The dumbbell shoulder press is a classic shoulder workout move that will strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint, building muscular size and helping protect you from injury. Isolating the shoulder will help you focus on each shoulder individually, allowing you to work your muscles harder and with more control during dumbbell exercises.
As well as the alternating dumbbell shoulder press we have three variations that will help you target these muscles from all angles, and will work your core, back and legs too.
When choosing the best dumbbells for this exercise, know that you don't need to use huge dumbbells – in fact small dumbbells can be a smarter choice as explained in this shoulder strength workout. For more exercises that protect your shoulders from injury, try this rotator cuff shoulder workout using a cable machine.
Alternating dumbbell shoulder press
Start with one dumbbell raised and one at shoulder level. Stand with your torso upright, core braced and feet apart, looking forward. As you lower one dumbbell, raise the other. Use your core muscles to stabilise the movement – don't rock from side to side. Keep your hips aligned with your torso.
Variation: Rotating squat press
This turns a shoulder move into a whole-body move, working your legs, back, shoulders, arms and core all at the same time.
Stand holding the dumbbells at shoulder level. Keep a natural curve in your back. Drop into a squat. Lift your heel as you turn. As you stand up, rotate your body and press one dumbbell overhead. Return to the start and repeat to the other side.
Variation: Alternating wide-shoulder press
Hit your delts from a new angle with this variation on a classic move.
Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level. Press the weight up and out at a 45° angle to your body. Return the dumbbell to the start. Alternate sides, keeping your core strong and the movement steady.
Variation: Cable split squat to overhead press
This is a whole-body move that uses a cable to maintain a constant resistance on your shoulders.
Stand in a split squat stance with your back to a low cable. Twist your torso towards the cable. Keep your front knee over the front foot, and the back knee close to the floor. As you stand up, press the handle upwards at 45°. Rotate your torso as you press.
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Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.