Good dumbbell shoulder press weight

What’s A Good Dumbbell Shoulder Press Weight? The Standards At Different Training Levels And Bodyweights

Many would argue that the shoulder press is the king of the shoulder-builders. And dumbbells are a great variation of this exercise. But how much weight is considered good for a dumbbell shoulder press?

On average, a good dumbbell shoulder press weight is above 160-lbs standing or 176-lbs seated. This weight is for two dumbbells combined and for a single repetition. However, a person’s shoulder press weight will be strongly affected by their training level and bodyweight.

When I was a skinny beginner, I knew I was making gains.

But how was I performing compared to all the other guys at the gym?

If this is something you find yourself wondering, then you might want to keep reading.

This article will give you benchmarks for comparison, as well as provide tips to improve a sub-par shoulder press.

Let’s jump right in.

Looking to Improve Your Dumbbell Shoulder Press At Home?

If you’re interested, here’s the setup I use and recommend!

Average Male Dumbbell Shoulder Press Weight

The average US male weighs 197.9-lbs.

To find out how much the average man can dumbbell shoulder press, I turned to the Strength Level database of 122,000 standing shoulder presses and 247 seated shoulder presses.

Here’s how much weight the average 200-lb man should be able to dumbbell shoulder press:

Training Level1-rep max6-rep max7-rep max8-rep max9-rep max10-rep max
Beginner
(standing)
56lb
25kg
47lb
21kg
46lb
21kg
45lb
20kg
44lb
20kg
41lb
19kg
Beginner
(seated)
84lb
38kg
71lb
32kg
69lb
31kg
67lb
30kg
66lb
30kg
61lb
28kg
Intermediate
(standing)
160lb
73kg
134lb
61kg
131lb
60kg
128lb
58kg
125lb
57kg
117lb
53kg
Intermediate
(seated)
176lb
80kg
148lb
67kg
144lb
65kg
141lb
64kg
137lb
62kg
128lb
58kg
Advanced
(standing)
214lb
97kg
180lb
82kg
175lb
80kg
171lb
78kg
167lb
76kg
156lb
71kg
Advanced
(seated)
234lb
106kg
197lb
89kg
192lb
87kg
187lb
85kg
183lb
83kg
171lb
77kg
Dumbbell shoulder press standards for a 200lb male at different training levels. Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

Note: X-rep max is the maximum amount of weight you can do for x-number of reps.

4 factors affect how much weight you can shoulder press.

The weight standards above are highly generalized.

In reality, your dumbbell shoulder press weight will be affected by 4 factors:

  1. Training level. The longer you’ve been practicing the shoulder press the more weight you should be able to lift. Beginners have been practicing for up to 1 month, intermediates up to 2 years, and advanced lifters up to 5 years.
  1. Bodyweight. The heavier you are the more muscle mass you have and the heavier you can press.
  1. Rep number. The more the reps you perform the less weight you can press and vice versa. How many shoulder press reps should you be doing? 3-12 reps is the recommended rep range for building shoulder strength and size.
  1. Shoulder press variation. In general, the average person can shoulder press more weight when seated compared to standing. But people under 150-lbs bodyweight can shoulder press more weight when standing compared to seated.

Next, you’ll find out how bodyweight affects your dumbbell shoulder press weight at different training levels.

Beginner Dumbbell Shoulder Press Weight Standards

If you’ve been doing the dumbbell shoulder press for up to 1 month, then you’re a beginner.

Here are some good standards for beginners to dumbbell shoulder press at different bodyweights:

BodyweightVariation1-rep max6-rep max7-rep max8-rep max9-rep max10-rep max
120lb
54kg
Standing30lb
14kg
25lb
11kg
25lb
11kg
24lb
11kg
23lb
11kg
22lb
10kg
120lb
54kg
Seated18lb
8kg
15lb
7kg
15lb
7kg
14lb
9kg
14lb
8kg
13lb
6kg
150lb
68kg
Standing48lb
22kg
40lb
18kg
39lb
18kg
38lb
17kg
37lb
17kg
35lb
16kg
150lb
68kg
Seated42lb
19kg
35lb
16kg
34lb
16kg
34lb
15kg
33lb
15kg
31lb
14kg
200lb
91kg
Standing56lb
25kg
47lb
21kg
46lb
21kg
45lb
20kg
44lb
20kg
41lb
19kg
200lb
91kg
Seated84lb
38kg
71lb
32kg
69lb
31kg
67lb
30kg
66lb
30kg
61lb
28kg
250lb
113kg
Standing104lb
47kg
87lb
40kg
85lb
39kg
83lb
38kg
81lb
37kg
76lb
34kg
250lb
113kg
Seated128lb
58kg
108lb
49kg
105lb
48kg
102lb
46kg
100lb
45kg
93lb
42kg
300lb
136kg
Standing130lb
59kg
109lb
50kg
107lb
48kg
104lb
47kg
101lb
46kg
95lb
43kg
300lb
136kg
Seated170lb
77kg
143lb
65kg
139lb
63kg
136lb
62kg
133lb
60kg
124lb
56kg
Beginner male dumbbell shoulder press standards (standing and seated). Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

The average beginner should be able to dumbbell shoulder press 18-43% of their bodyweight (standing) or 10-57% of their bodyweight (seated).

The exact percentage will depend on your bodyweight and rep number (as per the table above).

So if you’re a beginner and you’re shoulder pressing above these averages, then you’re doing a good job.

And if you’re below average, then you can try some of my tips to improve your dumbbell shoulder press (see below).

Intermediate Dumbbell Shoulder Press Weight Standards

If you’ve been doing the dumbbell shoulder press for up to 2 years, then you’re an intermediate.

Here are some good standards for intermediates to dumbbell shoulder press at different bodyweights:

BodyweightVariation1-rep max6-rep max7-rep max8-rep max9-rep max10-rep max
120lb
54kg
Standing88lb
40kg
74lb
34kg
72lb
33kg
70lb
32kg
69lb
31kg
64lb
29kg
120lb
54kg
Seated70lb
32kg
59lb
27kg
57lb
26kg
56lb
25kg
55lb
25kg
51lb
23kg
150lb
68kg
Standing118lb
54kg
99lb
45kg
97lb
44kg
94lb
43kg
92lb
42kg
86lb
39kg
150lb
68kg
Seated110lb
50kg
92lb
42kg
90lb
41kg
88lb
40kg
86lb
39kg
80lb
36kg
200lb
91kg
Standing160lb
73kg
134lb
61kg
131lb
60kg
128lb
58kg
125lb
57kg
117lb
53kg
200lb
91kg
Seated176lb
80kg
148lb
67kg
144lb
65kg
141lb
64kg
137lb
62kg
128lb
58kg
250lb
113kg
Standing198lb
90kg
166lb
75kg
162lb
74kg
158lb
72kg
154lb
70kg
145lb
66kg
250lb
113kg
Seated236lb
107kg
198lb
90kg
194lb
88kg
189lb
86kg
184lb
83kg
172lb
78kg
300lb
136kg
Standing232lb
105kg
195lb
88kg
190lb
86kg
186lb
84kg
181lb
82kg
169lb
77kg
300lb
136kg
Seated292lb
132kg
1245lb
11kg
239lb
109kg
234lb
106kg
228lb
103kg
213lb
97kg
Intermediate male dumbbell shoulder press standards (standing and seated). Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

The average intermediate should be able to dumbbell shoulder press 53-80% of their bodyweight (standing) or 43-97% of their bodyweight (seated).

Again, the percentage will depend on your body weight and rep number.

So if you’re an intermediate and you’re shoulder pressing above these averages, then you’re doing a good job.

Conversely, If you’re a beginner, then these targets are a very respectable standard to reach for.

And if you’re below average, then you can try some of my tips to improve your dumbbell shoulder press (see below).

Advanced Dumbbell Shoulder Press Weight Standards

If you’ve been doing the dumbbell shoulder press for up to 5 years, then you’re an advanced lifter.

Here are some good weight standards for advanced lifters to dumbbell shoulder press at different bodyweights:

BodyweightVariation1-rep max6-rep max7-rep max8-rep max9-rep max10-rep max
120lb
54kg
Standing130lb
59kg
109lb
50kg
107lb
48kg
104lb
47kg
101lb
46kg
95lb
43kg
120lb
54kg
Seated92lb
42kg
77lb
35kg
75lb
34kg
74lb
33kg
72lb
33kg
67lb
30kg
150lb
68kg
Standing164lb
74kg
138lb
62kg
134lb
61kg
131lb
60kg
128lb
58kg
120lb
54kg
150lb
68kg
Seated158lb
72kg
133lb
60kg
130lb
59kg
126lb
57kg
123lb
56kg
115lb
52kg
200lb
91kg
Standing214lb
97kg
180lb
82kg
175lb
80kg
171lb
78kg
167lb
76kg
156lb
71kg
200lb
91kg
Seated234lb
106kg
197lb
89kg
192lb
87kg
187lb
85kg
183lb
83kg
171lb
77kg
250lb
113kg
Standing256lb
116kg
215lb
98kg
210lb
95kg
205lb
93kg
200lb
91kg
187lb
85kg
250lb
113kg
Seated304lb
138kg
255lb
116kg
249lb
113kg
243lb
110kg
237lb
108kg
222lb
101kg
300lb
136kg
Standing296lb
134kg
249lb
113kg
243lb
110kg
237lb
107kg
231lb
105kg
216lb
98kg
300lb
136kg
Seated368lb
167kg
309lb
140kg
302lb
137kg
294lb
134kg
287lb
130kg
269lb
122kg
Advanced male dumbbell shoulder press standards (standing and seated). Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.

The average advanced lifter should be able to dumbbell shoulder press 72-109% of their bodyweight (standing) or 56-123% of their bodyweight (seated).

The exact percentage will depend on your body weight and rep number.

So if you’re at the advanced stages of training and you’re shoulder pressing above these averages, then you’re doing a very respectable job.

Don’t fret if you haven’t reached these standards though.

It takes many years of consistent and dedicated training to attain these levels.

Indeed, many people never reach these standards and plateau at the intermediate standards instead.

That’s not a bad achievement for the majority of people.

My best advice is to keep persevering and maybe try the tips I share below.

If you’re a skinny guy trying to build a stronger physique, there are some essential tips you should know to avoid cycles of failed attempts. Check out my other article to learn how to build your first 10 pounds of muscle!

How Good Is Your Dumbbell Shoulder Press Vs Others?

Calculating your dumbbell shoulder press as a fraction of your bodyweight is another way to judge your performance.

To do this, simply divide the total weight of both dumbbells by your body weight.

This method allows you to fairly compare your shoulder press numbers with other people.

In general, being able to shoulder press your bodyweight is a good target to aim for. People who can shoulder press their own bodyweight represent the upper quartile of weight lifters and it is a very good level to attain.

Here are the percentages of males who can dumbbell shoulder press their own body weight:

Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press (1RM As Fraction Of Bodyweight)% Of People Who Can Do ItSeated Dumbbell Shoulder Press (1RM As Fraction Of Bodyweight)% Of People Who Can Do It
0.10x100%0.10x100%
0.20x1000.20x100%
0.30x98%0.30x99%
0.40x94%0.40x96%
0.50x87%0.50x91%
0.60x77%0.60x82%
0.70x64%0.70x72%
0.80x50%0.80x59%
0.90x37%0.90x47%
1.00x26%1.00x36%
1.10x17%1.10x26%
1.20x11%1.20x18%
1.30x7%1.30x12%
1.40x4%1.40x8%
1.50x2%1.50x5%
1.60x1%1.60x3%
1.70x0.7%1.70x2%
1.80x0.3%1.80x1%
1.90x0.2%1.90x0.5%
2.00x0.1%2.00x0.3%
% of males aged 24-39 at 200-lbs bodyweight who can dumbbell shoulder press their body weight. Weights are for 2 dumbbells combined.
  • 75% of men can dumbbell shoulder press 0.62x their bodyweight (standing) and 0.65x their bodyweight (seated). If you’ve reached this point, then you’re in the lower quartile of people who do the dumbbell shoulder press. This is an acceptable weight for beginners, but you can also probably do much better with training!
  • 50% of men can dumbbell shoulder press 0.80x their bodyweight (standing) and 0.93x their bodyweight (seated). If you’ve reached this point, then you’re in the median quartile of people who do the dumbbell shoulder press. This is very respectable target for beginners to aim for.
  • 25% of men can dumbbell shoulder press 1.00x their bodyweight (standing) and 1.10x their bodyweight (seated). If you’ve reached this point, then you’re in the upper quartile of people who do the dumbbell shoulder press! This is a very respectable target for intermediates to aim for.

Note: these standards are for a single repetition.

If you’re interested in buying dumbbells for home training, then you can find out how much dumbbells should cost in my other post!

Why People Struggle With The Shoulder Press

How to improve your dumbbell shoulder press strength.

There are various reasons why people struggle to progress and find the dumbbell shoulder press difficult:

1) A weak grip can limit your capacity to hold the dumbbells.

A strong wrist is important in the dumbbell shoulder press for 2 reasons:

  • Dumbbell stabilisation. You need wrist strength to stabilise the dumbbells as you go through the shoulder press movement.
  • Dumbbell setup. Wrist strength is required to stabilise the dumbbells as you kick them into the air during the initial setup. If you can’t stabilise the dumbbells, you won’t be able to set yourself up for reps.

Therefore weak wrists can present a major chokepoint in your progression.

2) Untrained stabilisers make it difficult to shoulder press.

The shoulder press is primarily driven by the deltoids and triceps. But stabilizing activity also comes from the biceps, core, and upper back to help you maintain balance.

If these muscles are weak, then you won’t be able to shoulder press as much weight.

Therefore weak stabilizers also serve as a chokepoint in your progression.

3) Improper form and technique can impact your shoulder pressing.

The dumbbell shoulder press is a technical move and requires a good form to build maximum strength.

Here are some good dumbbell shoulder press form tips:

  • Press with a full range of motion. Do this by allowing the dumbbells to reach the upper pecs on the downward phase.
  • Brace your core. Do this by contracting your abs to form a sturdy foundation to press from.
  • Don’t lock your elbows. Do this by stopping the upward phase just before your elbows lock. This will maintain consistent tension in the deltoids and triceps, thereby building more strength.
  • Keep your back straight. A straight back focuses muscle activation on the primary target muscle, the deltoids. If you lean backwards whilst performing the press, it begins to emphasise less of the deltoids and more of the upper pecs.

Top tip: a vertically inclining weight bench is an affordable way to help you keep a straight back during the dumbbell shoulder press.

I use the Flybird adjustable bench (link for cheapest price).

Whilst it doesn’t have the same quality as a commercial gym bench, it does provide good value, is versatile, and is comfortable for shoulder pressing at home.

You can also use it to bench press at home. The best thing about this bench is that it can be folded, making it perfect for small home gyms!

4) Naive primary drivers prevent you from shoulder pressing heavy loads.

If you’re a beginner, your primary drivers (deltoids and triceps) may just simply need more training.

It can take absolute beginners a few weeks before any strength gains are noticeable.

Don’t forget that the shoulder press is a compound exercise, meaning it recruits multiple muscles simultaneously.

Here are the muscles activated by the dumbbell shoulder press:

  • Posterior/medial/anterior deltoids (primary driver).
  • Triceps (primary driver)
  • Biceps (stabiliser).
  • Trapezius (stabiliser).
  • Rhomboids (stabiliser).
  • Upper pectorals (stabiliser).
  • Abdominals (stabiliser).

If any of these muscles are weak, they can impact your shoulder press progression.

5) Shoulder press strength plateaus can occur at all training levels.

A strength plateau describes when you get stuck at a certain weight and can’t seem to progress despite your best efforts.

It’s a common occurrence in beginners, intermediates, and advanced lifters alike.

The main causes of strength plateaus are:

  • Not lifting heavy enough. The more weight you lift, the stronger you get.
  • Training in the same rep range for too long. Lifting the same number of reps for 3+ months can cause your muscles to stop adapting and stop growing.
  • Changing your exercises too quickly. If you switch your exercises too quickly, you don’t give your muscles enough time to adapt and grow. If you want your shoulder press to get significantyl stronger, stick with it for at least a month (preferably 3+ months).
  • Poor nutrition. A calorie/protein deficiency means your body doesn’t have the energy to fuel the muscle growth process.

As a result of the above points, your dumbbell shoulder press progression may stagnate.

Ways To Make Your Shoulder Press Stronger

Jay Cutler's Training Tips: Dumbbell Shoulder Press Technique
Bodybuilder Jay Cutler shares his top dumbbell shoulder press form and technique tips!

Here are some ways you can make your dumbbell shoulder press stronger:

1) Eat a proper bulking diet with enough protein and calories.

A good nutrition plan will fuel the growth of your deltoids, triceps, and stabilizer muscles.

Aim to eat at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight and a 5-15% caloric surplus every day.

When you combine this with regular progressive overload, you have the perfect recipe for shoulder strength gains!

Top tip: Protein powders are an affordable way to reach your protein/calorie targets if you struggle to eat enough food. Skinny guys under 12% body fat can use the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass (link for reviews) to bulk up fast.

For everyone else, the MyProtein Impact Whey is great for building lean muscle with minimal fat.

The MyVegan Pea Protein is a good alternative for vegans.

The MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate is also a helpful natural compound that’ll facilitate your muscles to generate maximum power during the dumbbell shoulder press.

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or…

1KFWV-OQ2T-XHBM (29% off MyProtein UK)

(valid at time of writing)

2) Progressive overload every 1-2 weeks.

Aim to increase each dumbbell by 2.5-5-lbs whenever you can do the shoulder press with good form at your current poundage.

This will force your muscles to keep adapting and growing.

It will also minimize the chances of your strength plateauing.

A beginner should aim to increase dumbbell weight at least once every 1-2 weeks.

Top tip: If you’re training to get big at home, then a pair of heavy and durable adjustable dumbbells are well worth the investment. Ideally, they should go up to 90-lbs with 2.5-5-lb increments.

This allows you to progressive overload effectively.

I use the Powerblock Elites (find the cheapest price here) with the stage 2 (70lb) and stage 3 (90lb) add-on kits. They are the most affordable and reputable dumbbells that fit these criteria (based on personal research and experience).

If you’re on a tight budget, then the Yes4All spinlock dumbbells are a more affordable alternative.

They’re as heavy as the Powerblocks, but their weight increments are quite large making them troublesome for consistent progressive overload (especially on isolation exercises like the lateral raise).

3) Press slow for maximal muscle recruitment.

Apply time under tension (TUT) principles to your dumbbell shoulder press.

Count for 4 seconds on the downward phase, another 4 seconds on the upward phase, and a pause in between.

This may mean you have to reduce the weight by 10-20%.

But it allows you to slow down your lifting tempo and really feel your shoulder muscles contract and get pumped.

As a result, you’ll also give your muscles an entirely new stimulus to adapt to.

I like to dedicate 1 entire week per month to TUT training.

4) Change your rep range every month.

Try working in the strength rep range (2-6 reps per set) for one month, and then switch to a hypertrophy rep range (7-10 reps per set) next month.

This is called periodization.

When you combine periodization with progressive overload, your shoulder pressing strength will increase much quicker.

If you like, you can check out my other post for a full dumbbell bodybuilding workout program.

5) Don’t hold the dumbbells too wide in the shoulder press.

Remember when I said form is paramount to making shoulder press gains?

Well, another important way to maintain good form is by not flaring the elbows.

When your elbows go too wide, there’s a tendency for the dumbbells to also sit wide.

“A grip that is too wide can reduce your power output from the set as you’re essentially taking the prime movers and putting them into disadvantageous positions.”

Jake Boly, C.S.C.S

Instead, keep your elbows tucked towards your torso.

When done correctly, the dumbbells should sit directly above your elbows as they travel up and down in the shoulder press.

If you’re in the market for a new pair of dumbbells, check out my other article to find out what dumbbell weight you should buy!

How I Calculated These Standards

Here’s how I got the numbers for this study.

Average dumbbell shoulder press standards.

Dumbbell shoulder press strength standards.

Dumbbell shoulder press 1RMs were taken from the Strength Level database.

These were then multiplied by different fractions to get the 6-10RM weights, as follows:

  • x0.84 for 6RM.
  • x0.82 for 7RM.
  • x0.80 for 8RM.
  • x0.78 for 9RM.
  • x0.73 for 10RM.

% of people who can dumbbell shoulder press a fraction of their body weight

Is shoulder pressing your bodyweight good?

The Strength Level database also allows for different dumbbell shoulder press weights to be sampled against their total population.

I sampled a variety of dumbbell shoulder press weights for a 200-lb male beginner aged 24-39

Recommended Products Recap

Conclusion

Different factors including your training level, bodyweight, and rep number will determine what’s a good dumbbell shoulder press weight for your personal circumstances.

I’ve shared with you the average based on these 3 metrics.

They were calculated from the Strength Level database of dumbbell shoulder presses.

If you’re pressing above average for your training level and bodyweight, then you’re doing good!

But if you’re performing sub-par, then you can try my tips to improve your numbers.

How much weight do you currently shoulder press with dumbbells?

Let me know in the comments!

Or check out my other posts to find out how much you should be dumbbell bench pressing, rowing, and bicep curling.

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,

Kal

(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)

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