Back 2 Basics: Seated Dumbbell Press


While some lifters are trying to find new ways to train and build muscle, smarter athletes know to go with what works. The classic moves are still as effective today as they were in the early days of bodybuilding. One of those movements is the seated dumbbell press.

FLEX Social Media Director David Baye took time to share his words of wisdom about how to execute this exercise correctly. The two-time NPC Mr. Wisconsin winner featured the seated dumbbell press in the newest episode of “Back to Basics”. This compound exercise targets the front deltoids while the side delts and triceps are serving as secondary muscles.

The Setup

Getting into a good position is key for this exercise. Baye suggests starting the dumbbell shoulder press with the dumbbells on the knees while sitting on a seated bench. Using leg drive to get them to shoulder height is safe and efficient.

“What I like to do is get the dumbbells on each knee and one at a time, pop the weight up with the calf and the knee, get it into a steady position, and then get the other arm up.” The dumbbells should be in your hands above your shoulders with the palms facing forward.

The Bench

In the video, Baye is using a bench with a full back pad completely vertical. He explains that this isn’t the only option you have for doing shoulder presses.

“You can do a dumbbell shoulder press on a flat bench that does not have a back pad at all. Personally, I actually prefer a bench with a half-shoulder pad so that the top of my shoulders are free to move around.”

Form is Key

Now that Baye is set up and ready to begin the movement, he demonstrates a few repetitions with textbook form. The lockout at the top of the rep can be performed a couple of different ways. One is with the dumbbells going straight up and down. Baye discusses the alternative.

“Some people like to bring the dumbbells in close for a little more of the shoulder squeeze. As you get into those heavier dumbbells, it’s going to be kind of hard to do that. It’s going to reduce that range of motion.”

As for the bottom portion of the rep, some people may prefer to let the dumbbells touch the shoulders. This is acceptable, but Baye prefers to stop just short of that point so that the upper arms are parallel with the floor. As long as there is a long range of motion as he demonstrates, the movement will yield the desired results.

Common Mistakes

As with other movements in this series, Baye advises against going too heavy. Controlling the weight you’re using is paramount. Other mistakes that should be avoided are dumping the weight at the top of the rep behind you or to the side as well as shortchanging the reps. “Using a weight that you can control and going through a full range of motion is important.” Baye suggests using a weight that you can perform eight to 12 reps with while maintaining proper form.



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