Shoulder Press

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The Shoulder Press

What is the shoulder press?

The shoulder press is an overhead press during which a barbell is pushed up from the front of the shoulders to above the head until arms are straight. 

The barbell should be pressed from the front shoulders, overhead until arms are locked out straight. Knees are locked throughout, a shoulder width apart.

Which muscles does the shoulder press use?

Works the shoulders, upper chest and triceps. The overhead press works the entire body, more so than the bench press. The overhead press bring legs into play to stabilise the movement along with abs and back.

Benefits of the shoulder press

The bench press works your front shoulders more than your back shoulders, whereas the overhead press or shoulder press works front and back shoulders equally.

Shoulders and triceps become stronger. The shoulder press is good for balancing out the muscle development of the bicep and front shoulder from the bench press.

Kinds of overhead press

Military press 

The military press is an overhead press with heels together

Push press 

The push press is an overhead press with leg drive

Olympic jerk 

The Olympic jerk uses a strong leg drive to power the weight up overhead by momentum. The lifter then catches the bar at the top of its momentum drive to hold it steady, stabilising it in position before it starts to fall back down.

Bradford Press 

The Bradford press keep the elbows unlocked, with a small bend in them at the top of the lift. This approach works the delts more.

Preparing for the shoulder press

You can use free weights in which case use a barbell and raise it rest just below your chin level, supported by your arms with hands grasping the barbell. Lift the barbell straight over your head upwards, extending the arms, keeping back straight. Pause for a moment.  

Grip should be wider than shoulder width. Overhand grip, palms facing forward. Push your chest up and out, to help open up the back muscles. Elbows should be forward, in front of the barbell. Try to look forward, not up. Looking to far upwards can create strain on the neck and impair balance.

Performing the Shoulder press

In order to get the barbell past your head, quickly and smoothly tilt it backwards to enable the bar to pass. Keep looking forward. Shift torso forward once the barbell passes the head to prepare balance for the final phase of the lift. Head down as you push for the top of the ascent so y0ur 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 helps balance and stability. Tighten glutes and try not to arch your back as you approach the top of the lift.

Exhale and tighten the abs during the lift; inhale when lowering.

Move slowly and smoothly without bouncing. This works the muscles more effectively, marinating a controlled motion throughout the duration of the press

Common 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.

Risks of the overhead press

With free weights it is often difficult to find balance with the overhead press. Overbalancing can be an issue. It helps to maintain a forward posture as the weight is lifted above the head.





Bench press

Shoulder press

Bicep curl

Tricep extension


Chin ups and pull ups

Power lifting

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