One Arm DB Z-Press
Single Arm Z-Press, Unilateral Z-Press
Wrist Wraps, Lifting Belt, Chalk
Bench-Seated One Arm DB Z-Press, One Arm Kettlebell Z-Press, Bilateral DB Z-Press
One Arm Dumbbell Z-Press Instructions with Pictures
1. Starting Position
- Sit on the floor with the legs outstretched in front of you, knees extended, and the hamstrings laying flat against the ground.
- Actively brace the abdomen and achieve a slight posterior pelvic tilt in order to keep the lumbar spine in a neutral lordotic posture.
- Use both hands to set the dumbbell in position over the working shoulder.
- Remove the off hand from the dumbbell and use it as a counter balance for the loaded side.
- Establish control and stability of the weight by actively keeping the elbow tucked in the both shoulder blades retracted and depressed.
2. Concentric Movement
- Once the dumbbell is motionless and you have complete control over the weight, press the weight overhead with a slight flare of the elbow.
- Focus on both your abdominal bracing, slight pelvic tilt, and your shoulder blade position (retracted) during the press.
- Forcefully squeeze the dumbbell handle.
- Raise the arm overhead until the elbow is locked.
- Once the elbow has completely extended, ensure the shoulder blades remain retracted in order to keep the shoulder from being pressed out of position.
- Hold the midpoint position until all motion of the dumbbell has ceased
4. Eccentric Movement
- Lower the dumbbell with a slight tuck of the elbow.
- When the weight has returned to the start position, regain any lost core bracing and postural rigidity.
- Do not “bounce”into the next rep. Let the weight settle and deliberately press into the next rep.
Common One Arm Dumbbell Z-Press Errors to Avoid
Lateral Trunk Flexion
If midline stabilization fails and you start tilting your torso one way or the other, either refocus on your core tension or lower the resistance until you find a weight that doesn’t compromise your posture.
Dumbbell “Swaying” at Lockout
During the press, ensure the shoulder blades are forcefully retracted together. This will make the joint more stable by setting the humerus further back/deeper into the shoulder capsule.
Losing Lumbar Rigidity
If constantly and actively tucking the hips and bracing the abdomen is still resulting in the lower back going into flexion, then the issue may be with your lower body. Try slightly bending the knees. This will put some slack into the hamstrings and allow more hip ROM. If this fixes the problem, you might want to invest some time into working on hip/hamstring mobility.
If you’re extending your upper back to the point that you’re pressing the dumbbell out in front of you and leaning back underneath it, focus on slightly tilting the hips forward and pulling the sternum “down towards your belly button.” This will help return the thoracic spine to a neural position and assist in keeping an active brace in the abdomen as well.
One Arm Dumbbell Z-Press Tips
- The concentric movement should be very fast and very explosive. Focus on applying as much force as you possibly can while still maintaining good postural control.
- Slightly keep a posterior pelvic tilt and an actively braced abdomen in order to keep the lumbar spine in a neutral alignment.
- Slightly flare the elbow on the press, slightly tuck the elbow on the eccentric.
- Keep both shoulder blades tightly retracted together and don’t “press out of your shoulder” and lose tension at the completion of the lift.
- Focus on keeping your wrist straight throughout the motion. Don't let it bend back all the way.
- Start with your weaker side first. Then, on your stronger side, only do as many reps as you did on your weak side (even if you're capable of doing more on your strong side).
- Spread your legs further apart on the floor if you need more balance/stability. However, don't spread your legs further apart than needed.
Is the One Arm Dumbbell Z-Press Right for You?
This exercise is exclusively for those lifters with excellent postural control. If losing midline stability and alignment is a problem for you on other lifts, it will be and issue here as well. Once that variable has been properly trained and improved, pretty much every lifter can benefit from the one arm dumbbell Z-press...
...At the same time, this lift may be helpful for fixing this stability/alignment issue if you have it. The only caveat being that you should go light and progress slowly! That, along with actively improving midline stability and alignment on all other lifts where it's an issue, will help you fix it faster.
The shoulder is a common injury site for serious lifters. Unilateral training geared towards improving the synergistic surrounding musculature of a joint (especially an inherently unstable joint like the shoulder) will definitely pay dividends later on in terms of health and training longevity.