In my opinion, the standing barbell overhead press (also known as the military press) is the ultimate exercise if your goal is to be a lean warrior.
It’s arguably the most difficult exercise you can do. You don’t see that many people performing it these days because it’s hard. It’s much easier to pick up the dumbbells and press.
While I am a fan of dumbbell pressing, nothing compares to the barbell while standing. It puts your entire body to the test. Much of your muscle imbalances and weaknesses will be exposed
Don’t let any of this scare you away from the barbell shoulder press. While it can take some time progress due to it’s difficulty, it’s far worth it if you keep it as part of your regular routine.
In fact, I recommend you press two times per week. Hit all of your other muscle groups once per week, but give the standing barbell press an additional day of work each and every week.
This will do wonders for your overall strength. Even if you’re currently cutting weight, continue to press week after week. Your body will be forced to retain the hard-earned muscle you’ve built over the years.
And, if you’re new to lifting correctly, you may put on some size while leaning down. That’s never a bad thing.
Progressive overload is always the goal. With the barbell shoulder press, progress will come much slower than other exercises like squats or bench press.
This is okay. Keep the weight the same and keep pressing until you can squeeze out a solid 5 or 6 reps. Only then should you consider adding additional weight to the bar.
If you can shoulder press 85% of your body weight, you are stronger than nearly everybody around you. And, if you can press your body weight, you are a walking god.
Here’s the details:
Standing Barbell Shoulder Press Starting Position:
- If you haven’t done this exercise, start with just the 45-pound olympic bar. No added weight.
- Form is key. Keep your legs shoulder width apart and your legs solid. Squeeze your glute muscles and you’ll feel what I mean. This stabilizes your lower back.
- Your grip should be a little wider than shoulder grip. Grab that bar and position it right near your collarbone.
- Make sure your glutes are squeezed in and your body is stabilized. You are now prepared to shoulder press the barbell over your head.
Performing the Barbell Military (Shoulder) Press:
- With your glutes activated, your lower back will be forced into alignment. This is key during the press as you’ll notice weaknesses in this area as you fatigue.
- Press the bar slowly overhead. As you press towards the top of the motion, your head should move forward a few inches as if you’re poking through a window.
- Hold this top position for 1-second.
- Bring your head back into the starting position as you lower the bar back to your collarbone. You have completed one rep. Good job!
Things To Keep In Mind:
- Muscle imbalances will be exposed. This will indicate which muscle groups you should be strengthening on other workout days.
- Your arms, back, chests, lower back and legs will all be put to the test. This is what makes the shoulder press an amazing exercise.
- Keep your head straight and your chin up. Try not to sway back.
- Stability is key for this lift. If you’re struggling under the weight, it’s too heavy. Drop the weight by 15% and try again.
- Be aware of any serious pain you encounter during this exercise. I don’t want you lifting if it’s causing some serious pain. As with any exercise, stop immediately if the pain continues.
- This exercise is best performed FIRST before you do anything else. Don’t bench press or tricep dip before this exercise. You want to be as fresh as possible.
- If you truly cannot perform this exercise, then heavy dumbbell shoulder presses are a good alternative. But, do try to build strength with the barbell press.
Final Thoughts on the Standing Overhead Shoulder Press
The standing shoulder press truly is the ultimate form of strength. It’s what separates the Warriors from everybody else. The best way to build muscle is strength in the shoulder press.
As you get stronger and stronger in this exercise, you’ll watch your body build itself to adapt to the strength you’re lifting.
Do not assume you can press heavy weight if you haven’t performed this exercise in quite some time (or ever).
Therefore, start with really light weight. Press the bar by itself until you can press it 6 times over your head with perfect form. Only then are you ready to add weight to the bar.
You should only add 2.5-5 pounds total when adding weight. This is an exercise that I want you to perform for the rest of your life. Slow and steady wins the race here.