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How to Do the Dumbbell Overhead Press

Workout for the Shoulders and Triceps

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Updated May 19, 2014

The dumbbell overhead press can be done sitting or standing and with dumbbells horizontal along the shoulders or rotated in a hammer grip. A sitting position helps stabilize the back. This description uses a standing position and a horizontal and overhand grip.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise. Print a formatted copy of this exercise. See more dumbbell exercises.

1. How to Do the Dumbbell Overhead Press - Exercise Description

Dumbbell overhead press
(c) Paul Rogers
  1. Stand upright or sit on a bench with the back straight.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the shoulders with an overhand grip. Thumbs should be on the inside and knuckles facing up.
  3. Raise the weights above the head in a controlled motion, ensuring that you do not slam the arms upward and stress the elbow joint.
  4. Exhale as you push upward.
  5. Return dumbbells to the shoulders.
  6. Option: Alternate arms instead of both arms at once.

2. How to Do the Dumbbell Overhead Press - Points to Note

Dumbbell overhead press
(c) Paul Rogers

  • The exercise can be done sitting, standing, with alternating arms or with a hammer grip in which the thumbs are facing your face. Using a barbell is an additional option.
  • Keep the back straight at all times.
  • Don't push up explosively and crash the elbow joint. (It's OK to lock out; just be gentle.)
  • Don't allow the weights to stray too far forward or back during the push. Try to keep them slotted in a path above the head.

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