dumbbells overhead, bringing the weights together until they almost touch overhead. If you do the one-arm version, you can alternate arms or do all the repetitions for one arm and then switch sides.

Function

Shoulder press exercises target the deltoid or shoulder muscles, specifically the anterior or front deltoid and the lateral or side deltoid. Unlike other common shoulder exercises, such as side raises and front raises, the shoulder press exercise is a compound movement that works more than one muscle group. Your triceps, traps and upper chest are also involved in the standing shoulder press exercise. Because you are standing, your core muscles also engage to stabilize your trunk as you press the weight overhead.

Benefits

Dumbbells extend the range of motion of the shoulder press. A barbell locks you into one grip so your hands cannot come together at the top of the movement. Dumbbells also force each arm to work independently. Most lifters have a dominant side, which often overcompensates for the weaker side when you work both arms together. This can leave the weaker side constantly trailing in strength since it fails to do its share of the work. Using dumbbells forces the weaker arm to press the entire weight.

Variations

Dumbbells allow you to change your grip and add twists to the shoulder press exercise. You can do the standing shoulder dumbbell press with either a reverse grip, where your palms face you, or a neutral grip, where your palms face each other. You can also add twists to the movement. Start with your palms facing forward and then twist the dumbbells as you press up so your palms face each other at the top of the movement. Although these are small changes, they add challenge and variety to your routine and give the exercise a new feel.

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