Shoulder Press Exercises
From the bodybuilding-obsessed Arnold Schwarzenegger fans to the average man or woman just looking to have a healthier life, shoulder press exercises are vital. Stronger shoulders are more resilient to injury, help you with most upper-body activities and fill out your physique to make you look stronger and sexier.
Shoulder presses are the best way to isolate the big muscle over your shoulder, called the deltoid. According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine, the shoulder press is better at activating the deltoid than the bench press, one of the most well-known upper body exercises. Whether you have a barbell, dumbbells or just the weight of your body, you can use shoulder pressing exercises to help build up with versatile and powerful joint.
Here are five shoulder press exercises that range from a simple body weight exercise to a complex and strenuous barbell exercise.
This push-up variation changes the angle of your upper and lower-body to transform a simple push-up into a shoulder press.
From a push-up position, move into a downward dog position by raising your hips in the air and straightening your arms. Your arms and torso should create a straight line from your hands to your hips.
Lower your head towards the floor slowly by bending your elbows. Keep your hips high in the air and knees straight.
Before your head hits the ground, press yourself back up into a downward dog by straightening out your elbows.
Standing Dumbbell Press
The standing dumbbell press is a classic exercise, perfect for beginners and advanced weightlifters alike. To make the exercise more or less challenging, simply change the amount of weight that you use. Rob Licata, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, likes this exercise because the neutral hand position makes it easier on the shoulders.
Grab a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the dumbbells so that they are shoulder-height. The dumbbells should be facing parallel to your feet, which means that your knuckles should be facing out to the sides. Rest the end of the dumbbell against your shoulder.
Keeping your knuckles pointed to the sides, press the dumbbells straight up towards the ceiling until your elbows are straight.
Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders.
Named after the iconic bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, this is a grueling twist on the standing dumbbell press. Certified personal trainer Gwinyai Murahwa likes the Arnold Press because it targets all of the deltoid muscles.
Grab a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a bench or another sturdy surface. Raise the dumbbells so that they are face-height. Allow your fingers to face your face and your knuckles to face in front of you. This is the same position that boxers use to guard their face, with their fingers against their cheekbones.
Press the dumbbells up and, as you press up, twist the dumbbells so that your fingers face in front of you by the top of the press and your knuckles face behind you.
Lower the dumbbells and twist your arms back in so that your knuckles are facing in front of you and fingers are facing your face by the time your hands are at face-level. That completes one repetition.
Weight Plate Press
The slightly awkward challenge of hoisting a weight plate over your head has a lot of carry over to real-world strength.
Stand tall, holding a weight plate by gripping the sides of the plate. Curl the plate up and press it over your head. It should be close to your head but not touching.
Press the plate straight up into the air until your arms are straight.
Lower the plate until it is about an inch from your head. This is the end position.
Barbell Shoulder Press
Not for the faint of heart, the barbell press is where serious strength training for the shoulders begins.
From a standing or seated position, hold the barbell in both hands. Make sure that your hands are gripping the rough part of the bar, also called the knurling, which increases friction and makes it easier to grip. Hold the bar at neck level with your elbows tucked against your sides.
Press the barbell up and back. By the time you reach the top of the movement, with your elbows completely straight, the bar should be directly over your body.
Lower the bar and bring it forwards slightly so that it goes in front of your face and back down to neck level. Make sure that you tuck your elbows against your side.
- Shoulder Muscle Activation of Novice and Resistance Trained Women during Variations of Dumbbell Press Exercises
- Luczak J, Bosak A, Riemann BL. Shoulder Muscle Activation of Novice and Resistance Trained Women during Variations of Dumbbell Press Exercises. J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2013;2013:612650. doi:10.1155/2013/612650
- Keogh JW, Aickin SE, Oldham AR. Can common measures of core stability distinguish performance in a shoulder pressing task under stable and unstable conditions?. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(2):422-9.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Welcome to CDC stacks | Growing stronger; strength training for older adults - 11447 | Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library collection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Henry is a freelance writer and personal trainer living in New York City. You can find out more about him by visiting his website: henryhalse.com.