6 Dumbbell Shoulder Press Variation Exercises to Build Upper Body Strength

Dumbbell shoulder press is a fundamental shoulder exercise. (Photo via Pexels/Alesia Kozik)
Dumbbell shoulder press is a fundamental shoulder exercise. (Photo via Pexels/Alesia Kozik)

The dumbbell shoulder press is one of the fundamental and most effective exercises for boosting and building upper body muscles.

It's a simple exercise that requires to drive the dumbbells up and back to the upper chest. When done correctly, the dumbbell shoulder press enhances strength in the upper body, and helps develop mass in the triceps, shoulders, trapezius, chest and rotator cuff. It also improves the range of motion of overhead movements.

Fortunately, there are several dumbbell shoulder press variation exercises that can be as useful as the standard shoulder press.

These variations can be differentiated by rotations or angles of the wrist and forearm to achieve various fitness goals. Moreover, certain variations can identify weaknesses and work on shoulder concerns to target the muscles in a unique and multi-directional way.

Below, you will find a few dumbbell shoulder press variation exercises that can be used to develop serious upper body muscles and strength.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press Variations

Here’s a look at six best dumbbell shoulder press variations you must try to challenge your muscles even more. You can add one or two variations to your upper body strength training routine to work on your shoulders, triceps, and upper chest.

Let's get started:

1) Seated Dumbbell Press

A seated dumbbell shoulder press is an easy variation, especially for those new to strength training. This variation offers two great benefits.

Firstly, it doesn’t require you to engage your lower body muscles, and secondly, this variation helps isolate the upper body muscles more. Moreover, it protects the upper back from injuries and unnecessary strain.

To do it:

  • Sit tall on a bench holding a dumbbell in both hands. Position the dumbbells at shoulder height, with your palms facing away from you.
  • Keep your abs engaged and chest up as you press the dumbbells up till your arms get straight, and the weights touch each other over your head.
  • Lower the weights back to their starting position, and immediately continue the next rep.
  • Perform the desired number of reps.

2) Arnold Press

Arnold press is another very effective dumbbell shoulder press variation that involves the biceps.

This variation requires you to perform a bicep curl by bringing your arms out to the side and pushing the weight up using an overhead press movement.

To do it:

  • Sit straight on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Position the weights in front of your shoulders, and keep your palms facing away.
  • Slowly move the dumbbells over your head while rotating your wrists out so that the palms now face forward.
  • Lower the weights back to the starting position while turning your wrists back into the supinated position.

3) Push Press

The push press is another effective dumbbell shoulder press variation exercise that involves hip extension movement and overhead pressing movement.

To do it:

  • Standing with your feet at hip distance, hold a dumbbell in both hands, and allow them to rest on your shoulders, with your palms facing towards one another.
  • Engaging your core, bend your knees, and keep your back stable as you drive through your heels. Press the dumbbells over your head.
  • With slow and controlled motion, bring the dumbbells back to your shoulders, and proceed for the next rep.

4) Hammer Shoulder Press

The hammer shoulder press allows for a slight change in grip and largely impacts how the shoulder moves and handles the weight load. This variation also reduces the stress that pressing movement places on the muscles.

It's done as follows:

  • With your back straight and dumbbells in each hand, sit on a bench, and position the weights along the side of your shoulders.
  • Move both dumbbells simultaneously up till your arms reach a full extension over your head.
  • Lower the weights back to the starting position, maintaining the grip all the way through the exercise.

5) One-arm Shoulder Press

The one-arm dumbbell shoulder press helps increase shoulder strength and symmetry by working unilaterally. Using a single arm also engages the core actively throughout the exercise and improves range of motion.

To do it:

  • Stand straight holding a dumbbell in one hand. Position the dumbbell in front of your shoulder, and keep your elbow bent.
  • Slightly bending your knees, engage your core, and press the dumbbell straight over your head.
  • With controlled movement, reverse the motion back to the starting position, and complete a few more reps.
  • Switch arms and continue.

6) Alternate Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The alternate dumbbell shoulder press offers an additional core challenge and is performed either kneeling or seated. By alternating the dumbbells, this variation allows you to train each shoulder muscle independently.

To do it:

  • Stand with your feet at hip width. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of you.
  • Engage your core, and draw your shoulder blades back and down as you press one dumbbell over your head.
  • As you press the weight up, keep the other dumbbell stable in its starting position.
  • Return the weight down, and switch sides to repeat the exercise on the other side.


By incorporating the aforementioned dumbbell shoulder press variation exercises in your routine, you can target different parts of the shoulders and improve your upper body strength and endurance. In addition, these variations will keep your workout sessions fresh and prevent boredom creeping in.

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Edited by Bhargav
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