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How to Do the Dumbbell Overhead Press

Workout for the Shoulders and Triceps


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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