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Seated Dumbbell Press Benefits, Muscles Worked, Mistakes to Avoid & 6 Workouts

Can you get strong shoulders without the seated dumbbell press? Yes. Should you? Probably not.

If you are looking to get stronger shoulders, probably the seated dumbbell press is part of your training routine. This exercise is a foundational movement that is performed by elite athletes and beginners alike.

The seated dumbbell press has some different names in the fitness community. It can also be called the seated military press, seated overhead dumbbell press, or even seated dumbbell shoulder press although they are all synonyms to the same movement.

After reading this you will know:

Seated dumbbell press are not usually integrated into CrossFit workouts, but some of its variations are. At the end of this article, you will find out 6 workouts to start training straight away.

Read More: Why Your Shoulder is a Mess: Chronic Pain and Overuse

How To Perform a Seated Dumbbell Press

Sit on a chair or adjust the bench to 90 degrees angle and choose two dumbbells of the same weight. Pick up the weights from the floor using a neutral grip (palms facing inwards) and rest each weight on your thigh. Use your legs to help you lift each dumbbell, one at a time, to shoulder height.

With dumbbells at shoulder height, rotate your palms so that they are facing forward and keep your elbows bent close to 90 degrees. Begin pressing the dumbbells by raising the weights above your head until your arms are close to being fully extended. Hold the position for a moment before returning the dumbbells to shoulder height. That is one rep.

Note: exhale as you press the weight above your head and inhale when you are pulling the weight back down.

Variations of Seated Dumbbell Press

The simplest variation is to perform the dumbbell press standing up instead of sitting on a chair or bench. The movement is the same, although you must pay attention not to arch your back or lean forward as you control the weight above your head. Due to the lack of back support, the standing dumbbell press will make you lift

The hammer shoulder press is performed when you change your grip. Hold the dumbbells with palms facing each other. This simple change puts less pressure on the joint and recruits different shoulder muscles.

The seated dumbbell press is in itself a variation of the barbell overhead/shoulder press which swaps the dumbbells for a barbell and is performed standing up. This variation will allow you to lift heavier weights to build stronger shoulders, although you might not correct muscles imbalances with it (more on this on benefits).

Finally, you can add a little bit of lower body engagement by doing the dumbbell push press. In this exercise, you will perform the standing up dumbbell press, but slightly flexing your legs and locking them up again while pressing the dumbbell over your head.

Muscles Worked

The primary muscles worked during the seated dumbbell press are:

  • Anterior delts
  • Lateral delts
  • Upper trapezius
  • Triceps
  • Serratus anterior

Mistakes to Avoid – Seated Dumbbell Press

Keep focus not to lock your elbows when you extend your arms above your head. You are expected to keep your arms slightly bent when performing this exercise.

The position of the shoulders is very important. Remember to keep shoulder blades down and back during the press as this will add stability to the movement.

This is a skill exercise so do not push up too fast. Control the movement standards and lift the dumbbells at the same speed as you lower them.

Although you have support for your lower back, some people don’t use it. You should not arch your back when doing seated dumbbell press – or any of the variations, for that matter. If you are arching your back it probably means the dumbbells are too heavy for you and you should consider changing for lighter ones.

When you press the weights above your head do not touch dumbbells. This will probably compromise the movement control and will take away some of the benefits of the exercise.

Benefits of Seated Dumbbell Press

For CrossFit beginners, having a strong shoulder is paramount to be able to master other common exercises the sport has, such as the hang snatch.

CrossFit Dumbbell press exercisesSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Aesthetically speaking, it creates the illusion of having wider shoulders and a smaller waist. For man, that means the desirable inverted pyramid shape. For women, it makes the waistline look slimmer and gets you closer to the coveted hourglass shape.

Strong shoulders will translate to a better posture and stabilization of your spine.

Working out with dumbbells, one in each hand and with the same weights, is also the best way to correct any muscle imbalances on your shoulders as you will have the same amount of weight to press over your head and one arm or shoulder will not be able to compensate the other’s weakness.

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