Everything You Need To Know About Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press: Muscle Used, Advantages, And Variations

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Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by admin

Beginner in the gym or an expert, there will always be exercises that just don’t make sense. One of the biggest nuisances in the gym is perfecting the standard overhead dumbbell press.

So don’t worry you are not alone!

When working out the shoulders, there are various exercises that will give you the result you want. But none do it quite like the overhead dumbbell press.

Working a range of muscles, this exercise can give you sculpted, rounded shoulders that are effective and strong. 

Sounds good? We have created this simple guide explaining everything you need to know about the overhead dumbbell press. From performing it correctly to other variations you can do.

We have got you covered!

Keep reading to find out more. 

Why Training Shoulders Is Important 

As you train shoulders effectively and begin to see growth you will begin to notice that they are wide. Because they enlarge the appearance of the upper body, wide shoulders can help your frame appear more proportionate.

 They form the upper body into an inverted triangle that is bigger at the top and narrower at the waist. Wide shoulders can feature a bony protrusion and are more square than round.

They are frequently linked to athleticism.

Given that you’ll have a lot of upper body muscular mass, having well-developed shoulders might be a sign of strength and good health.

It is advised that you support your shoulder strength with a powerful back, strong arms, and a trim waist.

Training shoulders using not only the overhead dumbbell press will help protect the joint, collarbone, and other muscles when performing other exercises. Not to mention we are often pushing things above our heads. 

Never again will you need someone to help you put your suitcase in the overhead compartment when boarding a flight!

Muscles Worked By Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press 

Much like the tricep, the shoulder is made up of three heads:

  • Anterior Deltoid (In Front)
  • Lateral Deltoid (At The Side)
  • Posterior Deltoid (Behind)

In order to grow strong shoulders each muscle must be worked equally. The superficial muscle that gives your shoulder its rounded shape is the deltoid.

Although the deltoid is a single muscle in terms of anatomy, it comprises three different sets of muscular bellies and fibers, collectively known as “heads.”

The front delt is the common name for the anterior delt. It emerges from the collarbone and enters the humerus (upper arm bone). Your arm is moved up, forward, and toward your center mostly by your front delt.

The anterior delt is more commonly referred to as the front delt. It appears from the collarbone before moving into the humerus. Your front delt primarily moves your arm upward, forward, and toward your center.

The back delt is another name for the posterior delt. It emerges from the upper section of your shoulder blade, the scapula, and enters into your humerus. The primary purpose of your posterior deltoids is to extend and retract the arm.

When performing the overhead dumbbell press, all three heads of the shoulder are engaged and working. Along with the triceps. Because you are raising upward while also straightening your arms.

By performing various presses in the front, lateral, and rear positions with dumbbells, you can slightly alter the stress on your shoulders and direct it toward the various deltoid heads.

The standing overhead press also engages the core in order to stabilize the body and prevent injury or wobbling throughout the movement. 

How To Do Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press 

A traditional deltoid-building exercise that is popular in gyms all over the world is the standing dumbbell shoulder press.

Standing up to perform the exercise instead of sitting down allows for the usage of more weight and puts more strain on the core than sitting presses do.

The standing overhead dumbbell press is an excellent compound movement that will not only aid in growing the shoulders but can improve performance of the classic bench press. 

Performing the standover overhead dumbbell press will engage the anterior deltoid through the majority of the movement. Other muscles involved are the lateral deltoid, triceps, traps, and the upper pecs. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Begin standing, feet shoulder width apart with a dumbbell in each hand in an overhand grip. 
  • Keeping the body static, raise the dumbbells to shoulder height. 
  • Pushing through the shoulders, raise the dumbbells above your head until arms are straight. 
  • Hold for one second before slowly lowering the weights to shoulder height. 
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

While this exercise is relatively straightforward, it can be done incorrectly with ease. Ensure the body is kept stable without using momentum to push the weight upwards.

Keep the range of motion as long as possible while avoiding sharp jerky movements. 

The standing overhead press allows you to use heavier weights than the seated variation as the lower body is also being engaged for stabilizing purposes. Go as heavy as possible without causing injury. 

Variations Of Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press 

Much like other exercises there is a range of variations that can be done. Whether you are recovering from an injury or there isn’t the required equipment available, there is always another way to work the muscle. 

Below is a list of variations of the standing overhead press. 

1. Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press 

Everything You Need To Know About Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press: Muscle Used, Advantages, And Variations

This is one of the most popular shoulder exercises that is performed in gyms across the world. 

The dumbbell press is a crucial exercise for developing the front and side deltoid muscles. This exercise aids in developing the front and side deltoids’ muscle mass.

In order to avoid cheating the weight upward by using the momentum produced by the legs, performing the exercise while upright in a chair is a stricter version than doing so while standing.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Find a flat bench and sit upright at the end. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward. 
  • Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height. 
  • Push through the shoulders until the arms are above the head. Keep a slight bend in the elbows. 
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to shoulder height. 
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

The seated variation of the overhead dumbbell press is slightly different as there should be a bend in the elbow. This protects the shoulder joint throughout the movement.

You want to exhale upon pushing and inhale when lowering the weight. 

2. Arnold Shoulder Press 

The Arnold Dumbbell Shoulder Press is a great exercise for developing shoulder muscle. When it comes to the exercise that gives shoulders the most range of motion, Arnold’s press stands out from the crowd.

As the arms come down in front of the chest, you are provided with a larger range of motion. Meaning you are gaining a larger stretch which is growing the muscle.

This exercise can be performed standing, however the seated position prevents using momentum which is cause by the legs. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Find a flat bench and sit at the end upright with a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height in front of the chest. Palms facing the chest. 
  • Rotate the dumbbells out to the shoulders and push until weights are overhead. 
  • Arms shoulder be straight at the top of the movement but not locked.
  • Slowly lower dumbbells until in front of the chest
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

This movement targets all three heads of the shoulders making it an excellent compound movement for a shoulder workout. It also engages the core, lats, and upper chest. 

You can easily alter this movement by doing single arm presses to identify any imbalances throughout the shoulders. 

3. Dumbbell One Arm Shoulder Press 

A unilateral exercise that improves shoulder strength, stability, and symmetry is the single-arm dumbbell shoulder press. The core will be fully engaged throughout the whole range of motion if the exercise is done one arm at a time.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Standing with feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Raise one dumbbell to shoulder height. 
  • Raise through the shoulders until the arm is completely extended. 
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell to shoulder height. 
  • Complete for desired reps on both sides. 

It is important to keep the core tight when performing this exercise to prevent the torso from swaging as you push the weight overhead. Swaying allows you to use momentum to lift the weight, preventing the shoulder from being fully engaged. 

4. Alternating Dumbbell Press 

A fantastic shoulder press variant that lets you concentrate on one side of the body at a time is the alternating dumbbell press.

You must deliberately engage your core when performing this unilateral exercise to prevent your torso from leaning to one side or the other.

Engaging the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, triceps, traps, and upper pecs makes this an excellent exercise for an upper body workout routine. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Holding two dumbbells with an overhand grip at shoulder height, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping the core tight, press one dumbbell over head until the arm is fully extended. 
  • Hold for one second. 
  • Slowly lower the weight to shoulder height. 
  • Repeat on the other arm. 
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

When performing alternating exercises it is important to note that 1 rep is the movement performed once on each side. For example, 10 reps would be 10 on each arm. 

In order to prevent the torso from swaying, keep the abs and glutes engaged. 

5. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Press 

With your palms facing in the same direction as when starting the Arnold press, you will press straight up rather than opening your arms and rotating your wrists.

Targeting the front delts, triceps, and serratus anterior with this exercise is effective.

This variation can take some practice to get the movements right. It is recommended to begin with a lighter weight until the form is perfected. Then you can begin to increase the weight and see growth. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Find a moveable bench and raise the back to be slightly angled. 
  • Sit facing away from the bench, feet on the floor. Use an underhand grip to hold a pair of dumbbells with both hands.
  • Raise the dumbbells in front of the chest, palms facing the chest. 
  • Push the weights straight overhead, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. 
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells until in front of the chest. 
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

When learning this movement it is important that the elbow does not lock. This can cause severe injury. You should always have the back and neck in a neutral position to protect the spine. 

If you feel like you are bending your back or moving your neck to lift the weight, go lighter until you feel comfortable. 

6. Seated Neutral Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press 

The seated neutral-grip dumbbell overhead press is an excellent exercise for the anterior (Front) head of the deltoids.

Now, the advantage of utilizing dumbbells instead of a barbell for this exercise is that you gain a wider range of motion and more stabilizer muscles.

But because it still engages the same muscle, utilizing a neutral grip is also more difficult and adds a nice variation.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit on a bench with a straight back, feet flat on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Raise the weight to shoulder height. 
  • Palms facing each other, elbows just below the shoulders, drive the weight up, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. 
  • Slowly lower the weight back to shoulder height until the upper arm is parallel to the floor. 
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

When performing this exercise it is crucial that the spine remains upright and neutral. An upright bench is recommended to support the back but a flat bench can be used to further engage the core. 

Remember to keep a slight bend in the elbows to protect the shoulder joint. 

Benefits Of The Overhead Dumbbell Press 

As mentioned above, the overhead dumbbell press is a highly effective exercise as it works all 3 heads of the shoulder.

However, there are many other benefits including:

  • Improved Posture. As you train chest, back, core, and shoulder muscles your posture will improve significantly. This is due to the muscles being strong enough to completely support the spine without contraction. 
  • Protect the shoulder. The shoulder overall is a rather small muscle, however, it is tasked with protecting the collarbone and other joints. The overhead dumbbell press builds all 3 of the shoulder heads allowing the shoulder to function properly, boost stability, and prevent injuries. 

Wrapping Up 

As you can see, the overhead dumbbell press is one of the most effective exercises for muscle growth in the shoulder. By adding this simple exercise into your workout routine you will gain strength, stability, and improved posture. 

In the event that you cannot perform the overhead dumbbell press, we have detailed 6 effective alternative exercises that will provide similar results. 

Whether you are new to the gym or are wanting to build strength in the shoulders, the overhead press is a must. 

Remember to keep the core tight and to use a weight that feels comfortable yet still challenging. Your shoulders will increase in size and strength in no time!