Shoulder Training – Barbell Seated Military Press

The military press, also known as the shoulder press, is your core compound exercise for increasing your shoulder strength, size and mass. This is the basic technique for the military press.

Muscles Exercised

Also referred to as the shoulder press, the military press focuses on your shoulders. It also exercises your triceps to a degree.

Exercise Technique

  • This exercise should be performed in a bench designed for the military press. This is typically an upright seat with a rack behind the seat for the barbell. Performing the press in the rack forces you to keep your body stationary during the lift, reducing cheating movements and emphasizing your delts.
  • Sit in the bench with your back against the bench and your feet planted firmly on the floor (or the bench’s footrest if it has one). Maintain this position throughout the lift – avoid lifting your buttocks off the bench as you press the weight.
  • Always use a spotter when performing the military press. The barbell is often racked at an awkward angle behind the head, and unracking it without assistance can put a great deal of unnecessary strain on your shoulders. It is, therefore, a good idea to have your spotter hand-off the barbell to you.
  • Your grip on the bar should be wide but comfortable. For a normal width grip, some part of your hands should be on the ring in the knurling (be aware that many bars have different placement of this ring). Wrap your thumbs around the bar for safety. The bar should rest on the base of your palm, with the force of the bar driving down through your wrists and forearms. Resting the bar higher in the palm will place unnecessary strain on your wrists.
  • Keep your shoulders, chest and lats tight to stabilize the bar as you unrack it. Drive down through the floor with your feet keeping your legs tight. Maintain this position keeping your entire body tight and stable throughout your lift.
  • After unracking the barbell, lock it out at the top and control the weight before starting your lift
  • Lower the bar to your upper chest in a controlled but quick manner. The bar should come to a complete stop on your chest to prevent bouncing. You may have to tilt your head back so it doesn’t obstruct the path of the barbell as you bring it down.
  • Press the bar off your chest explosively toward the ceiling using your shoulders, chest and lats. Continue pressing until locked out again. Pause briefly between reps to ensure you have complete control of the weight.
  • Note: I don’t recommend performing the military press behind the neck. There is little advantage to this method, and it puts unnecessary strain on your shoulders increasing your chance of injury. To shift emphasis from the pecs and focusing on the delts, I add dumbbell military presses into my shoulder routine.
  • Select a weight that you can perform all of your repetitions using proper technique. On your last 1-2 sets, your last repetitions should be very difficult.

Building Shoulder Strength: As with any muscle group, you need to train with balance. To build strong shoulders, make sure you effectively train your supporting muscle groups as well – primarily your triceps. I also train my traps on the same day as shoulders because, let’s face it, well developed traps just make you look big!

Additional Shoulder Exercises

Effective Tricep Exercises

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