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Dumbbells: shoulder press

By Marjie Gilliam

The dumbbell shoulder press is one of the most commonly performed exercises to strengthen the deltoids (front, side and rear shoulders), triceps (back of upper arms) and many of the postural muscles that help to support the spinal column.

Execution

Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, palms facing forward. Retract the shoulder blades throughout the exercise. Exhale and slowly push the dumbbells upward until they are overhead. The arms will be almost extended, but without locking out the elbow joint. During the downward phase, inhale and begin lowering the dumbbells in a slow, controlled manner.

Tips

Avoid allowing the weights to drift toward the front of the body as you are pushing or lowering. Instead, keep in mind that throughout each rep, you should see the weights in your peripheral vision.

The spinal column should remain in proper alignment, without excessive arching in your low back. Maintain a neutral wrist position (avoid flexion and extension).

When weights are too heavy, it is common to see a quicker downward phase of the repetition than that of the upward phase. Dropping the weights too quickly rather than slightly fighting gravity as you return to the starting position defeats much of the benefit that could otherwise be gained.

Variations

For those who cannot complete the shoulder press properly with elbows out the sides, the exercise can also be performed with the palms facing in. In this case, the elbows would be kept close to the body and as you push upward, until arms are almost fully extended.

The shoulder press can be performed while standing or seated. It can also be performed sitting on a stability ball (shown right) for those who wish to work on improving balance. You can use dumbbells, a barbell, resistance bands or machines to do this exercise.

If you’re a beginner, use a spotter until you are more familiar with proper form and appropriate weightload. Start with one to two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions with a weight that slightly fatigues the muscles.

The shoulder press may not be advised for those with joint problems, rotator cuff injuries and certain medical conditions. For safety reasons, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Marjie Gilliam is a personal trainer and fitness consultant. Email marjie@ohtrainer.com.

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