1-arm standing dumbbell press
Video on January 13, 2013
Resistance: 55 lb. dumbbell
I prefer asymmetrical to symmetrical loading (unilateral vs. bilateral) of either arms or legs (e.g. step-ups instead of squats) under most conditions. Asymmetrical loading not only challenges balance but also structural integrity of the torso mandating increased recruitment of core musculature in concert with greater neuromuscular coordination of all of the above. In the real world there are few instances where your body is faced with symmetrical loading, especially the lower body (only rowing is a legitimate exception where you have simultaneous bilateral movement and loading). In overhead dumbbell presses, only bring the humerus (upper arm bone) down to a parallel position with the ground. Lowering the dumbbell to the deltoid or below places undue risk of injury on the shoulder joint and with zero potential benefit. You are not “cheating”; long-term safety trumps some obsolete myth about what constitutes a “real” repetition (the worst thing you can do is seated behind-the-neck Smith machine presses all the way down to the traps). Dumbbells are superior to barbells in pressing movements because the additional degrees of freedom allow your pressing movement to track via their natural pathway thus avoiding strain on fragile ligaments. Only going to parallel is an additional insurance policy. The shoulder is not constructed to cope with that stress over a lifetime. It has a much lower mean-time-before-failure than the corresponding hip joint. Your objective is maximal functionality while minimizing risk exposure. Minimize the use of knee extension (i.e. push press) unless you really are doing push presses which are fine to do unilaterally. If you are doing a push press, execute the concentric movement explosively with a controlled eccentric. As an additional safety precaution, clean the dumbbell to above the shoulder with both hands to avoid a wrist injury.
Mentally the focus is on a controlled movement both concentrically and eccentrically. Some stretch reflex “bounce” out of the bottom is fine as long you are not going too deep (i.e. to the deltoid) with it. Lock-out at the top is not particularly desirable (and certainly not a paused lock-out) because this means the elbow joint is locked and that directly transfers potential transient force spikes to the shoulder (an unlocked elbow is essentially a shock absorber and you really want that when your balance is challenged with the dumbbell getting wobbly while traveling outside your base of support). Minimize risks. Train smart. Don’t be a hero.
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