Types of Shoulder Press

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shoulder press squatVariations on the shoulder press

There are various types of shoulder press or overhead press. Each type of shoulder press uses different areas of the shoulder and requires a different technique and form.

Some types of shoulder press use the legs with an explosive burst of power while others rely solely on the arms to press the bar. Read on to find out more about types of shoulder press.

Types of shoulder press

The types of shoulder press used depends not only on personal preference and which muscles you want to target but also on the form of practice or competition. Some weight lifting competitions require a military press, while others will want a clean and jerk.

Always practice with the types of shoulder press you will be competing with and use other types to balance out your training and muscle development.

If you are lifting for personal development and not competition try out all the types of shoulder press and see which suits you best.

Military press

The military press is a type of standing overhead press with very strict form. Heels are placed together in a traditional military press stance and there is very little help from the legs to press the bar up.

In military press competitions, lifters are sometimes allowed one push with the knees to begin with to help hoist the bar, but after that each press must be done with legs straight.

This lack of leg drive forces all the effort into the arms, making it necessary to use a lighter weight for the military press than for the push press.


Push press

The push press is a type overhead press with a strong leg drive. This is a regular standing shoulder press. The knees bend with each press to help the arms press the bar upwards to the top of the press.

You can lift more weight using the push press than using the military press because of the initial leg drive.

Olympic jerk

The Olympic Jerk is a type of overhead press with an explosive first lift, using a ultra strong leg drive to power the weight up overhead by force of momentum from the legs and hips.

The lifter then catches the bar at the top of its momentum drive to hold it steady, stabilising it in position at the top of the lift.

The Olympic jerk is propelled by the lower body and locked out with the shoulders and arms.


Olympic jerk stance

The weight lifter can use a split leg stance at the top of the Olympic jerk, with one leg forward and the other back, or they can use both legs together a shoulder width apart as in a regular push press stance.

The split jerk stance can help the Olympic jerk lifter to position themselves more accurately beneath the bar at the top of the lift, as they can move forward, backward and bend their knees to catch the bar and lock out.

Bradford Press

The Bradford Press is a type of overhead press using free weights. The Bradford press was named after Jim Bradford, an Olympic weight lifter during the 1930s who was famous for using this technique for his overhead pressing.

The Bradford press begins in the same way as a regular shoulder press with the bar at the front of the shoulder (anterior deltoid).

When you press the bar upward, keep the elbows unlocked and at the top of the lift, move the whole of your shoulders and elbows back so that the bar moves over the top of the head, then bring the bar down behind the head.


Be careful not to just angle your forearms to clear you head – your forearms should remain perpendicular to the floor throughout the lift. The backwards and forwards motion should come from the shoulder and elbows. Try to keep your head still during the movement.

The Bradford press targets the entire shoulder, front, middle and back (anterior, lateral and posteror deltoids) more than other shoulder presses because it requires more movement at the shoulder joint.


There is always tension in the shoulders during the Bradford Press and the shoulder is never allowed to relax at the top of the lift because it always needs to move backwards or forwards. One rep is completed once the bar has moved behind the head and in front again.

Because the bar moves over your head during the Bradford press, this type of shoulder press has a greater risk of injury. Always be careful to have complete control of the bar at all times, using a strong grip and a slow and controlled motion throughout the lift.

Read more about the shoulder press:

What is the shoulder press? 

Shoulder press technique

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