Overhead Press With Dumbbells – Benefits, Variations And Tips

The overhead press with dumbbells is an upper-body exercise that strengthens the core while also building bigger and rounder shoulders. This workout can be performed seated or standing, with either a horizontal or a hammer grip.

The seated position assists in back stabilization, whereas the standing position engages a wide range of muscles. Beginners should begin with a light weight and gradually increase it until they reach a weight that they can lift for 10 repetitions with good form. Start with 5kg dumbbells for women and 10kg weights for men.


This technique works the deltoid muscle in the shoulder in all ways. Even though you can do an overhead press with a machine or a barbell, dumbbells have their own set of advantages.

Using a dumbbell instead of a barbell has its own advantages: you can detect when your shoulder strength is out of balance. When you do it standing, you will be working your core muscles to keep you stable while pressing.

You may need to put things on shelves above your head in everyday life (or your luggage in the upper room of a plane), and this activity will help you gain the strength to do so safely.

Overhead press with dumbbells

  • Completing a standing overhead press with dumbbells is similar to completing a seated press.
  • Bend down to pick the dumbbells.
  • Lift the dumbbells to shoulder height while standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Your hands’ palms can be facing forward or toward your body.
  • Once you have taken the correct position, start pressing the dumbbells above your head until your arms fully extend. Hold this position for a moment, then return the dumbbells back to shoulder height.
  • Complete the required number of reps.

Tips on form

In addition to the basics of how to do a dumbbell military press, it is important to understand the correct form involved;

  • Tighten your abs and glutes

When performing the dumbbell press, keep your glutes engaged and brace your core to avoid neck and lower back injuries.

  • Try different hand positions

Some people keep their palms forward all the time while lifting, while others prefer the palms facing their body.

You can also start with the palms of your hands facing your body and rotate your arms slightly as you press the dumbbells overhead, so that your palms are facing forward. It is important to extend your arms fully without locking your elbows.

  • Look forward and keep your neck straight

You can also avoid injury by keeping your head and neck straight while you exercise.

  • Let the bench support you

Using an incline bench helps prevent injury while completing a dumbbell military press. The bench supports the lower back, keeping it straight. Do not complete this exercise on a chair that doesn’t have a back rest.

  • Proper breathing

Proper breathing is also important. It can increase circulation as you exercise and improve your performance.

When performing a seated or standing overhead press with dumbbells, inhale as you pull the weight to your body and exhale as you push the weight above your head.

  • Use a light weight to master technique

Some people make the mistake of rounding their lower back when lifting weights. This puts a lot of pressure on the lower back and can cause injury. To avoid rounding your back, do not use too much weight.

You should also avoid rocking or swaying your body while lifting dumbbells above your head. Too much rocking indicates that the weight is too heavy, which can lead to injury.

Over-head Dumbbell Press Variations

Seated Dumbbell Over-head Press

overhead press with dumbbells

You can lift more weight when you press the dumbbells while sitting – always on a seat with a straight back for full support – than when you push them while standing. What is the rationale for this? Because your torso is supported by a bench, your small stabilizing muscles do not have to work as hard to support it.

Here’s how to go about it:

  • Sit on an incline bench with dumbbells in each hand, palms facing you, at shoulder height.
  • Keep your chest up and your core taut throughout the exercise, and look forward.
  • Make sure your arms are straight when you raise the dumbbells. Then, slowly and gently lower them back down to their starting position.
  • Bouncing back up from the bottom position creates a lot of tension on your shoulders, indicating that you’re using your momentum rather than your muscles to lift the weights.

Dumbbell Push Press

overhead press with dumbbells

Instead of pressing the dumbbells straight up, progressively lower into a quarter squat with your dumbbells held by your shoulders. Then, push through your heels and over your head. Lower the dumbbells in a slow and steady manner.

Squat simply deep enough to power up and gain momentum, allowing you to lift the weights above your head.

Dumbbell thruster

overhead press with dumbbell

This variation is essentially identical to a push press, with the exception that in the push press, you descend all the way into a full squat before pushing the weights overhead, whereas in the thruster variation, you descend all the way into a half squat before driving the weights overhead.

How to do it:
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the weights in each of your arms by your shoulders to perform the exercise.
  • Squat down till your thighs are level with the ground.
  • Once you are down as low as possible, drive through your heels and push the dumbbell overhead.
  • It’s vital to maintain good form when doing this exercise, thruster is a complete workout to include in a HIIT workout.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these missteps to get the most out of this activity.

  • Flared elbows

Your rotator cuff muscles will be compressed if you point your elbows directly to your sides.

  • Locked elbows

When you lock your elbows at the top of your lift, the tension is transferred from your deltoid to your triceps, which is not the muscle you are targeting.

  • Shoulder Position

During the press, keep the shoulder blades down and back for maximum stability.

  • Pressing too fast

Do not push up with a lot of force. Slowly and smoothly press the button. During Push, keep the weights under control and do not let them stray too far back or forward.

  • Round back

When lifting dumbbells overhead, keep your back straight at all times and avoid bending your lower back too much. Excessive rounding of your back over your lower back may indicate that you are overweight. Start with a light weight to get used to keeping your back straight, then gradually increase the weight while maintaining proper form.

  • Lowering Dumbbells Too Far

Lower the dumbbells to your shoulders only during the exercise before pressing them again. You run the risk of rupturing your shoulders if you lower them too far.

Safety and Precautions

Consult your doctor or physical therapist if you have a shoulder, neck, or back injury to see if this exercise is safe for you. When performing this exercise, it is possible to injure your shoulders, especially if you are using heavy equipment or have bad form. If you feel any pain while doing this exercise, slowly lower the weights and stop. Use only the weight that you can press for 10 repetitions with good form.

Make the overhead press harder

If you feel that your seated or standing dumbbell press is becoming too easy, you can make it a challenging by increasing weight. Don’t go too heavy too fast. Gradually increase your weight to build endurance, strength, and muscle mass.

If you only complete the seated version, switching to a standing variation can also make the exercise challenging due to more muscles required for stability. In addition, instead of raising both arms over your head at the same time, try to raise one arm at a time. On the other hand, if the exercise is too hard, you can make it easier by using a light weight.

Overhead press without dumbbells

You don’t always need dumbbells. You can also use resistance bands too.

Begin by standing on the center of the resistance band shoulder width apart. Bring one end of the band to shoulder height with your arms at a 90-degree angle while holding one end in each hand.

From here, raise your hands above your head until your arms are fully stretched.

If you like, you can also do this with a barbell. Both of these types of weights help increase muscle size, but a barbell can make it easier to lift heavier weights than a dumbbell. Heavy weights help to build muscle faster.


The overhead press is an excellent exercise when looking to increase muscle and strength in the arms, shoulders, back and chest. As with any exercise, the right techniques and form are essential for good results and injury prevention.