Barbell Shoulder Press: How To & Benefits

Written by Daniel Mesa

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barbell shoulder press

Discover the realm of shoulder strength with the help of our in-depth Barbell Shoulder Press guide. This dynamic exercise, often referred to as the Overhead Press or Military Press is a staple of any strength training program. It targets the deltoid muscles, helping you develop strong, chiseled shoulders.

As you progress, you’ll learn the ins and outs of this time-tested workout staple, propelling you into a new level of upper-body strength and confidence. Get ready to reach your goals and strengthen your shoulders.

How To Do The Barbell Shoulder Press

Follow these step-by-step instructions to perform the Barbell Shoulder Press with proper form:

Setup

Start by positioning a barbell at chest height on a squat rack. Ensure the barbell is securely placed and balanced on the rack’s safety pins. Adjust the height of the rack so that the barbell is at chest level when you’re standing upright.

Positioning

Stand facing the barbell with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Position yourself directly under the barbell so it’s centered over your head.

Grip

Reach up and grip the barbell with your palms facing forward (pronated grip). Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your hands should be positioned symmetrically on the barbell.

Unracking

Lift the barbell off the rack by straightening your arms. Step back slightly to clear the rack, ensuring that your feet are still about shoulder-width apart. The barbell should be resting on your upper chest and shoulders, just above your collarbones.

Posture

Stand tall with your chest up and your core engaged. Keep your head in a neutral position, looking straight ahead or slightly upward.

Pressing

Take a deep breath and brace your core. Begin pressing the barbell upward by extending your arms. Push the barbell in a vertical line while maintaining control and stability. As you press, your head may move slightly forward to create a path for the barbell.

Lockout

Fully extend your arms without locking out your elbows at the top of the movement. Your biceps should be close to your ears, and the barbell should be directly over your head.

Descent

Begin lowering the barbell back to the starting position by bending your elbows. Keep the barbell under control as it descends, maintaining proper alignment and stability.

Reracking

Once the barbell reaches your upper chest and shoulders, carefully guide it back onto the rack’s safety pins. Make sure the barbell is securely placed before releasing your grip.

Our Tips For The Barbell Overhead Press

Tip 1: Maintain Core Engagement

A strong core is your foundation for stability. Prioritize engaging your core muscles throughout the movement to create a solid base and prevent your back from swaying or arching. This not only enhances your balance but also protects your spine from unnecessary strain.

Tip 2: Grip and Elbow Position

Your grip and where you put your elbows have a big effect on how the lift works. Try different grip sizes to find what works best for you. Also, put your arms slightly in front of the barbell to keep your body in the right place. This pose uses your shoulder muscles the most and puts the least amount of stress on your wrists and elbows.

Tip 3: Controlled Movement

Focus on controlling how you lift the barbell instead of counting on momentum. Moving quickly and jerkily hurts your form and makes you more likely to get hurt. Start the lift by pulling through your legs and pushing the barbell up smoothly and controlled. This method makes sure that your shoulder muscles do the work, which helps you engage your muscles and make the move safely.

Common Standing Barbell Press Mistakes To Avoid

Mistake 1: Arching Your Back

One of the most crucial mistakes to avoid during the Standing Barbell Press is arching your back excessively. Leaning too far back while lifting the barbell can place undue stress on your lower back, potentially leading to discomfort and injury. To prevent this, maintain a stable and neutral spine throughout the movement. Engage your core muscles to support your spine and avoid overarching, ensuring a safer and more effective lift.

Mistake 2: Locking Your Knees

You should also avoid locking your knees at the top of the lift. Locking your knees puts stress on the joint and gets in the way of good balance. This makes the exercise less effective and makes you more likely to get hurt. Instead, keep your knees slightly bent throughout the action. This small bending helps to absorb shock and spread force more evenly, making the lift more controlled and balanced.

Mistake 3: Pushing Head Forward

Straining your neck by pushing your head forward is a common pitfall during the Standing Barbell Press. Tilting your head excessively forward as you lift the barbell can lead to neck discomfort and compromise your form. To avoid this, focus on keeping your head in a neutral position aligned with your spine. 

Your gaze should be directed forward or slightly upward, allowing for a natural and comfortable neck alignment throughout the exercise. This practice not only prevents strain but also promotes better overall lifting mechanics.

Muscles Worked By BB Shoulder Press

bb shoulderpress

The Barbell Shoulder Press is a full-body upper-body workout that works many different muscle groups to make the body stronger and more stable as a whole. Here is a full list of the most important muscles:

Deltoids (Shoulders)

The primary focus of the Barbell Shoulder Press, the deltoid muscles comprise three distinct heads: anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear). These muscles work synergistically to lift and control the weight overhead. A well-developed deltoid complex contributes to a balanced shoulder appearance and enhances upper-body functionality.

Trapezius

The upper and middle trapezius muscles play a crucial role in stabilizing and controlling the movement of the shoulders. As you press the barbell overhead, the trapezius muscles assist in lifting and supporting the weight, particularly during the initial phase of the exercise.

Triceps Brachii

The triceps muscles are heavily engaged during the Barbell Shoulder Press to extend the elbows and drive the weight upward. Strong triceps contribute to effective lockout at the top of the movement and overall pressing power.

Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder joint during the press, including the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. They assist in maintaining proper shoulder alignment and preventing injury.

Upper Chest (Clavicular Pectoralis)

While not the primary target, the upper chest muscles assist in the upward phase of the press, aiding the shoulders in raising the weight overhead.

Standing Military Press Benefits

barbell overhead press

The Standing Barbell Shoulder Press, also known as the Overhead Press or Military Press, is a fundamental exercise that provides numerous advantages in terms of muscle development and general functional fitness. Here’s a closer look at the benefits it provides:

Benefit 1: Full Shoulder Development

The Standing Military Press targets all three heads of the deltoids – the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) – resulting in comprehensive shoulder development. This leads to well-rounded and aesthetically pleasing shoulders that enhance your overall upper body symmetry

Benefit 2: Upper Body Strength

The Standing Barbell Shoulder Press contributes significantly to overall upper body strength and power by engaging multiple upper body muscles in a compound movement. Strengthening the deltoids, triceps, and upper chest muscles translates to improved performance in various pushing and lifting activities.

Benefit 3: Functional Strength

Shoulders need to be strong in order to do everyday things like lifting things, carrying food, and pushing doors. Adding the Standing Military Press to your workout routine will allow you to do your daily jobs more easily and quickly.

Benefit 4:Improved Posture

The exercise also plays a pivotal role in promoting better posture. Strengthening the muscles around the shoulders, upper back, and core helps counteract the effects of modern sedentary lifestyles that often lead to rounded shoulders and forward head posture.

Benefit 5: Metabolic Boost

The Standing Barbell Shoulder Press is a compound movement that engages multiple large muscle groups. As a result, it requires a considerable amount of energy to perform, leading to enhanced calorie expenditure and metabolic stimulation. Including this exercise in your workout routine can contribute to a more efficient fat-burning process.

Alternatives To The Standing Barbell Press

While the Standing Barbell Press is an excellent workout, there are various options that offer distinct advantages and variants to spice up your shoulder training. Let’s look at several alternatives:

Exercise Option 1: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press allows for a greater range of motion and individual limb control compared to the barbell version. It engages the same primary muscles – deltoids, triceps, and upper chest – while also challenging stabilizing muscles. The unilateral nature of this exercise helps address muscle imbalances and enhances functional strength for everyday activities.

Exercise Option 2: Arnold Press

Named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold Press adds rotation to the movement, engaging additional shoulder muscles and creating a complete shoulder workout. It targets all three deltoid heads, emphasizing the anterior deltoid. The twisting motion contributes to better shoulder mobility and flexibility.

Exercise Option 3: Push Press

The Push Press is a dynamic compound movement that involves a leg drive to assist in lifting the weight overhead. It’s an excellent choice for developing explosive upper-body power and overall athleticism. By engaging the legs, this exercise allows you to lift heavier weights than a strict press, leading to greater muscle recruitment and muscle growth.

Bottom Line On The BB Shoulder Press

One of the best exercises for building strength and muscle in the upper body is the barbell shoulder press. The deltoids, triceps, and upper chest are worked, laying the groundwork for strong shoulders and improved fitness. However, a well-rounded shoulder workout regimen can be achieved by the addition of movements such as the Dumbbell Shoulder Press, Arnold Press, and Push Press.

FAQs

Can beginners perform the Barbell Shoulder Press?

Beginners can do the Barbell Shoulder Press, but they should use smaller weights and focus on form to avoid injury. A fitness specialist can help beginners with strength training.

Is the Standing Barbell Press suitable for individuals with shoulder issues?

Before doing the Standing Barbell Press, people with shoulder problems should visit a doctor. Safety and avoiding pre-existing problems are important.

Can I use a Smith machine for the Barbell Shoulder Press?

The Shoulder Press can be done on a Smith machine, but utilizing free weights like barbells or dumbbells allows for a more natural range of motion and utilizes stabilizing muscles. Make sure your Smith machine form is right to avoid strain.

How often should I include the Barbell Shoulder Press in my routine?

The frequency of including the Barbell Shoulder Press in your routine depends on your overall training program and goals. Aim for balanced shoulder training by incorporating it along with other shoulder exercises, but avoid overtraining by giving your muscles adequate time to recover.

References

  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. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2020-0033
  1. Zaras, N., et. al. (2022). Effect of Inter-Repetition Rest Vs. Traditional Resistance Training on The Upper Body Strength Rate of Force Development and Triceps Brachii Muscle Architecture. Journal of human kinetics, 81, 189–198. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2022-0016
  1. Soriano, M. A., Suchomel, T. J., & Comfort, P. (2019). Weightlifting Overhead Pressing Derivatives: A Review of the Literature. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 49(6), 867–885. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01096-8

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