The seated dumbbell press is a top shoulder exercise. But what benefits does it offer, what other muscles does it train, and how can you do it safely?
Read on because we’ll go over all of these questions and more.
What Is The Seated Dumbbell Press?
The seated dumbbell press is an effective compound accessory exercise that develops the shoulders, triceps, and upper chest.
You will need a pair of moderately-heavy dumbbells and an adjustable gym bench to perform the exercise. Set the back support to an upright position and rest your upper body against it for balance.
You can also perform the movement without back support, such as when doing the exercise at home and sitting on a chair. Doing so makes the movement more challenging but helps develop core strength.
What Muscles Does The Seated Dumbbell Press Work?
The primary muscles that work during a seated dumbbell press are the shoulders (deltoids). In addition, the upper chest (clavicular head) and triceps assist with pushing the weight overhead.
Your upper chest assists the deltoids, and the triceps are responsible for elbow extension (straightening of the arms). The deltoids are most active at the starting position, but the triceps take over neat the top.
In addition, your upper back and midsection promote torso stability, but these muscles don’t have an active role during seated dumbbell presses.
How to Perform the Seated Dumbbell Press (Step-By-Step)
- Set the back support of an adjustable gym bench to 90 degrees (upright position), or close to vertical.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit down.
- Lift the weights and place them on your thighs, close to your knees, with your palms facing.
- Position your back against the padded platform and retract your shoulder blades.
- Engage your abs and thrust the dumbbells to your sides. Your elbows should be slightly lower than your shoulders, and palms facing forward holding the dumbbells.
- Take a breath and press the weights up and in, tapping them lightly overhead just as you straighten your arms.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells to your sides as you exhale, returning to the start position. This is one rep.
Useful Variations of the Seated Dumbbell Press
1. Standing Dumbbell Press
The standing dumbbell press is a popular variation you can perform.
One notable difference between the two exercises is that pressing weight overhead from a standing position is more challenging. Your midsection does a lot more work, which leads to core strength.
2. Seated Barbell Press
The seated barbell press is another variation worth considering.
One notable advantage of using a barbell over dumbbells is that you can train with more weight and cause greater mechanical tension. As a result, you can build strength more effectively.
3. Machine Shoulder Press
The machine shoulder press is also a helpful variation to consider. Performing the exercise on a machine is easier because you don’t have to worry about stability. Instead, you can focus on proper muscle activation and moving heavier weights. (1)
Final Tips And Safety Recommendations
The shoulders are a mobile joint but can also be prone to injury. So, it’s crucial to listen to your body and stop doing the exercise if it causes pain in the area. There are plenty of movements to try, and you don’t have to limit yourself.
In addition, always take the time to warm up well before training. Start with low-intensity cardio and do dynamic stretches to prepare your shoulders before each workout. Once done, do a few warm-up sets with increasingly more weight. (2)
Make sure to always start with a very low weight if you’re new to this exercise. Practice the motion and movement of this exercise with low weight. Once you have the form nailed down, you can progressively increase the weight.
Some other great dumbbell exercises to consider are dumbbell front raises, dumbbell hip thrust to work glutes, dumbbell rows for a home back workout, and dumbbell pullovers for the chest.
Click for more dumbbell workouts, and also for videos of dumbbell exercises.
- Machine shoulder press: Exercise videos & guides. Bodybuilding.com. (n.d.).
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, October 6). The right way to warm up and cool down. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045517