Single Arm Shoulder Press Exercise Guide: How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

single arm shoulder press exercise guide

The single arm shoulder press corrects arm imbalances and activates your core. 

Having strong shoulders has many benefits in daily tasks involving lifting and carrying. Well-developed shoulders are crucial for maintaining proper posture and vital in upper body training. The shoulder press, a renowned shoulder exercise routine, is highly effective in promoting shoulder muscle growth and enhancing overall strength (1).

The single arm shoulder press is a unilateral variation of the shoulder press. This routine builds stability and strength in your shoulders while also helping to sculpt the muscles while activating your core. The single arm shoulder press variation offers different benefits than the bilateral alternative. 

This exercise guide looks at the single arm shoulder press and how to do this movement. We also highlight it’s benefits and some alternatives that you can try. Read on for all you need to know about the single arm shoulder press and why you should include this exercise in your workouts.

Techniques and Muscles Worked

The single arm shoulder press mainly builds your delts but also activates your traps, supraspinatus, triceps, and wrist flexors. Doing this exercise one arm at a time activates your core muscles, building your abs and obliques. 

There are many ways to do the single arm shoulder press, but for this guide, we’ll be looking at the standing single arm shoulder press. To do this routine, the only requirements are some space and dumbbells. Here’s a step-by-step guide detailing the proper form for this exercise.

  1. Choose a dumbbell weight that you can lift overhead without arching your back and standing with your feet at shoulder-width distance. 
  2. Hold the dumbbell in one arm using an overhand or underhand grip (whichever is more comfortable) and lift it to shoulder level, then brace your core. This is your starting position. 
  3. Extend your elbows and raise the dumbbell above you to lockout, then pause.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbell to return to the starting position and complete the rep. Ensure that you keep your back straight throughout the range of motion.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  6. Switch hands and repeat steps 2-4.


Single arm shoulder presses increase the symmetry in your shoulders and improve their definition. Doing this exercise one arm at a time can help you find and fix any muscle imbalances between arms and shoulders. Below are other benefits that you can get from doing this routine.

Muscle Growth in the Shoulders

Using one arm at a time for the single arm shoulder press helps to improve your focus. This leads to a better mind-muscle connection, leading to more muscle growth and hypertrophy in your shoulders (2)

Core Activation

Doing the single arm shoulder press with one arm at a time increases the difficulty. As a result, you activate your core muscles to stabilize your body throughout the range of motion, increasing the strength of your abs and obliques.

Strength Gains in Both Shoulders

The single arm shoulder press is a unilateral exercise. Research shows that cross-education of strength and skill happens in the other arm when training one arm (3). This leads to more strength gains in both shoulders. 

Less Shoulder Pain 

Using a dumbbell for your shoulder press allows for a more natural rotation of your joints, making it feel better than shoulder press variations using a machine or barbell. This puts less stress on your wrists and elbows when pressing. In addition, you can use a neutral grip to alleviate even more strain. 

Single Arm Shoulder Press Alternatives

Are you planning to add them to your workouts? You should, as it offers many benefits and builds not just your shoulders but your arms and core. Here are some other shoulder movements that you can also try out.

Single Arm Landmine Press

The single arm landmine press is another exercise that targets your delts, traps, triceps, and obliques. Since it’s also unilateral, it helps to find and fix imbalances between both sides. It’s a hybrid of a horizontal and vertical press to engage various angles of the delts. 

Single Arm Kneeling Dumbbell Press

The single arm kneeling dumbbell press is another good shoulder builder. Doing them in the kneeling position helps to make it more challenging, leading to more muscle growth. It activates your core less than the standing variation to place more activation on your deltoid muscles. 

Barbell Shoulder Press

The barbell shoulder press is a compound exercise that can boost your power and strength in your upper body. This exercise builds your delts, traps, pecs, abs, and spinal erectors. It also gets your lats involved for stabilization. The barbell shoulder press is sometimes called the military press and will enhance your V-taper and skyrocket your bench press


Is single arm shoulder press effective?

It’s an effective way to train your shoulder muscles. This exercise also recruits the muscles in your arm and core. To see more benefits of doing the single arm shoulder press, check the guide above.

What muscles do single arm shoulder press work?

The single shoulder press works on your lateral, anterior, and posterior deltoids, triceps, traps, and core muscles. This exercise sculps your shoulders and increases your upper body strength.

What are the benefits of one arm press?

The one arm press is a unilateral exercise that helps you find and fix any muscle imbalances between your arms. This exercise also targets your shoulders and strengthens your core. 

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  1. Campos, Y. A. C., Vianna, J. M., Guimarães, M. P., Oliveira, J. L. D., Hernández-Mosqueira, C., da Silva, S. F., & Marchetti, P. H. (2020). Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals. Journal of human kinetics, 75, 5–14. 
  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Vigotsky, A., Contreras, B., Golden, S., Alto, A., Larson, R., Winkelman, N., & Paoli, A. (2018). Differential effects of attentional focus strategies during long-term resistance training. European journal of sport science, 18(5), 705–712.
  3.  Green, L. A., & Gabriel, D. A. (2018). The cross education of strength and skill following unilateral strength training in the upper and lower limbs. Journal of neurophysiology, 120(2), 468–479.
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.