Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Complete Shoulder Workout

Use the best dumbbell shoulder press technique to avoid painful shoulder and back injuries. These instructions and videos will show you how.


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Done correctly, this exercise will safely develop great functional shoulder strength. Done incorrectly and you risk over-stressing your shoulders and back.

Although the press mainly works the front of your shoulders and your triceps, when done without any back support (sitting or standing), all your core stabilizers come into play.

That's the most effective way of doing this exercise. But at the same time, the lack of support means your body is at most risk if your technique isn't good.

So make sure you start with a very light weight. The anterior (front) deltoid isn't a huge muscle, and without the backing of the pectorals, it doesn't pack a big punch.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Using dumbbells (rather than a barbell) allows you more freedom, but also works those stabilizers just that lil bit harder.

  • Standing or sitting, hold each dumbbell at head height (upper arms parallel to the floor, elbows bent at 90 degrees) and palms facing forward.
  • Make sure your back is straight (and not overly arched).
  • Brace your core muscles, and keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Slowly press the dumbbells straight up over your head.
  • Hold for 1 or 2 seconds and very slowly bring it back down to the starting position.
  • Click here to sort out your reps and sets.


  1. Be sure not to lock your elbows at the top of the lift, and don't let the dumbbells touch.
  2. Remember to breathe - exhale when lifting up, and inhale when recovering back down.
  3. If you're just starting out with dumbbells, progress from: seated with back support - to seated without support - to standing.
  4. For even more precision and control, try lifting each dumbbell 1 at-a-time.
  5. Make things more interesting by doing the shoulder press whilst sitting on an exercise ball.

Exercise Pictures

Exercise Variation

Although the shoulder press is a great exercise on its own, it's still only really working 1 joint - your shoulders. Great for if you're returning from injury or you need to isolate those muscles for any reason.

But as always, the more efficient workouts are where you're using multiple joints and muscle groups. This variation with squats is exactly that.

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart, hold each dumbbell at head height (upper arms parallel to the floor, elbows bent at 90 degrees) and palms facing forward.
  • Squat down half way by leaning your hips slightly forward, bending your knees, pointing your bum backwards and keeping your back neutral.
  • Then squeeze your quads and push up through your feet, legs and bottom. Keep the movement going straight into the press (described above).
  • Complete the press, returning to your starting position before going into the next squat.

Tips: Keep control of your movement throughout the exercise. If you lose balance, slow it down. Remember slow, steady lifts with good technique will produce faster results and keep you injury free.

Shoulder Press Videos

Enjoy this dumbbell exercise! Check out these great videos that'll give you a visual idea of the best technique:

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