T Nation

DB Overhead Press Form: Full Extention or Partials?


I’ve been working hard at my alternating DB overhead pressing since dislocating my shoulder for the 2nd time last year, but I took a good hard look at my form in the mirror yesterday and realised that they’ve basically become partials… I’m only about 2/3 of the way to getting up to full overhead extension of the arm.

My question - realistically would it be preferable to drop the weight down to a point where I could extend fully overhead during each rep (i.e. to near lock-out), or should I continue with a higher weight doing these 65-70% partials?

For reference I’m using 36 kg DBs at present and estimate I’d need to drop down to 30/32 kgs for full extension reps.


Range of motion in my opinion depends greatly on the load your pressing. For example with 45-60lb DB I would alow my elbow to go below parallel on the bottom end allowing a nice stretch. And damn near touching DBs at the top end of the lockout. Now with 95-120lb DBs I don’t alow my elbows to go below parallel nor do I touch Dumbbells at the top end. Not quite a partial, just as much “safe” range of motion my body will alow for the load being pressed.

So to answer your question. Yes absolutely after rehabilitation from a shoulder injury I would start light. Get your form nice and dialed in before increasing weight.

Crawl walk run my friend


Thanks for the reply!

I should clarify - my last shoulder injury was a year ago, and I’m now 100% rehabbed and stronger than I was before…


I would still work mobility and prehab to be safe. But yea range of motion wise try and touch Dumbbells at the full extension unless using over 70lbs


Big question would be for which goal are you working toward? If it’s shoulder development and that goal is being achieved to your satisfaction with what you’re currently doing, why change? If you’re training for something in which full extension is required, or if simply performing the exercise with the full ROM is your goal, then may not be a bad idea to drop the weight or do additional extension work


Depends on what you use the DB overhead press for. If it’s an assistance movement for strengthening your bench, I would do full reps. If it’s for muscle growth and pump, I find that I get a lot better muscle stimulus by not locking out fully at the top and not relaxing at the bottom. I used to mix both as well by starting with full reps and finishing the set with partials.

But in the end, if it works for you now, don’t change it.


Using a shortened range of motion should be a technique used deliberately and for a specific purpose, not the accidental result of going too heavy. Like TX and Furius said, your goal will play an obvious role in what/how you should lift, but the big thing is to be aware of when/if/why/how you’d use an abbreviated ROM.

If you have a chronic shoulder issue that keeps recurring, even though you said it was a year ago and you’re “fully rehabbed”, I’d suggest working the shoulder with a full ROM on presses. Especially alternating DB presses like you’re doing, which are a great unilateral exercise that bring in all sorts of shoulder stabilizers, you get more overall benefit to training the shoulder joint through its complete ROM.

If you want to use a shorter ROM (intentionally and for a specific purpose), use it with laterals (lots of guys are fans of John Meadows’ advice on those) or with barbell/“regular” 2-DB/machine presses, not 1-arm presses.