How to Shoulder Press, Common Mistakes and Popular Variations

In this article you will learn how to perform shoulder press, common shoulder press mistakes, different variations of shoulder press and why bench press is a more popular exercise than shoulder press.

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Shoulder press also sometimes called military press or overhead press or strict press is a superb upper body exercise. Lets learn how to perform it

How to perform a Shoulder Press

Get the barbell on your front shoulders wither by unracking it from a squat rack of clean it up. With a barbell on the anterior shoulders, drive the bar upwards in a straight line. It is important to start with a flexed core and glutes squeezed to create a stable foundation. Push the weight up until the arms are fully extended with the bar over the spine. The head and neck should be neutral. After a brief pause lower the weight down to the anterior shoulders in a controlled manner and repeat.


Common Shoulder Press mistakes to avoid

Mistake 1 Jerking the weight up: Using the legs to drive the weight up is not shoulder press it is push press. With Push press you can throw more weight up, however they will bit target your shoulders as effectively as a shoulder press. If you really want to target your shoulders then swallow your ego and perform a strict shoulder press with lower weight.

Mistake 2 Not keeping the head and neck neutral: A lot of people bend over backwards and press the weight up while performing the shoulder press. This often happens if you lack flexibility in your shoulders or the weight is too heavy for you. You should always avoid this mistake as it puts your back in a bad situation and can cause injury. Also doing this reduces the effectiveness of the exercise as it transfers the emphasis from your shoulders to your chest.

Mistake 3 Decrease range of motion: Not bringing the bar all the way down or pressing it all the way up, will not give you full benefit of the exercise. The bar should always start from your shoulders and go all the way up until your elbows are locked.

Mistake 4 Moving the weight in front instead of up: This mistake often happens if you have limited shoulder mobility. Work on your shoulder mobility if notice this happening to you.


Benefits of Shoulder Press

Shoulder press builds strength in the shoulders, upper back and abdominal muscles. It also teaches you how to control a bar overhead, which challenges the small stabilizer muscles in the core.

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Different variations of Shoulder Press

Variation 1 Dumbbell Shoulder Press: These are a great variation that changes up the shoulder press. Compared to a barbell, which is relatively stable, this bilateral movement challenges each side of the athlete’s body to perform the same amount of work. Small stabilizer muscles in the shoulder girdle are required to work much harder to maintain the integrity of the movement.

Variation 2 Seated Shoulder Press: This version of the shoulder press can be performed while seated. It can be performed with the dumbbell or a barbell. The benefit of this version is that it limits you from using your legs to drive the bar up, thus you do not have much chance of cheating. Seated version with support is also beneficial in terms of less compression of the spine

Variation 3 Neutral Grip Shoulder Press: This version of the shoulder press can only be performed with the dumbbells. In this version both your palms will be facing towards your head as you perform the exercise. Neutral grip is easier on the shoulders; athletes hence prefer this version when they have shoulder injury.

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Shoulder Press has traditionally been the main upper body strength exercise, before losing to Bench Press. This has mainly been because bench press is an easier exercise than shoulder press. You can lift heavier weights with bench press and do not require as much core strength. Make no mistakes though, shoulder press is a great exercise to include in your workout and will provide you more functional benefit than bench press.

This concludes our article on Shoulder press.