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Daniel Mesa

Seated Barbell Shoulder Press: How To & Benefits

seated barbell shoulder press

The sitting barbell shoulder press is a staple in the exercise routine of every fitness fanatic who wants to have a strong and chiseled upper body. This is an excellent upper-body exercise since it strengthens the shoulders and recruits a wide range of supporting muscles. In this detailed guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the seated barbell shoulder press from every angle, including the best way to perform it, helpful tips, common mistakes to avoid, muscle groups targeted, benefits, alternatives, and more.

How To Do Seated Barbell Shoulder Press

To get the most out of your workouts and avoid injury, you need to master the seated barbell shoulder press. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:


Sit on a sturdy, ideally adjustable bench with a backrest to start. Your feet should be firmly on the ground and slightly farther apart than shoulder-width. Place the barbell on a rack so that it is at chest level and keep your grip a little wider than shoulder width.

Grip and Lift

Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, ensuring your wrists align with your elbows. Unrack the dumbbell and lower it so it rests on your clavicles at shoulder level.


Take a deep breath in, tighten your core, and squeeze your hips. Press the barbell up while breathing in a controlled manner. Make sure the barbell goes in a straight line and that your back isn’t arched or your elbows aren’t too far apart.

Full Extension

Stretch your arms out as far as you can without locking out your elbows. Keep the deltoids tight. Stop for a short time at the top of the move to get the most muscle tension.


Slowly and under control, lower the load back to the starting position at shoulder level.


Do the number of reps you want to do while keeping good form.

Our Tips For Seated Barbell Shoulder Press

It takes concentration and effort to do a successful seated barbell shoulder press. Follow these pro-recommended guidelines for a more productive and safe workout:

Tip 1: Maintain Proper Posture

To do the seated barbell shoulder press well, sit firmly on the bench with your back against the support. This will give you a strong base. Keep your back straight, your chest up, and your shoulders back. Be careful not to round your lower back too much because that could make you unstable. This position makes a strong base for safe and effective pressing, lowering the risk of strain or injury.

Tip 2: Gradual Weight Progression

When you first start doing sitting barbell shoulder presses, start with a weight that lets you keep your form perfect the whole time. Focusing on the right method from the start sets you up for success in the long run. As your strength and skill improve, add weight to the hammer slowly. This gradual increase makes it less likely that you’ll lose your form to lift bigger weights, so you can keep getting stronger without risking your safety.

Tip 3: Controlled Movement

When doing the seated barbell shoulder press, controlled action is more important than momentum. Avoid using too much leg power or jerking moves to lift the barbell. Instead, do each repeat at a deliberate and controlled pace. This deliberate pace helps engage and recruit more muscles, making the exercise more efficient. By focusing on controlled action, you’ll get the most out of your muscles and reduce the risk of getting hurt.

Common Seated Barbell Shoulder Press Mistakes To Avoid

Common errors in the seated barbell shoulder press are easy to make for even the most experienced lifters. Avoiding these blunders is essential for staying healthy and getting the most out of your workout:

Mistake 1: Arching the Back

Too much lower back extension is a typical sitting barbell shoulder press error. This can harm your back. Bending your back too much stresses your lumbar spine, which increases the risk of lower back pain. An elevated position distracts from your shoulder muscles, making the workout less effective. Keep your spine neutral throughout the action to avoid this mistake. Use your core to stabilize your body and prevent lower back arching. This ensures a safe and effective press.

Mistake 2: Flaring Elbows

Your shoulder joints can suffer from excessive elbow flare during the sitting barbell shoulder press. This mistake stresses the shoulder capsule, causing pain, inflammation, or damage. For shoulder health, keep your elbows slightly forward throughout the activity. This little elbow tuck improves deltoid muscle engagement and joint safety. Good elbow alignment ensures a more effective and injury-free pressing motion.

Mistake 3: Neglecting Breathing Technique

Sitting barbell shoulder presses without good breathing can decrease stability and strength. Insufficient breathing affects intra-abdominal pressure, which is essential for core stability during large lifts. Practice attentive breathing to fix this. Breathe deeply and engage your center before pressing. Exhale steadily while pushing the barbell overhead. This coordinated breathing strategy improves stability and exertion, improving workout performance.

What Muscles Do Seated Barbell Shoulder Press Work? 

Deltoid muscles (primarily targeted)

One of the most effective compound exercises is the sitting barbell shoulder press, which primarily targets the deltoid muscles. The strength of the shoulder muscles is crucial in the press since they are responsible for elevating and stabilizing the arms. The frontal deltoid of the shoulder helps move the arms forward, while the side deltoid does the same for the arms when they are raised laterally. The back muscle, called the posterior deltoid, helps with slow, steady weight reduction.


The triceps are just as important to this movement as the deltoids. The triceps contract with the deltoids to straighten the elbows as the arms are raised overhead. Because of this double involvement, the pressing motion is not dependent on the shoulders alone, leading to a more stable and efficient motion.

Upper chest muscles

In addition to the shoulders, the pectoral major and other upper chest muscles are used in the seated barbell shoulder press. These muscles help initiate the lift by providing additional force that the deltoids and triceps can then use to raise the barbell. The press benefits from their participation because it strengthens its foundation.

Upper back muscles

Last but not least, the trapezius and rhomboids in your upper back are crucial in keeping your posture in check as you work out. They keep the upper back and shoulders from rounding out too much, making for a more secure and manageable stride. The seated barbell shoulder press becomes a full-body upper-body exercise that develops all-around strength and stability by involving these stabilizing muscles and deltoids.

Seated Barbell Shoulder Press Benefits

Adding the seated barbell shoulder press to your workout routine has many benefits that go beyond growing big, strong shoulders:

Benefit 1: Well-rounded Shoulder Development

The sitting barbell shoulder press is an effective tool for developing a well-rounded shoulder. This workout focuses on the deltoid muscle with three unique heads (anterior, lateral, and posterior). Each deltoid head is dynamically engaged when the barbell is pressed overhead. The anterior head, located in front of the shoulder, is important in elevating the arm to the front. The lateral head, which covers the outer section, is activated during arm abduction to the side. 

Finally, when moving the arm backwards, the posterior head in the back comes into play. The sitting barbell shoulder press generates a harmonious and balanced shoulder aesthetic while also promoting functional strength throughout a varied spectrum of upper body exercises by effectively activating all three heads of the deltoid.

Benefit 2: Upper Body Strength

The seated barbell shoulder press is a formidable ally in improving upper body strength as well as sculpting an amazing set of shoulders. This exercise works several muscle groups, including the deltoids, triceps, upper chest, and upper back. 

As these muscle groups work together to lift the weight above, the net result is an increase in upper body strength beyond the shoulders. This improved strength comes in handy for various pressing and pulling motions, including bench presses, pull-ups, push-ups, and rows. By incorporating the seated barbell shoulder press into your routine, you’re laying the groundwork for a strong foundation of strength that can improve your upper body.

Benefit 3: Core Stabilization

While the primary focus of the seated barbell shoulder press is undoubtedly the shoulders, it demands an unexpected contributor: your core muscles. Seated on the bench, you’re compelled to engage your core muscles to maintain stability throughout the movement. This involuntary core activation is a hidden bonus, enhancing your core strength and stability over time. 

A sturdy core not only supports the execution of this exercise but also contributes to improved performance in various other workouts. The core’s role in maintaining balance and stability during the seated barbell shoulder press provides an excellent opportunity to develop functional core strength that translates into better posture, reduced risk of injury, and heightened overall athleticism.

Alternatives To Seated Barbell Shoulder Press

Exercise Option 1: Standing Barbell Shoulder Press

The standing barbell shoulder press is a great way to challenge your core and improve your balance as you work on your shoulder strength. When you press while standing, you engage more core muscles because your body has to stabilize itself. This move works for the same muscular groups as the seated version, including the deltoids, triceps, and upper chest. 

The standing variant is a more complete complex exercise since it uses more stabilizer muscles in the legs and lower back. Because it involves the use of numerous muscular groups, it is very useful for developing functional strength and athleticism.

Exercise Option 2: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press is a flexible option to the barbell shoulder press that has its own benefits. Because each arm moves separately, dumbbells give you a wider range of motion. This range of motion gives the shoulder muscles more room to move and lets them work better. 

Also, using dumbbells is a good way to fix muscle imbalances between the left and right parts of the body. By making each arm work on its own, the dumbbell shoulder press makes sure that one side doesn’t make up for the other. This helps muscles grow evenly on both sides. This exercise also works by stabilizing muscles harder, which helps make the joints more stable.

Exercise Option 3: Arnold Press

The Arnold Press, named for the great bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a novel spin on the standard shoulder press. In this exercise, you’ll rotate your wrists while pressing the dumbbells overhead. This circular motion provides a new depth to your shoulder exercise by working out different deltoids. 

The front deltoids are worked largely during the pressing motion, whereas the lateral deltoids are engaged during the rotation. Combining these two activities promotes more complete growth of the shoulder muscles. In addition to improving your shoulder strength and appearance, the Arnold Press is a great exercise to add because it tests your coordination and control.

Bottom Line On The Seated Barbell Shoulder Press

The seated barbell shoulder press is a key exercise for building strong shoulders with good definition. It also helps build strength and flexibility in the upper body. With the right form, gradual growth, and attention to detail, this exercise can be a game-changer in your fitness journey.


Can I use a Smith machine for seated barbell shoulder presses?

Yes, you can use a Smith machine for this exercise, but keep in mind that it restricts the natural range of motion. Free weights, like a traditional barbell, offer a more natural movement pattern.

How often should I incorporate seated barbell shoulder presses into my routine?

Depending on your fitness goals and program structure, aim for 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, 1-2 times per week.

Is the seated barbell shoulder press suitable for beginners?

Yes, beginners can perform this exercise, but it’s essential to start with light weights and focus on mastering the form before progressing to heavier loads.

Can I perform standing barbell shoulder presses if I have lower back issues?

Standing barbell shoulder presses can put a strain on the lower back, especially if not executed with proper form. Individuals with lower back issues should exercise caution and consider using lower weights.

How do I prevent wrist discomfort during dumbbell shoulder presses?

Wrist discomfort can arise during dumbbell shoulder presses due to improper wrist alignment. To prevent this, ensure that your wrists are in line with your forearms throughout the movement. You can also try using wrist wraps for added support.


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