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Single Arm Dumbbell Press: How To Do, Muscles Worked & Tips

single arm dumbbell press

The Single Arm Dumbbell Press is an exercise to increase the strength and volume of the shoulders. The main differences from the classic dumbbell bench press is the vertical position of the body and the use of only one hand, which allows you to lift heavier weights.


  • More focus on the exercise and technique by training each side in turn.
  • A more natural amplitude of motion compared to the barbell press. This reduces the risk of injury.
  • In a standing position, you can lift more weight and increase the load on the muscles.

Which Muscles Does The Single Arm Dumbbell Press Work?

The Single Arm Dumbbell Press belongs to the class of basic exercises of the push force type. It aims to work out the shoulders. This exercise involves the following muscles:

  • targeted: anterior deltoid muscle;
  • synergists: middle deltoid muscle, supraspinatus muscle, triceps, trapezius (middle/bottom), serratus anterior muscle, oblique muscles, pectoralis major muscle (clavicular head), psoas major muscle, liocostalis muscle;
  • dynamic stabilizers: triceps (long head) and biceps;
  • stabilizers: trapezius (top) and levator scapulae.
single arm dumbbell shoulder press

How To Do The Single Arm Dumbbell Press?

The Single Arm Dumbbell Press technique is as follows:

  1. Stand up straight. Raise the dumbbell to shoulder height. With your free hand, hold on to a stable object, or place it on your waist, or hold it along the body.
  2. Turn your palm to face forward. This is the starting position.
  3. As you exhale, lift the dumbbell up, fully extending your arm.
  4. After pausing, slowly return to the starting position. Take a breath.
  5. Do the recommended number of reps and switch hands.

Execution Options

The Standing Single Arm Dumbbell Press can be replaced with a similar version while sitting on a bench. This option will be preferable for athletes who have back problems.

This exercise can also be executed in the manner which Arnold Schwarzenegger did, by taking a dumbbell with a reverse grip and lifting it to shoulder level. As you lift the dumbbell, turn your palm to face forward. Continue lifting until you straighten your arm. Lower your hand back to the starting position by turning your palm towards you. This exercise is called the Arnold Press. This option is not recommended for shoulder problems.


  • During the exercise, some athletes “throw” the weight up by bending the knees and extending sharply while pushing the weight up (on the rise) and on the descent, dropping the weight with very little control. This should not be done under any circumstances. All movements should be smooth and uniform. In addition, in a sitting position, an athlete can get a very serious spinal injury by making sharp jerking movements with a lot of weight.
  • Using overly heavy dumbbells. If you do not have a partner who can spot you all the time, then you should not attempt to lift heavier weights than what you can comfortably control. The exercise becomes dangerous after lifting the dumbbells up, and at that point they become difficult to control and for the athlete to maintain balance. In addition, it’s also difficult to adhere to the correct technique when using dumbbells that are just too heavy.
  • The athlete relaxes the spine and abs during the exercise. This is unacceptable even if you are wearing a weightlifting belt. The core should always be tight and keeping the torso secure and fixed in one position. It’s then that only the shoulders will be doing the work.
  • Athletes often increase the amplitude of the motion when doing the Standing Single Arm Dumbbell Press, thereby using the whole body to help lift the dumbbells. Don’t do this; just use a lighter weight or you may cause yourself an injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is The Single Arm Dumbbell Press Effective?

This is a very effective and relatively simple exercise for training the deltoid muscles. It allows you to work out each of the deltoid muscles separately. This is especially useful if one of the deltoid muscles is lagging behind in strength or muscle mass.

What Muscle Group Does The Single Arm Dumbbell Press Work?

The muscles involved in the exercise are listed below:

  • anterior bundle of deltoid muscles;
  • middle bundle;
  • posterior bundle;
  • triceps (performs the role of a secondary / supporting muscle).
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