Dumbbell Devil’s Press: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
February 10, 2022

The dumbbell devil’s press is a rather explosive full body compound exercise commonly utilized by functional training programs in order to activate the entirety of the exerciser’s musculature in a single streamlined movement.

This particular exercise is best known for inducing intense and dynamic muscular training in quick succession, often performed with low to moderate weight and in higher repetitions so as to take full advantage of its various benefits.

The dumbbell devil’s press, being a functional and explosive resistance exercise, is easily incorporated into a variety of different training programs for the purposes of improving the exerciser’s athletic functionality or to simply induce generic muscular hypertrophy in a single efficient exercise.

What is the Dumbbell Devil’s Press?

In a more technical definition, the dumbbell devil’s press is a compound exercise of the open kinetic chain variety, with a particular focus on the exertion of full body power by way of recreating the burpee and dumbbell snatch exercises and their subsequent forms.

the dumbbell devils press

The dumbbell devil’s press, depending on the level of resistance and amount of volume used, can act as both an anaerobic exercise as well as one capable of inducing some level of aerobic training in an individual, primarily due to the highly demanding nature of its full body training stimuli, of which places stress on the circulatory system and thus induces subsequent improvements in its function.

In terms of being performed, the dumbbell devil’s press presents a bilateral type of movement due to the fact that it utilizes both sides of the body’s musculature, of which should be exerted to an intermediate to high level during certain portions of the repetition.

What are the Benefits of the Dumbbell Devil’s Press?

A variety of positive effects may be attained by the exerciser by performing the dumbbell devil’s press with the proper form and an appropriate level of intensity, the vast majority of which said devil’s press shares with other exercises in its same classification.

However, certain positive effects are reserved for the dumbbell devil’s press and exercises similar to it, the majority of which make up the primary reason for this particular compound movement’s addition into a variety of fitness programs – making it rather irreplaceable in such a capacity.

Improved Explosiveness

A natural benefit of the dumbbell devil’s press and its explosive nature is the very fact that it will improve upon the exerciser’s own explosive abilities, aiding in sudden and abrupt outputs of force and speed.

This is most notable in the burpee portion of the dumbbell devil’s press wherein the exerciser lowers themselves to the ground prior to bringing themselves back to a standing position – a movement that requires significant explosiveness to perform, if done in the proper manner.

This improvement in one’s explosiveness is applicable to a variety of purposes not only reserved for athletic endeavors but also in day to day life, making the dumbbell devil’s press not only an excellent athletic movement but also a functional one.

Athletic Benefits

An extension or sum of other benefits found by performing the dumbbell devil’s press, the athletic improvement that is a direct result of regularly training with the dumbbell devil’s press can be quite significant, especially when combined with other healthy habits that strengthen an individual’s body.

This is not only reserved for the muscular hypertrophy and aerobic training that is caused by the dumbbell devil’s press, but also due to other, smaller, factors such as an improvement in the exerciser’s bodily coordination, a strengthening of their joints and connective tissues as well as an improvement in flexibility to some extent.

Cardiovascular Improvements

Due to the moderate level of aerobic training stimuli provided by the dumbbell devil’s press when performed at higher volumes, a notable improvement in the exerciser’s cardiovascular system may take place.

Such cardiovascular improvements may take the form of a reduced resting heart rate, stronger heart contractions, angiogenesis, improved oxygen efficiency and a host of other positive circulatory system effects that are normally found in aerobic endurance exercises that utilize the cardiovascular system in a more direct fashion.

This may provide a variety of benefits to the exerciser’s life, such as a reduced risk of circulatory system diseases or a higher endurance capacity when performing mundane daily tasks such as walking or menial labor.

Highly Efficient Training

Being a rather intense full body exercise, the dumbbell devil’s press is among one of the most efficient exercises one may incorporate into their athletic training routine so as to impart muscular hypertrophy, cardio improvements and fat loss.

This is due to the fact that, because of its high intensity, the dumbbell devil’s press not only imparts quite a significant level of muscular training within only a few repetitions but also greatly increases the exerciser’s heart rate, both stimulating the cardiovascular system and burning calories in short order.

This allows the dumbbell devil’s press to take a center stage in a workout program, with subsequent exercises needing only be of the isolation type capacity so as to finish off the muscle groups and maximize training benefits during the session.

What are the Drawbacks of the Dumbbell Devil’s Press?

While the dumbbell devil’s press is doubtless an excellent exercise that imparts a wide range of benefits to the exerciser, it also comes with its fair share of drawbacks that may make it unsuitable for usage in certain situations or by certain people.

As such, it is best for the exerciser to first weigh their options prior to incorporating the dumbbell devil’s press into their workout routine, especially if the following cons are problematic for their particular goals or health.

Risk of Injury

Due to the fact that the dumbbell devil’s press utilizes weighted resistance equipment moving in a rather high speed manner, the risk of injury from performing said exercise is somewhat higher than that of more controlled and slow resistance exercises.

This can be either because of excess shear force placed against the tissues of the exerciser during the repetition or by way of the dumbbell itself falling atop a part of the exerciser’s body in the event that they are utilizing excessive weight.

In order to reduce the chances of these circumstances from occurring, it is best to make use of a proper warm-up routine and to only lift a moderate amount of weight in accordance with the exerciser’s physical strength level.

High Intensity

Though not necessarily a drawback as much as it is a factor that can be a hindrance depending on the exerciser’s relative health and training experience, the dumbbell devil’s press is nonetheless considered a rather high intensity exercise in both aerobic and anaerobic terms.

In the event that the exerciser possesses poor bodily coordination, a lack of experience in performing weighted resistance exercises or otherwise has a health condition that precludes them from rather high intensity exercises, it is best to modify the dumbbell devil’s press so as to reduce its difficulty or to substitute it with an alternative exercise of lower intensity.

Connective Tissue Strain

Due to the highly dynamic and explosive nature at which the dumbbell devil’s press is performed, it can place significant strain on the joints and similar connective tissues of the exerciser, especially if improper form is used or too heavy an amount of weight.

This is due to a combination of shear force where physical tension is placed on the soft tissues at an injurious angle, through repetitive strains – especially around the shoulder, hip and knee joints – as well as simple microtears that occur as a consequence of regular high intensity resistance exercises.

In order to avoid this from occurring, the exerciser must ensure that they are utilizing proper form and that they are executing the exercise in a controlled and mindful manner in combination with a reasonable amount of resistance and volume.

What Muscles are Worked by the Dumbbell Devil’s Press?

The dumbbell devil’s press is a truly wide ranging compound exercise that places great emphasis on muscle groups throughout every anatomical area of the body.

However, not all muscle groups are activated and subsequently trained in an equal manner, and as such muscles that contribute the most exertion towards the exercise are classified as the “primary movers”, with muscles that function in a similar capacity but to a lesser extent being dubbed “secondary movers”, while muscles primarily responsible for reducing injury and isometric contraction are known simply as stabilizing muscles.

The dumbbell devil’s press works the trapezius muscles atop the shoulders, the latissimus dorsi, the serratus, the three deltoid heads as well as the pectoral muscles in the capacity of a primary mover, with the addition of using the deltoids as stabilizing muscles as well between concentric and eccentric portions of the form.

Other muscle groups utilized as secondary movers instead are that of the gluteus muscles, the quadriceps femoris, and the triceps brachii.

In terms of stabilizing muscles, the abdominal muscles, erector spinae and biceps brachii are all used so as to ensure the weight is kept in a steady position and that the exerciser does not injure themselves via overextension or unstable movement.

How is the Dumbbell Devil’s Press Performed?

The form of the dumbbell devil’s press can be rather complex for exercisers of less resistance exercise experience, and as such is best broken down into two portions – namely, the “burpee” portion and the “snatch” portion, with the former taking place during the first half of the repetition and the latter during the second respectively.

Gripping two equally weighted dumbbells in both hands and positioning themselves in an open area with a suitably soft material on the ground, the exerciser must plant their feet shoulder width apart as they lower themselves into the plank or push-up position, with their legs straightened behind them.

dumbbell devils press movement

The dumbbells should remain within the exerciser’s grip, both to act as resistance as well as to help stabilize the exerciser in this position.

The exerciser will then perform a push-up by lowering their chest to the floor prior to performing the concentric portion of the burpee portion by launching themselves into an upright portion. 

This is achieved by launching their buttocks backwards and moving their legs forward (towards their chest), so they enter a bent-over position which will act as a bridge to the snatch portion of the dumbbell devil’s press.

Once the burpee portion of the repetition is complete, the exerciser will follow the momentum of their initial movement by performing the snatch portion of the exercise, launching the dumbbells over their head in a position similar to the peak of an Arnold press.

To complete the repetition, the exerciser need only lower the dumbbells once more to their sides in a controlled manner so as to return them to their original position at the start of the exercise.

With a single repetition of the dumbbell devil’s press complete, the exerciser may either release the weights and complete the set or simply repeat the entire motion so as to perform subsequent repetitions as prescribed by their workout routine.

References

1. John Cronin, Peter J McNair, Robert N Marshall, Developing explosive power: A comparison of technique and training, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2001, Pages 59-70, ISSN 1440-2440, https://doi.org/10.1016/S1440-2440(01)80008-6. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1440244001800086)

2. Lorenz, Daniel & Reiman, Michael. (2011). Performance Enhancement in the Terminal Phases of Rehabilitation. Sports health. 3. 470-80. 10.1177/1941738111415039.

3. Robbie Wild Hudson. (August 27 2020) “Welcome to Hell – Devil Press Back Workouts for CrossFit Athletes (Full RX and Scaled Options)” BOXROX Competitive Fitness Magazine. Retrieved Feb 1 2022 via boxrox.com (https://www.boxrox.com/devil-press-back-workouts-for-crossfit-athletes/)

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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