Overhead Dumbbell Press: Muscle Worked, Benefits, Variations

The overhead dumbbell press is one of the best upper body exercises for gaining muscle and overall strength in the shoulders. This compound exercise is considered one of the big four lifts that define your strength. The overhead press is an amazing movement to build shoulders, traps, triceps, upper chest, and core. To have a strong upper body, you must master the overhead press.

If you are searching for the best overhead Dumbbell Press exercises, then you are at the right place. Here we cover the anatomy, functions of your deltoid, and know the best overhead Dumbbell Press exercises, execution techniques, pro-tips, for the best possible shoulder development.

The dumbbell overhead press can be done in either a sitting or standing position and with dumbbells held horizontally at the shoulders or rotated in a hammer grip. You can use this exercise in any upper body strength workout.

Overhead Dumbbell Press Muscle Worked, Benefits, Variations

Deltoid Anatomy

In fitness, “shoulder exercises” refers to resistance exercises that target the deltoid muscle.

The deltoid is the superficial muscle that forms the rounded contour of your shoulder. While the deltoid is technically a single muscle, anatomically speaking it has three distinct sets of muscles fibers and muscle bellies, which are referred to as “heads.

The deltoid muscle of the shoulder consists of three separate sections or heads.

Shoulder Anatomy

Anterior Deltoid is commonly called the front delt. It arises from your collar bone and inserts into your humerus (upper arm bone). Your front delt’s main function is to move your arm up, forward, and to your center. 

Lateral Deltoid has a few common names, such as side delts, middle delts, or even outer delts. It arises from a little area on your shoulder blade called the acromion process and inserts into your humerus.

Posterior Deltoid also knows as the rear delt. It arises from the spine of your scapula (upper part of your shoulder blade) and inserts into your humerus. Your posterior delts main function is moving the arm outward and backward.

Muscle Worked During Dumbbell Shoulder Press

In Dumbbell Shoulder Presses Exercises, you begin with your arms bent, the weight up to about shoulder height, and lift the dumbbell straight up over your head.

Dumbbell Shoulder Presses Exercises involve all three heads of deltoids and the triceps, because you are straightening your arms as well as lifting upward. You can vary the stress on your shoulders to a slight degree to direct it toward the different deltoid heads by doing different kinds of Presses—to the front, lateral, and the rear by using dumbbells positions.

Benefits of Overhead Dumbbell Press

  • Maintain proper posture
  • Boost shoulder stability
  • Prevent shoulder injuries
  • Build symmetry with the shoulder, preventing a “forward sloping” look
  • Improve shoulder function

Here you’ll find the best overhead Dumbbell Press exercises for maximum deltoid growth. Plus, you’ll find training execution techniques and tips to exploit delt growth. Try these best Overhead Dumbbell Press exercises when designing your next delt workout.

Standing Overhead Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The standing dumbbell shoulder press is a classic deltoid-building exercise that is common in gyms around the world. Performing the move standing up as opposed to seated allows more weight to be used and taxes the core more than seated presses.

The standing press is worthy of being the main movement in a muscle-building shoulder workout but is also a great strength movement and accessory for the bench press.

Dumbbell press is a very significant exercise to build front and side deltoid muscles. This exercise helps to Build Muscle Mass in the front and side of the deltoids.

Standing Overhead Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique
  1. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, and hold two dumbbells at shoulder height with an overhand grip.
  2. Without leaning back, extend through your elbows to press the weights above your head.
  3. Then, press the weights up above your head until your arms are fully extended.
  4. Pause, and slowly return the weight to the starting position.
Tips
  • Always use the longest range of motion possible and control the dumbbells throughout the set.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Go as heavy as possible.

Other Variations of the Dumbbell Overhead Press

1. Seated overhead Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press exercises are an excellent variation to Barbell Shoulder Press. The fact is that the dumbbells allow a full range of motion.

Dumbbell press is a very significant exercise to build front and side deltoid muscles. This exercise helps to Build Muscle Mass in the front and side of the deltoids.

Performing the exercise while seated upright is a stricter version than standing and prevents cheating the weight upward using momentum generated by the legs.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique
  1. Sit at the end of a flat bench holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.
  2. Lift the dumbbells overhead until they nearly touch at the top, and then lower them as low as possible.
  3. Feel a good stretch at the bottom and then continue the next rep.
Tips
  • Exhale during effort, inhale during rest.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Go as heavy as possible.

2. Arnold Shoulder Press

Arnold Dumbbell Shoulder Press exercise is an excellent Shoulder Muscle Building exercise. Arnold’s press stands out from the crowd when it comes to the best exercise with the best range of motion for shoulder muscles.

It gives a wide range of motion as you lower the dumbbells well down in front, giving that maximum stretch other shoulder exercises lack. Performing the exercise while seated upright is a stricter version than standing and prevents cheating the weight upward using momentum generated by the legs.

Arnold Press
Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique
  1. Stand straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder position with palms facing you.
  2. Now press the dumbbells overhead just like dumbbell presses but twisting them so that palms face forwards at the top of the movement.
  3. Now lower the dumbbells in a reverse movement.
Tips
  • Inhale when you lower the weight and exhale when you lift.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keep a strict form.
  • Do not lock your arms overhead.

3. Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press

The seated neutral-grip dumbbell overhead press is a very effective exercise that targets the deltoids’ anterior (Front) head.

Now, the benefit of using dumbbells over a barbell for this movement is that you develop more stabilizer muscles and have a freer range of movement.

But, using a neutral grip is also more challenging and makes for a great variation since it still works the same muscle.

Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press
Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique
  1. Sit on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height.
  2. Begin with your palms facing toward each other and your elbows just below shoulder level.
  3. Push the weights straight up, stopping just short of locking out your elbows.
  4. Then control the dumbbells all the way down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor or slightly lower.
Tips
  • Keep your back and neck neutral.
  • Do not lock out your elbows.
  • Always warm up before training heavily to prevent shoulder discomfort.

4. Dumbbell One Arm Shoulder Press

Dumbbell one-arm shoulder press is an exercise that isolates the heads of the shoulders.

The single-arm dumbbell shoulder press is a unilateral exercise that increases shoulder strength, stability, and symmetry. Performing the exercise with one arm at a time will actively engage the core throughout the range of motion.

One Arm Shoulder Press
Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your one hand.
  2. Extend through your elbow to lift the dumbbell directly above you.
  3. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  4. After completing all reps on the right side, repeat on the left side. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Tips
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Don’t allow your torso to sway to one side or the other as you press the weight overhead.
  • Keep the tension on your shoulder as you press the weight up.

5. Alternating Dumbbell Press

The alternating dumbbell press is a great shoulder press variation that allows you to focus on one side of the body at a time. By doing this exercise unilaterally, you have to actively engage your core so that your torso doesn’t lean towards one side or the other. This exercise can help to balance out possible weaknesses that are present on either side.

Alternating Dumbbell Press
Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique
  1. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, and hold two dumbbells at shoulder height with an overhand grip.
  2. Without leaning back, Press one dumbbell up over your head without moving the other dumbbell.
  3. Press the weight up above your head until your arm is fully extended.
  4. Pause, and slowly return the weight to the starting position. Repeat with other arm.
Tips
  • Do not allow your torso to sway to either side as you press the weight overhead.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Squeeze your abs and glutes to help keep your body stable as you press the weights.

6. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Press

The reverse grip press starts in the same position as the Arnold press with your palms facing towards you, but instead of opening the arms and rotating the wrists, you will press straight up. This exercise is good for targeting the front delts, triceps, and the serratus anterior.

Reverse Grip Dumbbell Press
Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique
  1. Sit on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells with both hands using an underhand grip.
  2. Bring the weights up to shoulder level with palms facing in and your elbows just below shoulder level.
  3. Push the weights straight up, stopping just short of locking out your elbows.
  4. Slowly return to starting position. Repeat for desired reps.
Tips
  • Keep your back and neck neutral.
  • Choose a lightweight first and focus on form before going heavy.
  • Do not lock out your elbows.

Takeaway

An Overhead Dumbbell Press is an excellent exercise if you’re looking to increase muscle mass and strength in your arms, shoulders, core, and chest.

As with any weightlifting exercise, proper technique and form are crucial for the best results and to prevent injury.

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