Shoulder Press with Dumbbells vs. Barbell for the best way to build shoulders at home safely!

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Written By Samarjit Sinha

Working out for 10 years | Has a home gym | CPD (UK) Certificate holder in Fitness

Sore Today, Strong Tomorrow!

Shoulder Press with Dumbbells vs. Barbell – What is ideal for home gym workout and when!

Considering that you are working out in a home gym! I would suggest you use a rack if you want to do heavy barbell presses.

For dumbbell presses without any support, you can go for one-handed dumbbell presses.

You can always give some additional support while putting the heavy dumbbell down.

In my personal opinion, if you do not have a rack then in your home gym you should do a dumbbell press.

No worries about spotting.

No worries about damaging the floor.

No worries about the bar crashing down on you.

But if you have a rack, and no shoulder problem, then go for the barbell press.

With a barbell, you can attach more plates and thus get way stronger and gain more mass than a dumbbell press.

But the dumbbell press is great for focused targeting and eliminating muscle imbalances.

Muscle Imbalance TIP: Do not move too fast with increasing weights on the barbell. Also move the weight slowly while doing barbell presses. This will prevent the imbalance.

Shoulder Press with Dumbbells vs. Barbell

What is the shoulder press?

The shoulder press is a weight training exercise that uses a barbell, dumbbell, or a machine to target the muscles of the shoulders.

The barbell shoulder/overhead press involves lying on your back with a barbell over your chest and lifting it up to above head level while keeping your upper arms close to your head.

The seated shoulder press involves sitting in a machine and pressing against a fixed resistance.

The dumbbell shoulder press involves holding two dumbbells at arm’s length in front of you while pressing them upward until they meet in an upper lift position.

What is the best way to build shoulders with dumbbells vs barbells?

Which Builds Bigger Shoulders Faster?

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press and Barbell Shoulder Press both target the anterior, middle, and posterior deltoids as well as the biceps and triceps muscles.

Shoulder Press with Dumbbells vs. Barbell for the best way to build shoulders at home safely! 1The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is almost similar to an isolation exercise that allows you to focus on one muscle group at a time while avoiding any unwanted movement from other parts of your body.

Conversely, the Barbell Shoulder Press is a multijoint exercise that involves more muscles at once which can lead to greater strength gains over time.

And you can lift a lot of weight with the dumbbell variation.

It’s a multi-joint exercise, the Barbell Shoulder Press requires more coordination between different muscles which may take longer for beginners or those without much experience using heavy weights in their workouts.

Additionally, since it allows for heavier weights it provides more long-term overload for gaining strength than its dumbbell counterpart does.

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is better suited for those who are looking to isolate specific muscle groups while limiting unnecessary movements from surrounding areas of the body.

Are dumbbell presses as effective as barbell presses at Developing Strength?

Both dumbbells and barbells are effective at developing strength.

Dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion, which can be beneficial for those who are new to weightlifting.

Barbells, on the other hand, offer more stability and allow users to lift heavier weights than dumbbells.

Since the barbell allows you to move more weight, thus it will develop your strength better.

You can do some other variants of the barbell press for developing your speed as well.

Shoudler workout effectiveness graph


What is a good dumbbell shoulder press weight?

As per, a beginner should be able to lift 15% of her body weight as a male. For a beginner female, this is around 10% of their body weight.

As an intermediate, 25% weight of your bodyweight * 10 reps is a good number to stay healthy and strong for both genders.

So If your weight is 60 kgs, then your overhead press standard will be 15 kgs. But you can always try to lift heavier, do not limit yourself by these numbers though.

Are The Muscles Worked the Same?

When building shoulders with dumbbells vs barbells, the muscles worked are pretty much identical.

boulder shoudlder workout sample by MusclePharm
source: MusclePharm

Both movements work the deltoids effectively, giving you that rounded “boulder shoulder” look.

Depending on what variation of the shoulder press is performed, other muscles may be worked in a secondary manner, such as the upper back, core and even legs and hips (for standing press variations).

When performing a dumbbell shoulder press compared to a barbell shoulder press, the movement is unilateral which requires more stabilization from the joints involved than with a barbell press.

Also, as per a study, it is seen that in standing DB press (1RM) deltoid recruitment is 15% higher as per EMG records. So if you are pondering over standing shoulder press vs seated, then you should consider standing movements for more muscle activation.

And as per the Indian Journal of Public Health Research and Development Arnold press is more effective for training your anterior and medial deltoid muscles compared to the general overhead DB press.

But due to the simple nature of BB press, anyone can do it easily and progress easily as well.

Which Should I Be Doing?

If you have muscle imbalances then you should consider doing DB presses.

But the barbell press has the most muscle-building potential for sure. But if you feel any shoulder discomfort, or pain then you should consider dumbbell presses and shoulder flexibility exercises.

Otherwise, every routine should have the standard military press/OP for strength development. And some other forms of OP like push jerk for speed development.

One arm DB shoulder workout for imbalances by

Main Differences Between Barbell and Dumbbell Shoulder Press

#1 – You Can Lift Heavier Weight With the Barbell Shoulder Press and get Stronger

The barbell shoulder press allows you to lift heavier compared to other shoulder exercises such as the dumbbell shoulder press and lateral raise.

This is because it activates multiple muscles, including the anterior (front) and medial (middle) heads of the deltoid, traps, triceps and upper chest.

Additionally, it allows you to progress faster with your strength goals due to increased muscle mass and strength activation.

And as said earlier, if you are really going to lift a lot of weight upwards, use a power rack to support the weight.

While doing standing shoulder presses, with barbell you can lift 7% more than DB shoulder press as per this 2013 study.

#2 – Dumbbell Shoulder Press Activates Deltoids and Stabilizers More so you can use it for hypertrophy

The dumbbell shoulder press activates the deltoids and stabilizers more than the barbell shoulder press because it requires more stabilization due to its unilateral nature.

With the barbell shoulder press, you do not have to stabilize or balance the weight unilaterally, which reduces the need for muscular involvement.

Dumbbells are harder to stabilize than barbells, which forces your body to use more muscle in order to keep them stable.

Shoulder Press with Dumbbells vs. Barbell for the best way to build shoulders at home safely! 2

Unlike the barbell shoulder press, there is no potential for muscular imbalances with this unilateral movement due to its increased difficulty level and requirement for stabilization of both arms independently of each other.

#3 – Dumbbell Shoulder Press Has More Variations

The barbell press is stupidly simple, and every workout routine has it because it increases strength like no other.

And for that, it does not have many variations which can develop that much strength.

Now there are workouts like push jerk, and clean jerk which involves an upward pushing movement, but they are focused on speed.

The dumbbell shoulder press can be performed using either one or two dumbbells, depending on desired intensity level or availability of equipment in a gym setting.

It can also be performed from a standing or seated position, depending on the individual’s needs and comfort level.

You can do alternative presses, Arnold presses, Neutral grip presses etc.

#4 – Barbell Shoulder Press Will Have More Carryover to Other Lifts

The barbell shoulder press and the dumbbell shoulder press are both effective exercises for strengthening the shoulder girdle.

Both exercises can help prevent nagging injuries, and improve overall posture.

Because the barbell shoulder press is a multijoint exercise that activates and works both the anterior (front) and medial (middle) heads of the deltoid, it may have more carryover to other lifts than the dumbbell press.

Carryover to Olypic lifts

This allows you to lift heavier weights with faster progress towards strength goals compared to using only dumbbells which only target one muscle group at a time.

Olympic lifts, front squats, and thrusters will get easier if you get better with BB press.

#5 – Neutral Dumbbell Shoulder Press is Easier on the Shoulders

The main difference between the two exercises is that the Dumbbell Shoulder Press allows for a more natural shoulder movement because of the dumbbell, while the Barbell Shoulder Press doesn’t allow for as much movement because of its fixed movement pattern.

Neutral Dumbbell Shoulder Press is Easier on the Shoulders

Additionally, the Dumbbell Shoulder Press engages more stabilizing muscles around the shoulders to keep them healthy compared to a Barbell Shoulder Press which may put more strain on these muscles.

What are the common benefits of doing shoulder presses?

1. Build Large and Strong Shoulders

Shoulder pressing with dumbbells from a seated position allows the lifter to lift heavier than the standing version due to reduced muscle activation from the bench’s support.

By lifting heavier weights, you can build larger and broader shoulders.

Additionally, this move will strengthen your shoulder muscles and help prevent injury due to the increased intensity of each rep compared to other versions of shoulder presses.

Speed barbell shoulder press


2. Improve Core

As per Webmd shoulder presses will stabilise your shoulder, elbows, wrist muscles and your core. This improves your stability and posture.

3. Increase Strength and Power

Shoulder pressing increases strength and power by engaging the deltoids, triceps and pectoral muscles.

It also works the contralateral muscles to maintain balance and stability during the movement.

By performing shoulder presses regularly, you can increase your strength, power and endurance levels in these muscle groups.

You should really do barbell presses with 5 sets of 3-5 reps for strength and power development.

Rep ranges

4. Muscle Activation Levels

The muscle activation level of shoulder presses affects their benefits. High levels of muscle activation can lead to greater strength gains and increased muscular endurance.

When performing shoulder presses, the level of muscle activation can be increased by changing body position and loading modality.

For example, a horizontal bench press requires more activation than an incline bench press due to the increased resistance from gravity.

Similarly, dumbbells require more activation than barbells due to their asymmetrical distribution of weight around the joints.

As per this study done in the year of 2020, the shoulder press had the highest (33%) maximum isometric voluntary contraction.

shoulder press activates most muscle

5. Variations and Repetitions

Depending on your fitness level and goals, you can perform shoulder presses in a variety of ways.

For beginners, it is recommended that you use lighter weights and focus on proper form to avoid injury.

I would start from a 10% * bodyweight and increase it slowly week after week.

Advanced exercisers can use heavier weights for more challenging workouts. To maximize hypertrophy results, aim for three sets of 10-12 repetitions per 3 sets per workout session.

6. Burn Calories and Build Muscle Mass

Doing shoulder presses can help burn calories and build muscle mass because it involves lifting weights, which increases your metabolism and causes you to burn more calories.

Even if I have a weight gain goal, I would do them. Because they build a lot of strength in your shoulders and upper body.

barbell thrusters

They build some solid mass too, thus you look better, and you get heavy in a good way.

It also works the muscles in your arms, shoulders and back, which helps them grow stronger over time.

For Weight Watchers, the more you practice this exercise, the more calories you will burn each time you do it.

Additionally, building muscle mass helps to increase your metabolic rate even further, allowing you to continue burning more calories even when not working out.

You can even try doing, push presses, clean and presses etc to increase power plus speed and burn a lot more calories in a good way!

Home gym users, you can just do them and skip those cycles and treadmills. Trust me 🙂

7. Improve Movement

Shoulder presses are one of the key movements that everyone should do. It will help you improve some other lifts like thrusters, and Olympic lifts and will make you stronger.

Thus, as a fundamental workout, a shoulder press will help improve your generic movement.

8. Reduce Shoulder Imbalance and Pain

Doing DB shoulder presses reduces shoulder imbalance and pain by strengthening the muscles around your shoulders.

The exercise also increases blood flow to the area, which helps reduce inflammation and pain.

By doing DB shoulder presses regularly, you can prevent injury and reduce pain caused by a pre-existing shoulder imbalance or injury.

You will also be able to lift heavier weights as you become more experienced with the exercise, helping to strengthen your shoulders further.

[Kinesiology tapes might help!]

9. Increase Self-Confidence and Aesthetics

Shoulder Press with Dumbbells vs. Barbell for the best way to build shoulders at home safely! 3Doing shoulder presses can increase self-confidence and aesthetics due to the fact that it targets the shoulders and upper back muscles, which helps build muscle definition.

Girls love those broad shoulders bro..

And girls.. many of us like strong women 🙂

By doing shoulder presses regularly, you will notice an improvement in your overall appearance and confidence as your physique becomes more defined.

10. Develop Strong Core and Stabilizer Muscles

Doing standing shoulder presses helps develop strong core and stabilizer muscles because.

Apart from your deltoid, pec major, Lats, tricep and biceps you will activate your serratus, rectus abdominus muscles as well.

This builds strength in the abdominal muscles as well as the upper back region.

How to perform military press with dumbbells and barbells?

Stand upright with your feet together and toes turned out, just like a soldier at attention.

Push the barbell up and down to do a true military press, or stand with your feet hip-width apart and perform an overhead press variation of the movement.

With dumbbells, keep them close to your body as you press upwards and downwards so that they remain stable throughout the movement.

Focus on using both deltoids (anterior and medial) when doing either version of this exercise for maximum results in terms of muscle activation in both areas of your shoulders (endpoints).

For example: If you’re using dumbbells, keep them close to your body as you press upwards and downwards so that they remain stable throughout the movement while also activating both deltoids more than with a barbell overhead press or seated shoulder press variant with weights held at shoulder level (midpoints).


What is the best grip for a barbell shoulder press?

The barbell shoulder press can be performed with the hands placed either close together or wide apart. Both grips are effective in targeting the shoulders, though using a closer grip will shift more of the stress to the triceps and elbows.
For optimal results, use a wider grip for the barbell shoulder press. This will help target your deltoids more effectively while reducing stress on your elbows and triceps.

What is the best rep range for shoulder press?

The best rep range for shoulder press is typically between 5 and 12 reps, with 8-10 being ideal. The reason for this is that lower reps (5-8) will focus more on building strength and muscle, while higher reps (11-12) will focus more on endurance. Additionally, the barbell shoulder press should be performed using a wider grip to shift the stress away from the shoulders and towards the triceps and elbows.

What is the best stance for a shoulder press?

When performing the shoulder press, it is best to stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly out. You should also keep your knees bent and be sure not to lock them during the movement. For optimal results, keep your back straight and focus on pushing through the heels rather than using momentum to lift the barbell.

Are there any risks associated with the shoulder press?

Yes, there are some risks associated with the shoulder press. The barbell shoulder press can potentially be harmful if performed incorrectly due to its inability to distribute the load to the rear deltoids (the back of the shoulder).

It can also give you a false sense of safety as it short ranges of movement and a tendency to lift with your ego, resulting in injuries such as shoulder pain and lower back pain.

During a shoulder press session with barbell I hit my neck with it. Many times it was too close to my chin. Gotta be careful!

To avoid these potential risks associated with barbell shoulder presses, it is important to have proper technique when performing them. Beginners should start with dumbbells before progressing on to barbells, while more advanced exercisers should mix in both types of presses as part of their routine.

The Last Rep!

So if you want to increase your strength then stick to barbell press. If you want to get huge then do dumbbell presses, bodybuilding fans should do this too.

And if you are lifting really heavy with shoulder presses then you should add a power rack and rubber mats to your home gym to be safe.

I usually do 5 sets of 5 reps of barbell shoulder press and on another day I do 3 sets of 10 reps of DB presses. This ensures that I am training my shoulders for both strength and hypertrophy.

Tell me what you think?


Working Out for 10 years | Owns a home gym |Certificate course done on Improving Aerobic Fitness, Diet | CPD (UK) Accredited Certification on Fitness

🥊 About The Skinny Author

Yo Friends, this is Samarjit! A skinny guy who is building his tiny home gym.

I have successfully gained 10 kgs in 10 months going to commercial gyms. And I have been working out on and off for about 10+ years now.

I have gone swimming, done martial arts, Olympic lifts and body building type workouts!

I cancelled the gym subscription as I was more into making my home gym for workout. And getting ready, then getting my cycle and ride to the commercial gym seemed a drag after 10 hours in the office.

Thus, I needed a home that I can access at any moment!
And I started building my home gym!

I had to research a lot to build my home gym and decided to share effective, budget friendly home gym machines, nutrition to buy as per your goals here in

If you have question then contact here

Ps: Author is highly experienced with making small workout routines, understanding and guiding people to get gym equipment and set up home gym as per their Fitness goals.

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