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October 08, 2022 7 min read

The dumbbell devil press is a full-body exercise that lives up to its name. Anytime you see the devil’s press programmed into your routine you’ll know it’s going to be a tough day at the gym.

Aptly named, the devil press is a hellish, fluid, full-body movement combining a dumbbell burpee, hip hinge, and dumbbell snatch.

The devil press is an explosive compound exercise that induces dynamic and intense muscular training in quick succession. It is typically performed with low to moderate weight and in higher repetitions to take full advantage of its multiple benefits.

How to do devil presses

Those who are familiar with CrossFit workouts would also be familiar with this hellish routine. The devil’s press comprises multiple phases, best described separately and in detail. We’ll add some tips to help you master this range of motion in no time.


1. Burpee Phase

Starting position: Set a pair of dumbbells of equal weight lengthwise, shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of your feet.

Devil press – Image by Andres Ayrton


  1. Reach down and grab the dumbbells and drop down into a burpee position by kicking your feet back.
  2. Lower yourself as you would for a push-up, except your chest and thighs must make contact with the floor.
  3. Hold your spine at a good angle, with good tension in your core, and hold your chest up high.

    Tips for beginners:

    • Use hex dumbbells that won’t slide around.
    • Use chalk to mark the position of the dumbbells on the floor to ensure you place them in the same position, and the same width apart to accommodate your chest on every rep.
    • Place your feet about 6 inches behind the dumbbells, and slightly wider than shoulder-width to ease the snatch phase.

    2. Hip Hinge Phase

    • From the push-up position, press up with your shoulders and use your hips to drive your legs back under your body to hop onto your feet.
    • You can either keep your legs straight or bend your knees slightly and push your pelvis back into a sumo deadlift position.
    • Your feet should land wider than a traditional burpee so that they are positioned outside the dumbbells.
    • Make sure your hands hold the dumbbells at all times, even when you’re in the crouching position.

    3. Driving Phase

    • If you chose to use the sumo deadlift position with bent knees, drive your hips forward to get your torso upright and your knees straight.
    • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the drive.
    • Use your lats to keep your arms aligned with your torso and your hands holding the dumbbells.

    4. Snatch Phase

    Devil Press – Overhead Dumbbell – Image by Andres Ayrton

    The momentum from getting to your feet and up in a standing position will have the dumbbells at hip height.

    Different devil press variations give you options for doing the double dumbbell snatch. You could even use only one dumbbell to do single-arm devil press

      1. Continue the swinging motion of the momentum and swing the dumbbells past your shoulders and overhead.
      2. You can break this down into two movements if you find the snatch difficult. Instead of one fluid motion, bring the dumbbells to your shoulders before pushing them overhead.
      3. Use the momentum and your hip muscles to swing the dumbbells between your legs like you do kettlebell swings and then with straight arms up and overhead.


      • This is where the 6-inches space between your feet and the dumbbells on the floor comes in. Those few inches make the swinging motion much easier as you build momentum for swinging the dumbbells overhead.
      • Use the tension and leverage to get the dumbbells overhead easier. The deadlift generates the defined success through the legs rather than the shoulders. When the hips are returned to their most absolute position, thrust them forward. 
      • The momentum generated by this move will propel the dumbbells from between your legs too far above your waist. Instead of just flailing your hands, you must be amazed at how much power you save by doing this.
      • Keep your arms straight in the upswing, and close together, the closer you hold them to your torso, the more control you will have throughout the range of motion.

      5. Lowering Phase

      The last phase of the first rep is to bring the dumbbells down in a controlled movement to get you back to the starting position.

      • To drop the weights, bend your elbows and bring the dumbbells to your shoulders or to your hips.
      • From there, drop them to the starting position on the floor. (It helps if you have marked their positions with chalk)
      • That completes one rep, but don’t lose the momentum, kick your feet back as you place the dumbbells to get your second rep going in one fluid motion.


      • Keep your back straight when you bring the dumbbells down in the same way as when doing a standard sumo squat.
      • This is the time to change the dumbbell weight if you found them too heavy during the first rep.

      Throughout the different phases of the devil press, avoid rounding your lower back, keep your core braced, and your shoulders down and back.

      This will improve your performance and make the exercise safer.

      Devil Presses are often included in AMRAP routines, meaning you should do as many reps as possible.

      Injury risks

      The high speed and the weighted resistance equipment involved in the Devil’s Press increase the risks of injuries to a level somewhat higher than that of more controlled and slow resistance exercises.

      These are the primary risks:

      • The excessive shear force placed on your body during the range of motion can cause muscle or joint injuries.
      • Should you lose grip of the dumbbell, it could fall onto a part of your body. This risk is higher in the event that they are using excessive weight.
      • To reduce risk,  never skip a proper warm-up routine  and stick to moderate weights that fit your strength and body weight when selecting dumbbells for the devil’s press.

      Muscles worked by Devil Presses

      As mentioned, devil’s presses are a compound full-body exercise. Below are the primary muscles activated and worked when you do the aptly named devil presses.


      Quadriceps – Image from Shutterstock

      The quadriceps is a group of four muscles, the vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and the rectus femoris.

      These muscles are located on the front of your thighs, and together, they work to extend your knee joint.


      Hamstrings - Image from Shutterstock

      The three muscles that comprise the hamstrings are the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris.

      These muscles are located on the back of the thighs, and their functions include flexing your knees and extending your hips.

      Located on the back of your thighs, the hamstrings flex your knees and extend your hips.

      Gluteus maximus

       Glutes – Image from Shutterstock

      These are the largest muscles in the body, aka the glutes, and they basically make up your butt.

      The primary function of the gluteus maximus is hip extension.


      Core – Image from Shutterstock 

      As a group, the muscles of your midsection make up the core. They include the erector spinae, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and obliques.

      These muscles prevent unwanted movement by stabilizing your spine.

      The core is active during every movement you make while doing devil presses.

      Pectorals major

       Pectoral Major - Image from Shutterstock

      The pecs for short, are your chest muscles that play a significant role in the push-up motions in the devil press, and you’ll know that push-ups are excellent chest exercises.

      The Pectorals major muscles are responsible for flexion, horizontal flexion, and medial rotation of your shoulder joints.


       Deltoids – Image from Shutterstock

      The deltoids include three groups of fibers called heads that work your shoulders. They are rear, middle, and front, or posterior, medial, and anterior deltoids.

      It is clear the shoulders and the muscles that support them are well-used in the devil’s press.


       Triceps – Image from Shutterstock

      The triceps work very hard when you do devil presses. They are responsible for elbow extension and are located on the back of your upper arms.

      What are the Benefits of Devil Presses?

       Dumbbells – Image by Shutterstock


      Performing devil presses offers a variety of benefits and positive effects—  if it is done with proper form and at an appropriate level of intensity.

      Balance and Coordination

      The benefits of exercise include a whole lot more than weight loss and strength gain.

      Exercise can improve physical attributes and practical skills, such as balance and coordination, which can significantly affect your well-being and overall quality of movement.

      For example, your center of gravity changes when you hold the dumbbells overhead, requiring exceptional muscle coordination and balance.

      Similarly, the snatching of the dumbbell in performing the devil press requires perfect muscle coordination to swing the dumbbells to the overhead position.

      Muscular Endurance

      Many mini movements make up the compound range of motion of the devil’s press.

      Repeating the push-up,  burpee, and snatch movements already tax many different muscles, and adding the dumbbells makes the muscles work even harder, taking it to the next level.

      Muscular endurance is not only important for weightlifting and bodybuilding, but it is also an incredibly useful attribute for maintaining general health and well-being.

      Explosive Power

      The range of motion of the devil press is one power movement after another.

      You need to power yourself from the push-up position onto your feet, and also snatch those dumbbells overhead. At the quick succession of the devil press movements, you’ve barely dropped the dumbbells when the next power move is upon you.

      Once you’ve mastered the devil’s press, you’ll develop explosive power that will benefit not only your sports activities but also your everyday life. Lifting that heavy box onto and off the shelf will become a breeze.

      Cardiovascular Health

      Running is known for its cardiovascular benefits, but if running is not your thing, devil’s presses are an excellent alternative.

      Performing high-intensity, high reps devil presses with lighter dumbbells will no doubt leave you exhausted.

      Devil presses don’t stand back from any other sort of cardiovascular exercise when it comes to overall conditioning and burning calories.

      Full Body Movement

      The devil press is a single exercise that engages almost every muscle in both the upper body and lower body and provides cardio benefits to boot.

      Furthermore, it also helps develop endurance, strength, coordination, balance, and other fitness attributes.

      Not to lose sight of the masses of calories devil presses burn. That is because the best calorie-burning workouts are full-body exercises that activate many muscle groups.

       Healthy Bodies – Image by Shutterstock

      In a Nutshell

      A devil press is one of only a few exercises with a movement pattern that puts the heart rate on a rollercoaster as it activates multiple muscles along the kinetic chain.

      Devil presses are powerful because they involve the exerciser moving a moderate amount of weight over a long distance — over and over again!

      Important advice

      Do not disregard the need to replenish muscle glycogen and electrolytes depleted when you do compound high-energy workouts like devil presses. The ability to adequately  restore muscle glycogen and electrolytes  simply cannot be done with food alone.

      HyperAde quickly replenishes muscle glycogen and electrolytes that are depleted from intense bursts of energy. It is designed to be taken pre-workout, intra-workout, and/or post-workout.

      You can learn more about the science behind how this combination of ingredients increases glucose uptake in your muscles  here.