Breaking Down Strongman Exercises: One-Arm Dumbbell Press

Mastering the moves:

The one-arm dumbbell press can mean two different things, depending on who’s lifting.

For the average gym goer, the one-arm dumbbell press is a great way to build strength and improve shoulder stability. But for the Strongman lifter, the exercise means using a comically oversized dumbbell to generate raw power.

Either way, this exercise offers a great alternative to a barbell and it provides several benefits, regardless of your fitness goals.

Benefits of One-Arm Dumbbell Press

Here are some of the benefits of the one-arm dumbbell press and why you should incorporate it into your strongman workouts.

Grip Strength

The Strongman version of the one-arm dumbbell press can help you build up your grip strength.

Barbells can be tricky. During a barbell-based exercise, one side of the body can pick up the slack for the weaker side. However, a single-arm dumbbell exercise quickly corrects strength imbalances, especially in grip strength.

Best of all, a stronger grip is going to benefit all other Strongman exercises including the farmer’s walk and sled drag.

You can take your grip strength to the next level faster with Alpha Grips, which simulate thick bar training.

Raw Power

In bodybuilding, there is a strict focus on form and tempo. This can involve concentric and eccentric lifts that take up to three seconds each. In Strongman, the focus is on pushing heavy weights as quickly and safely as you can.

The one-arm-dumbbell press is a great way to generate raw power as you hoist and push the weight above your head.

Just like with grip strength, improving your raw power will improve your output in all of the other Strongman exercises that you do.

Corrects Muscle Imbalances

We mentioned this above but it’s worth repeating: if you have muscle strength imbalances, single-arm dumbbell exercises are the way to go. Case in point: the one-arm dumbbell press.

Single-arm exercises using a dumbbell are preferable to barbell exercises because they don’t allow for muscle overcompensation. If you perform military presses with a barbell, for example, and your right side is a bit stronger, you might be cheating your left side without even knowing it.

Adding the one-arm dumbbell press to your routine will do more than improve your Strongman performance, it’ll also help to bring that weaker side up to speed.

Mimics Competition Exercises

Let’s say that you have your sights set on one of the most famous lifting competitions: the World’s Strongest Man (or some local variant). The one-arm dumbbell press, especially when performed with a circus dumbbell, can help you prepare for several events.

During the Atlas Stone event, for example, competitors use raw power to hoist and lift stones atop of a pillar. Each stone gets heavier with the final stone weighing in at over 450 pounds.

The hoist and lift motion that is required for the Atlas Stone event is similar to the movement performed in the one-arm dumbbell press. This Strongman exercise also helps you build the strength and muscle needed for competition.

How to Perform the One-Arm Dumbbell Press

Ready to perform the one-arm dumbbell press? Here’s how to do it:

  • Place a heavy dumbbell on the ground at your feet.
  • Secure the dumbbell in your left hand. Consider using a pair of Alpha Grips around the dumbbell handle if you want to improve your grip strength.
  • Slightly elevate your hips so that the dumbbell is lifted off the ground but still hovering about an inch above it.
  • Tighten your core and keep your chest elevated.
  • Swing the dumbbell up to your shoulder level.
  • Dip your knees slightly then immediately drive your body upward.
  • Use the momentum to push the dumbbell above your head.
  • You can extend the right hand for balance.
  • Lock out your arm, pause, and bring the dumbbell to shoulder level.
  • Complete your prescribed repetitions and repeat on the other side.

Tips and Tricks for Beginners

If you’ve never performed this Strongman exercise before, here are some tips and tricks.

Protect Your Connective Tissue

Between the heavy weight load and the explosive movement, the one-arm dumbbell press can become a concern for those with prior wrist and elbow issues.

We strongly recommend using wrist wraps or elbow sleeves. Both pieces of Strongman gear help to support and protect your connective tissue from further strain. Elbow sleeves are also great at increasing blood flow throughout your arm.

Go Light First

It should go without saying that if you’ve never performed this exercise before, make sure to go light for the first few weeks.

Focus on the form and execution. Gradually increase the weight but don’t go overboard, especially with an exercise where the weight is going directly above your head.

Strongman Exercises: Do You Use the One-Arm Dumbbell Press?

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