A great alternative to the barbell shoulder press is the dumbbell shoulder press.
This is especially relevant for guys that are new to the game. Guys that have been going strong for at least a year will soon have to move on to the barbell press as heavy-ass dumbbells are extremely awkward to work with.
Here’s what you’ll need
- Dumbbells (I like the spin-lock kind as I can easily adjust the weight and have control over the amount)
- Gloves (optional)
There IS a way to optimize these but it has nothing to do with body movement – we’ll get into that after the (short) video
(1) Working with our biomechanics in this exercise means that we have to have our wrists at an angle that is most natural; both at the top and bottom of the movement.
(2) Try this: Stand up and execute a dumbbell press WITHOUT weights in front of a mirror – allow your wrists to simply be where they want to be, don’t force them into any particular angle.
At the bottom have your fists about in line with your chin. Now, note the angle that your wrists naturally take. At the top have your hands almost touching, palms facing out. Now note the position of the wrists again.
(3) Most people will have a wrist position that is neither ‘palms-facing-out‘, nor ‘palms-facing-head‘ at the bottom. This means the wrists have a diagonal-type position – The video illustrates this.
(4) At the top, you will most likely have a fully ‘palms-facing-out‘ position.
(5) So get your dumbbells into the starting position. With feet about shoulder-width apart, take a breath in and exhale as you push the dumbbells up.
(6) Allow your wrists to naturally rotate as you push the dumbbells up to touch each other at the top.
(7) Lower the weights SLOWLY and SMOOTHLY.
(8) That’s it. A very simple movement; it’s just important to get the wrist comfort right because as I’m always saying, ‘MAXIMUM comfort is MAXIMUM strength.’
All The Best!
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Rock on. I can’t believe I’ve never come across biomechanics! I just keep banging my head and saying, “DUH”. It’s like, Injury comes so much easier if you do things the way you WANT and not the way your body wants.
Thanks for the vid!
Very true. Thanks for the feedback, Andrew.
I just started doing these and will definately use the new hand positions. as soon as the db goes below your eye level then the tension starts to get taken off of your shoulder muscles. To keep the tension throughout the move stop when the dbs are at eye level then go back up. This will let you use more weight, keep the tension on your muscles throughout the move and save your shoulder from potential rotator cuff problems in the future!
Hey, and thanks for the post. Totally agree with you that doing exercises the way that feels natural for you body often is safer. I personally would recomend the ONE-ARM dumbell shoulder press, as I find it allows for an even more natural movement. More importantly, the movement between the shoulder-blade and the upper arm becomes more in line with the body’s natural biomecanics. This is such an important point, I think, because pushing weights above shoulder height can take its toll on the shoulder joints. Since the shoulder joint has little or none stability from bone and is totally dependent on stability from the surrounding muscles, analysis of the biomechanics becomes especially crucial for injury prevention. Thanks again!
This is great. I tend to do Arnold Presses, which are more similar to your style than the “strict” dumbbell shoulder press. Do you have any insight into whether any of these variations put undue stress on joints?
I also prefer Arnold Presses at least (a friend) told me that by rotating, you use more muscle fibers. Is that true?
Greetings from Brazil and congratulations for a excellent blog
I like that movement. It’s kind of like Arnold Presses. That twist as you push the weight up makes a big difference.
Nice post and video. Great exercise for anyone trying to build muscle and strength on the front deltoids.
Hey Mark, these videos are great – I’ve been recommending them to all my friends. Would there be any chance you would do one for stiff-leg deadlifts? I can’t seem get the hamstring workout from them that you get.
@Sean. Yes, I’ll cover stiff-legs in a future post.