Shoulder Training – Dumbbell Military Press

The dumbbell military press is one of the key compound exercises for your shoulders. Read on for exercise tips and add this important exercise to your strength training program.

Muscles Exercised:

The dumbbell military press focuses on your delts. The emphasis of this exercise is on the middle delt. It also exercises your triceps and traps to a degree.

Exercise Technique:

  • This exercise can be performed seated or standing. My recommendation is to do it seated on a bench with back support. This forces you to keep your body stationary during the lift, reducing cheating movements and increasing the emphasis on your delts.
  • Sit in the bench with your back against the bench and your feet planted firmly on the floor or the bench’s footrest, if it has one. Maintain this position throughout the lift.
  • Start the press with the dumbbells at your shoulders, elbows pointing out. If necessary, have a spotter help you lift the dumbbells into position.
  • Grip the dumbbells with an overhand grip, palms facing forward. The dumbbells should rest on the base of your palm with the force of the weight driving down through your wrists and forearms. Resting the bar higher in the palm will reduce your leverage and place unnecessary strain on your wrists.
  • Keep your shoulders, chest and lats tight to stabilize the dumbbells. Drive down through the floor with your feet keeping your legs tight. Maintain this position keeping your entire body tight and stable throughout your lift.
  • Take a breath into your lungs and hold it
  • Press the dumbbells straight up until you can lock your elbows out. Release your breath as you lock out. Avoid touching the dumbbells together at the top, since this may allow you to relax your body slightly.
  • Lower the dumbbells to your shoulders in a controlled manner. They should come to a complete stop touching your shoulders lightly before starting the next repetition.
  • Select a weight that you can perform all of your repetitions using proper technique. On your last 1-2 sets, your last repetitions should be very difficult.


The shoulder is a vulnerable joint. Care should be taken to prevent injury to the shoulder.

  • Use weights that you are able to control each repetition with strict form
  • Lift with a spotter who can assist you with the dumbbells when you hit failure


  • Front Dumbbell Military Press: if you are unable to perform the press with your elbows out due to shoulder pain, try rotating your elbows to the front with your palms facing each other to lift. Note that this will shift the emphasis from the middle delt to the anterior delt.

Building Shoulder Strength: As with any muscle group, you need to train with balance. To build strong shoulders, you need to train the anterior, middle, and rear delts. You also need to train your supporting muscle groups as well – triceps and traps.

Additional Shoulder Exercises:

Effective Triceps Exercises:

Comments are closed.