How to Do the Military Press with Dumbbells

The exercises that comprise what's known as the military press are great for developing different muscle groups. You can utilize a bar, specialized machine, and you can even do the military press with dumbbells.
How to Do the Military Press with Dumbbells

Last update: 11 June, 2019

There are classic exercises that are well known by those who go to the gym regularly or have exercise equipment in their homes. Among these famous exercises is the military press with dumbbells. It’s a very straightforward exercise, but it requires a certain level of technique if you want it to truly be effective.

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This exercise is meant mainly for strengthening your shoulder (deltoid) muscles and your upper back. It can also train your trapezius muscles, triceps, and upper pectorals. You can use a bar, machine, or you can do the military press with dumbbells.

As with any sport or exercise, you need to be extremely careful with the details. If you’re not, this exercise will not only be useless for building and strengthening your body, but you’ll also run the risk of suffering from considerably and serious injury.

Due to the inherent risks of this activity, and despite the fact that it seems simple, this is an exercise that you should always do under the supervision of a trainer, at least in the beginning.

Military press with dumbbells: step by step

First, you’ll need two dumbbells of a weight that you can comfortably manage without difficulty. While this is an exercise you can do standing up, it’s preferable to use a bench or fit ball so you can do it seated.

Line up your knees and legs with your shoulders and keep your back completely straight. In order to protect your spine and lower back, your abdominal muscles will activate for this exercise.

Holding the dumbbells firmly, bend your arms so your elbows are slightly out in front of you, just below your chest. Your hands should be right in front of your shoulders. This movement consists of then stretching your arms up above you and pushing them up over your head.

You need to try to make your movements as fluid as possible and avoid letting the rest of your body move around or rock.

Couple in an empty gym doing military press with dumbbells

Why do the military press with dumbbells

As long as you always do this exercise the right way and with the right consistency and discipline, the results will be evident and noticeable. The first thing you’ll notice is an increase in muscle mass in your shoulders. This will be accompanied by a complete definition of all the tissues in this area.

Additionally, as you’re focusing your attention on both arms, you’ll avoid running the risk of putting too much effort into strengthening one arm at the expense of the other.

This is something that turns out to be quite difficult to monitor if you’re doing one of the other variants of this exercise.

Likewise, despite the fact that the weight you’re lifting with the dumbbells is considerably lower than it would be with the bar, the range of motion of much broader. When you bend your arms, it’s possible to use muscles lower down. Meanwhile, the stabilizer muscles are more important when you lift your arms up.

Mistakes to avoid when doing the military press

Since this is a pretty simple exercise, many people might give in to the temptation to use very heavy dumbbells. What’s most likely to happen if you make this decision is that the quality of your movements and posture will decrease. All of this translates to higher chances of injuring your muscles or joints.

It’s extremely important to keep your back completely straight the whole time because it will help you avoid leaning backward or to the side when you’re lifting up your arms. The same thing could happen when you’re bringing your arms back to the start position, so keep your back straight to avoid leaning forward during this movement.

Your gaze should always be kept forward, don’t follow the movement of the dumbbells. This is important so that your head and neck remain aligned with the rest of your body.

On the other hand, many trainers insist on the importance of synchronizing your breathing with your movements. In other words, inhaling as you lift up and exhaling as you lower. You should be especially careful not to keep the air inside your lungs for longer than necessary.

Woman in gym working out on the machines arm press

An effective exercise

There are many people who are not entirely convinced by the military press with dumbbells. However, the success of this particular variety lies in one of its proven principles. For this exercise, quality is more important than quantity. 

We aren’t denying the benefits and level of complexity of the “original version” with a bar. However, this second option with dumbbells is equally valid. Undoubtedly, you must include this exercise as part of a workout program and have realistic goals. Additionally, consistency and discipline must form an important part of your workout program.

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The contents of this publication are written for informational purposes. At no time do they facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.