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Alternating Dumbbell Shoulder Press Tutorial

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1

alternating dumbbell shoulder press

The alternating dumbbell shoulder press is an amazing upper body shoulder press variation that can spice up your workouts.

In this article you will learn:

How To Do An Alternating Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Follow these steps to perform an alternating shoulder press with perfect form:

  • Start with your feet shoulder width apart and the dumbbells facing forward on the top of your shoulders.  Keep your elbows slightly flared out.


  • Engage your core by flexing your abs.  Pretend someone is about to punch you in the stomach, how would you absorb the punch?  That’s bracing your abs.


  • While maintaining this position, lift the dumbbells slightly off your shoulder.  That’s your start position.


  • Begin pressing one dumbbell completely overhead while the other dumbbell stays floating right above your shoulder.


  • Bring the dumbbell down and lift the other side in the same motion.


  • That’s one rep.  Repeat for the allotted amount of reps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Alternating Shoulder Press Good?

The alternating shoulder press is an effective upper body push exercise that will build strength and muscle in your shoulders, while also improving your core strength.  Since you’re lifting one dumbbell at a time, your core must help stabilize you which adds an extra challenge.

What Muscles Do Alternating Dumbbell Shoulder Presses Work?

The alternating dumbbell shoulder press will improve strength and build muscle in your deltoids and trapezius.  With this specific variation of pressing one dumbbell at a time, the core muscles including your traverse abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae (lower back), will be engaged in the lift.

How Many Sets And Reps Should I Do Of DB Alternating Shoulder Press?

Perform 2 - 3 sets of 8 - 10 reps on each side.

When picking a weight, find a weight that will make that 8 - 10 rep range difficult.  It should be a weight where you can maybe squeak out 11 or 12 reps.  If you get done with a set and it was easy, you won’t get any of the benefits of the lift.  Each set needs to be challenging and brought close to failure.

If you want add this exercise into a shoulder superset, swap it into any of my 8 favorite shoulder supersets for maximal growth.

Recap Of Alternating DB Shoulder Press Tutorial

This exercise will help you see progress and development in your shoulders and core while adding a fun element into your workout.  Program your alternating DB shoulder press early in your workout since it’s a compound movement or replace it in workouts that have you doing barbell or dumbbell overhead presses, like in this chest and shoulder workout.  8 - 10 reps per side is the sweet spot for 2 - 3 rounds.