Dumbbell Push Press: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
December 3, 2022

The shoulders are composed of extrinsic and intrinsic muscles that are targeted by many different shoulder exercises. These exercises include the dumbbell lateral raise, dumbbell front raise, and reverse fly, among others. One shoulder exercise that actually targets more than just the shoulder muscles is the dumbbell push press.

As a full-body exercise, the dumbbell push press works the traps, triceps, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core. This exercise is performed by pressing a pair of dumbbells held in each hand upward. It builds overall body power and improves shoulder stability, which are helpful in athletic activities and activities of daily living.

While the dumbbell push press is a simple and great exercise to improve muscle size and definition, there are mistakes that must be avoided when performing this workout in order to avoid injury and maximize its benefits. These mistakes include placing the dumbbells too far in front, arching of the back, and hyperextending the wrists.

What is a Dumbbell Push Press?

The dumbbell push press is an extremely straightforward exercise that consists of pressing upward from a standing posture while relying on the momentum provided by the legs. 

dumbbell push press

This exercise may appear to suggest that it focuses on the shoulders and deltoids, but in reality, it is a full-body workout that activates the traps and triceps in addition to the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core.

How to Perform a Dumbbell Push Press

First, bring a pair of dumbbells up to the shoulders and lay one end of each weight on each of the shoulders. Both hands should be facing each other, and the handles of the dumbbells should be aligned so that they are parallel to the ground. 

dumbbell push press starting position

Because the leg drive component of the lift must not become a squat, knee flexion should be just enough to gain some momentum. 

dumbbell push press second position

Upon completing the dipping motion, explosively extend the hips and knees to rise straight up while pushing through the heels. At the same time, press the weights above in a straight line. Push with the shoulders and triceps to straighten the arms overhead, but the lower body should generate the majority of the force for the press.

dumbbell push press end position

Maintain a strong core throughout the maneuver to keep the spine stable and protect it from injury. Bring the weights up to the shoulders and dip down through the hips into the starting position for the next repetition as quickly as possible. Repeat for the desired number of reps to complete a single set.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Push Press

Increases Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy

Resistance training, of which the dumbbell push press is an example, is the primary kind of exercise intervention that is intended to improve strength and foster the growth of muscle tissue. The dumbbell push press, along with other forms of resistance training exercises, is an extremely efficient method for achieving the aforementioned fitness goals. 

In addition, improved posture may be attained via the usage of this exercise. The reason for this is that the activity focuses on strengthening the upper back and shoulders.

A recently published systematic review of advanced resistance training techniques and methods stated that increasing muscle mass, which can be accomplished by the dumbbell push press, is one of the most crucial aspects of conditioning for a wide variety of sports and even activities that are performed in everyday life. This is primarily attributed to the fact that an increase in the cross-sectional area of the muscle is connected to an increase in its strength.

Enhances Explosive Power

The dumbbell push press is considered by some to be a "total-body" exercise due to the fact that it uses all of the body's main muscle groups simultaneously (while pushing, raising, and lowering the dumbbell). Power is essential for performing the dumbbell push press well since it requires the lifter to force the weights high.

The dumbbell push press is a complex exercise that, in order to be performed well, requires a particular amount of mobility, coordination, and strength on the part of the trainee. It needs coordination not just between different muscle groups but also between multiple joints of the body. Participating in this kind of exercise might, to a certain extent, help rectify any muscle imbalances that may already exist within the body.

Improves Core and Shoulder Stability

Maintaining balance is of the highest importance while carrying out a movement such as a dumbbell push press. The primary reason for this is that holding a dumbbell correctly and safely over the head demands balance and stability. 

Because the dumbbell push press engages the core, it works as well as other core-focused exercises in improving stability. Furthermore, the great amount of work produced by the shoulders in this workout strengthens and stabilizes the muscles and joints in the region.

Muscles Involved in A Dumbbell Push Press

The dumbbell push press is a compound exercise, which means that it works out multiple muscle groups at the same time. Aside from producing motion at the upper extremities, it also garners power and momentum from the legs as well.

dumbbell push press muscles

Shoulder and Arm Muscles

Most of the movement that occurs in a dumbbell push press appears in the upper body. Although most of the power generated does not come from the upper limbs, the muscles of the upper extremities play a significant role in completing the lift.

The triceps brachii, which is located at the posterior upper arm, extends the elbows and locks them as the dumbbells are held overhead. The trapezius stabilizes the neck and aids to balance the weight overhead.

The deltoids, which work to abduct the arm at the shoulder joint, push the arms upward. When the legs aren't putting out enough force, these muscles have to do more work, and vice versa.

Core Muscles

The core muscles are vital in any activity that involves carrying weights overhead. These muscles work to prevent excessive load on the spine and to stabilize the trunk.

Hip and Leg Muscles

As previously mentioned, ideally, most of the power needed to raise the dumbbells comes from the legs. Upon dipping, the gluteal muscles and hamstrings work together to control hip flexion. On the other hand, upon driving upwards these muscles work to extend the hip. 

Knee flexion is controlled by the quadriceps muscle eccentrically. This muscle group also stabilizes the knee throughout the range of motion. In the upward motion, the quads contract concentrically to extend the knee and contribute to the force produced by the lower extremities.

Common Mistakes Associated with the Dumbbell Push Press

Dumbbells Too Far in Front

When lifting the dumbbells overhead, it should be assured that they are directly on top of the shoulders and not positioned in front of it. Having the dumbbells too far in front causes the arms to exert more force to support the weight of the dumbbells, thus limiting the amount of weight that can be used. 

To address this, first, try to improve the shoulder joint's mobility to be able to fully position the arms directly above the shoulders while holding weights before going into the execution of a dumbbell push press. 

Arching the Lower-Back

In any overhead exercise, it is a common mistake seen in most individuals to arch the lower back, especially in people who have limited shoulder mobility. This will throw the body out of alignment, causing pain and balance problems, which may lead to injuries due to falls.

To rectify this, focus on keeping the core tight and the ribs down as the dumbbells are lifted overhead. If the problem is still not remedied by such a technique, one may try to focus on improving shoulder mobility first before attempting to execute the exercise again. 

No Warm-Up

Ditching warm-up sessions is a common mistake not only for a dumbbell push press but for all other exercises. Small warm-up sessions throughout the day make a major difference when going into a workout, especially when coming from a long day of office work and having the body in a stagnant state from sitting in a chair all day. 

To fix this, raise your hand from time to time if there is any trouble in lifting the arm overhead, as the majority of people have this type of problem. One should also perform warm-up exercises such as shoulder rolls and knee bends, among others.

Hyperextending the Wrists

Another common mistake in performing the dumbbell push press is hyperextending the wrists when lifting the dumbbells overhead. It may seem natural to hold the bar of the dumbbells closer to the fingers, rather than the palms, but this position causes the wrist joints to be compressed, thus putting them at risk for injury.

To fix this, make sure to keep the handles of the dumbbell close to the palm instead of the fingers. This prevents the wrists from collapsing and going into hyperextension and helps maintain a more neutral wrist position. The neutral position of the wrist also assists in generating more force because this position is more aligned with the forearm. 

Final Thoughts

The dumbbell push press is an excellent compound exercise that engages the individual in a full-body workout as it works the shoulder and arm muscles along with the lower body muscles such as the hip and leg muscles. Additionally, the dumbbell push press activates the core for stability. 

As straightforward as it is, there are still multiple factors to consider before and while doing the exercise. Factors such as performing warm-ups and applying proper wrist positioning should be kept in mind in order to avoid injuries and not compromise the intended benefits that this workout provides. 

References

1. Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(24):4897. Published 2019 Dec 4. doi:10.3390/ijerph16244897

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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