Shoulder Press Technique

shoulder press barbell outsidePreparing for the shoulder press

Good shoulder press technique requires the right positioning and movement of the bar. Without good technique you will not be able to lift as heavy for as long or see as good gains.

To prepare for the shoulder press you can use free weights or you can use a shoulder press machine.

If using free weights, use a barbell and raise it rest just below your chin level, in front of your shoulders (anterior deltoids) supported by your arms with hands grasping the barbell in a pronated grip.

The grip for the shoulder press should be one a half times shoulder width. Overhand grip (pronated), palms facing forward. Push your chest up and out, to help open up the back muscles.

Your elbows should be forward, in front of the barbell, with forearms perpendicular to the floor. Try to look forward, not up. Looking too far upwards can create strain on the neck and impair balance.

Performing the shoulder press

When performing the shoulder press, in order to get the barbell past your head, quickly and smoothly tilt your head slightly backwards to enable the bar to pass.

Shift your torso forward once the barbell passes the head to prepare your balance for the final phase of the shoulder press.

Keep your head slightly down as you push for the top of the ascent, so your chin points more towards your chest, but always keep looking forward.

At the top of the ascent, lock elbows, tighten traps and back, squeeze shoulders. This stance helps your balance and stability. Tighten your glutes and try not to arch your back as you approach the top of the lift.

Shoulder press technique

It is important to exhale and tighten the abs during the lift and inhale when lowering.

Good shoulder press technique means moving slowly and smoothly without bouncing the bar. This controlled movement works the muscles more effectively, so maintain a slow and steady motion throughout the duration of the press.

When performing the Bradford Press, remember to keep an extra controlled motion for safety, with a strong grip. Try to keep your head still and use the shoulders and elbows to move the bar backwards and forwards slowly over your head.

Common shoulder press errors 

Forgetting to reposition elbows and chest at the start of every press.

Not getting under the bar enough at the top of the lift.

Bouncing the lift as you move from rep to rep. Keep a slow controlled motion throughout.

Arching the back at the top of the lift.

Tilting the neck and moving head excessively forwards and backwards during the Bradford press.

Overbalancing. Be careful to keep steady and look straight ahead through the first phase of the lift, then slightly upwards at the top of the lift. Keep torso straight and don’t lean forward as this raises the chance you will try to press at an angle.

Read more about the shoulder press:

What is the shoulder press?

Types of shoulder press

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