The barbell shoulder press, along with the dumbbell shoulder press is the best all-round shoulder exercise because it works the entire shoulder muscle – known as the deltoids or ‘delts’.
It also benefits the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles that lie underneath your delts that keeps your arm from slipping out of its socket.
Other Muscles Used: Upper Back, Triceps, Rotator Cuff
The barbell shoulder press can be performed either standing or sitting. You can sit on an exercise bench designed for a shoulder press or sit on a stability ball. This exercise demonstrates the seated barbell shoulder press.
- Sit on a bench with your back firmly pressed against the back support. There should be a natural curve in your lower back. If the support is high enough, place your head against it also.
- Your feet should be placed on the floor about hip-width apart with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
- A barbell should be placed on the rack just above your head. Grip the barbell just wider than shoulder width apart, with your palms facing forward.
- While engaging your core muscles, lift the bar over your head, slightly in front of you and straighten your arms. This is your starting position.
- For a count of approx 2 to 3 seconds, lower the bar to just above your shoulders. Your elbows should come down just beyond a 90 degree angle. Breathe in as you do so.
- After a slight pause at the bottom of the movement, lift the bar back up to the starting position. Breathe out as you do so.
- That counts as one rep.
- This exercise can also be performed standing, seated on a flat bench, seated on a stability ball, or using a shoulder press machine.
Do’s and Do Not’s
DO keep your elbows slightly bent at the top of the movement.
DO stop lowering the bar when your elbows are just slightly below the level of your shoulders.
DO keep the rest of your body completely still during the movement.
DO NOT arch your back from the back support or contort your body in any way in order to help press the bar up.
DO NOT lower the bar behind your head. Unless you are an advanced bodybuilder keep the bar in front of you. You can easily damage your rotator cuff muscles otherwise.
If you have any comments, questions or tips for the seated barbell shoulder press, please drop them below.