For chest & shoulder press, a typical way to get load (or set up initial position) is to kick dumbbells up with feet, with advantage of momentum ( & use of biceps) bring the dumbbells to initial set up. Example reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEwKCR5JCog&t=50s

I can not kick up dumbbell above 45lb but I can press 160 lbs on chest press machines (80 lb x 2), 120lb with barbell. If I have a gym buddy to help me I am able to do 120lb (60 x 2) X 12 reps X 3 dumbbell press with no challenge. Hence I have to compromise on dumbbell press.

1st IMO weak Biceps are one reason for it (I have ignored them for quite long) and 2nd and more important, my legs can't produce enough momentum for heavy dumbbells.

I want to understand what muscle groups are helping in this 'kick' motion and how I can strengthen them?

Other than that if you know any other drills to help with it, please advise. Thanks

  • 1
    This is where all those calf raises pay off ;)
    – Dan
    Mar 10, 2020 at 19:35

2 Answers 2


I recommend learning how to execute a dumbbell power clean (from standing). This will get the weights from the ground to your shoulders. This explanation from CrossFit is excellent. Learning to heft weights around is good for your general athletic development.

If you choose to then sit down, that's on you. Unless you're working in a room with a low ceiling I'd say just do the presses standing.


For incline dumbbell presses, I'll do sort of a 1-2 kick. Flick one dumbbell up and then the other. Throwing up the non-dominant hand side first. With the extra incline, you shouldn't have too much issue with the momentum. When going really heavy I'll have a spotter help me with the dumbbells. I'll kick it up and the spotter will have their hand under my elbow to help.

For a shoulder press with a 90° chair I'll do the same 1-2 kick with a spotter. If I don't have a spotter and the weight is too much, I find it easier to clean the dumbbells off the floor onto my shoulders and then sit down. I can generator more force this way. I also tend to do this on my last few sets.

Like anything, this gets easier with practice. You want to be explosive with the kick. It will engage your legs, core, arms, back, and shoulders so I don't think there's really any one thing to focus on. If you feel like your shoulders are lagging because of this you can do an overhead press with a barbell and load it up at the correct height. You can also do a seated shoulder press with a barbell and load it overhead as well.

  • 2
    I had some cases where I'd be able to press the weight, but I couldn't mount the weight onto my shoulders. I worked under the mantra "if you can't handle the weight, don't handle the weight". There's still a lot to be said for going down a peg in weight, and instead trying to make the lower weight seem heavier by doing perfect form, slower reps, or some other variation to make it harder.
    – Alec
    Mar 11, 2020 at 16:58
  • 1
    @Alec -- absolutely, that's a good mantra; there is a point where this advice is null and the answer is just "get stronger". Chest press machine =/= dumbbell press.
    – C. Lange
    Mar 11, 2020 at 18:17

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