seated dumbbell press

Performing a Seated Dumbbell Press: Best Practices

Strength training is integral to any fitness routine, yet many people don’t practice it regularly. 

According to a study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, only 30.2% of adults in the U.S. engage in muscle-strengthening activities. 

But strength training doesn’t have to be complicated. Incorporating a single move can make a difference. This part is where the seated dumbbell press outshines other exercises.

Is It Better To Lift Weights Sitting or Standing?

Is It Better To Lift Weights Sitting or Standing?
Note that the exercise that you’re going to do will depend on what your body needs. (Photo by Pixabay)

Lifting weights while sitting has some advantages over standing. Upper body exercises while seated limit the momentum used with each repetition. It recruits neighboring muscles to help get the weight up, providing a more challenging workout.

However, the exercise that you’re going to do will depend on what your body needs. If you’re not too sure about what exercise suits you best, then it’s best to work with a professional so that you can get the guidance you need.

What Is a Seated Dumbbell Press?

what is seated dumbell press
Also known as the overhead dumbbell press, the seated dumbbell press involves lifting weights from the shoulders to above the head and then repeating the set. (Photo by Ivan Samkov)

The seated dumbbell press is a strength-training move that primarily works the shoulders. It’s also known as the “dumbbell bench press” or the “seated overhead dumbbell press.” 

The exercise involves lifting weights from shoulder level to above the head and then lowering them back down.

Many famous bodybuilders, including Chris Bumstead and Nick Warner, regularly perform seated dumbbell presses in their routines. That’s because the move is highly effective at building muscle and strength in the shoulders.

What Muscles Do Seated Dumbbell Presses Work?

So, what does a seated dumbbell press work? The leading muscle group targeted is the deltoid, responsible for moving the arm away from the body (known as abduction). 

The deltoid has three parts, which are the anterior (front), medial (side) and posterior (rear). The seated dumbbell press works all three parts equally, with the medial deltoid as the primary mover—the other two focus on assisting and stabilizing the shoulder joint throughout the exercise.

There are also other muscles worked during the seated dumbbell press. They include the triceps brachii at the back of the upper arm, the pectorals (chest), serratus anterior (a muscle that runs along the sides of the ribcage) and trapezius (upper back).


Is Seated Dumbbell Press Better?

It’s okay to perform this exercise when you plan to focus on your shoulders. It is a better routine to gain the foundational strength for more challenging lifts and is suitable for beginners and elite athletes.

Another benefit of the seated dumbbell press over the standing version is that it allows the lifter to handle more weight. Studies found that people could press more weight while seated than standing. 

The stability gained from being seated, providing a more solid base, is why a person can handle more weight. It gives the lifter an advantage for strength building.

What Is Seated Press Good For?

Benefits of lifting weights while sitting go beyond building muscle and strength. The seated dumbbell shoulder press is ideal for several things, including:

Less stress applied to the lower back

The bench helps to maintain good posture and form throughout the exercise. It prevents the lifter from arching their back, as they might when standing, which can cause pain. That makes it ideal for people with lower back injuries or those who want to avoid them.

Isolate shoulder muscles

Seated press exercises eliminate the need to activate the core muscles, thus providing better hypertrophy (muscle growth) of the shoulders. It also helps recruit more motor units in the shoulder area.

Toned figure

The exercise helps to slim the waist and gives the appearance of wider shoulders. That’s the ideal silhouette for men (known as the inverted pyramid) and women (the hourglass).

Preparation for sports

Finding the best sport for you might involve trying a few different ones. And with the COVID-19 restricting contact sports, the perfect pandemic sports might involve those requiring explosive movements. 

Seated dumbbell presses can help develop the power to perform better by preparing the muscles and tendons in the shoulder area to work together.

How Do You Do a Seated Dumbbell Press?

Safety is the primary concern when performing any exercise. Use a weight you can handle and a spotter if needed. 

Remember to warm up with light cardio and stretches before starting your workout routine. Once you’re ready, here’s how to do a seated dumbbell press:

  • Sit on a bench with your feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Make sure to adjust the bench to a 90-degree angle.
  • Press your lower back against the bench and pull your shoulders down and back.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand (with equal weights) at shoulder level with your palms facing forward. Rest each weight in your thighs.
  • From there, press the dumbbells upward and slightly backward until your arms are straight. Reverse the motion back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Start with 12-15 reps for 3-4 sets, and increase the weight and reps as you get stronger.

Seated Dumbbell Variations

There are many options for how to do dumbbell seated shoulder press. The most common variation involves the following:

Hammer shoulder press

The hammer shoulder press works similarly to a seated dumbbell overhead press. 

The only difference is in how you hold the dumbbells. Instead of the usual grip, your palms should face each other the entire time. It allows less pressure on the joint and uses different shoulder muscle groups.

Seated Arnold press

Named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, this variation starts with the weights at shoulder level with the palms facing the body. 

As you press the dumbbells upward, slowly rotate the wrists until the palms face forward in the finish position. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

Incorporating the seated dumbbell press into your workout routine is an excellent way to build strong, toned shoulders. Remember to practice good form and safety precautions to avoid injury. With regular practice, you’ll see results in no time.

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