The Power Shoulder Press is one of the most challenging but rewarding exercises, making it common in most bodybuilding and powerlifting routines. However, it can also be one of the hardest exercises for beginners to learn proper technique. Your shoulders are made up of four primary muscles in a group called the rotator cuff. This group of muscles is utilized for the mobility and stability of the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint and has the most extensive range of motion in the human body. Your shoulders are used in a wide range of sports and day to day activities.
In the Shoulder Press exercise, the arm muscles are the prime movers, but when done correctly, the muscles in the upper back, chest and abdominals are also engaged for power and stability. By using the right technique and engaging the right muscles when performing the shoulder press, your upper-body muscles will be strengthened and stabilized, helping to prevent injury.
The Power Shoulder Press is a great substitute for the Bench Press. Many individuals prefer it because they feel that they are taking on something physically different. It uses the same muscles to perform the lift, however the shoulder press is less chest dominant and uses a different hand position. Plus, the narrower grip of the shoulder press allows for greater tricep engagement.
It’s important to note that this exercise is best suited for those already comfortable in a gym setting and who have a good knowledge of gym equipment. Starting with proper mobility, alignment, and having adequate core strength will set you up for success in building upper-body strength using the Shoulder Press. It’s also important to note that if you do have limitations with certain joints or mobility, the use of dumbbells can allow for different angles than the traditional barbell for this exercise.
Lastly, it’s always good to talk to your doctor or physio before starting an exercise like the Shoulder Press, especially if you have a shoulder or spine injury.
To decrease the chance of injury, follow the steps below.
Start With a Proper Warm Up
Ensuring that you warm up well before performing the lift will help decrease your chance of injury. Your trunk and core muscles act as stabilizers to anchor you during the Shoulder Press, so it’s important to prepare these muscles beforehand to perform this exercise correctly without risk of injury.
Secondly, make sure that you have good shoulder mobility and overhead range of motion to correct your alignment while performing this exercise. Warming up with light range of motion exercises will prepare your shoulders.
Proper Execution for Every Set
The proper execution of the Power Shoulder Press will allow you to lift the most weight possible with the least amount of effort on your part. Using your trunk to stabilize your body and making sure you have good shoulder mobility while understanding proper grip and arm motion will not only enable you to reap the benefits out of your lift, but also keep you safe.
This demonstration uses single rep cluster training by doing 1 rep with a 20 second rest and re-set for 6 reps using as heavy a weight as possible. In this demo, we are using a preacher bench set up backwards. Using the preacher bench is preferred over the straight-back bench and will provide you with much better upper-back support.
Proper Form Set No. 1
Sit on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and the bar set inline with your shoulders.
Grip the bar a bit closer in than you normally would for a bench press. Grasp the barbell with your palms facing inward and pull your self up slightly to activate your lats. This will stabilize your shoulders and give you a stronger base to work from. Keeping your core strong, extend your elbows and lift the bar once, bringing it back down with control. Rest and re-set for 20 seconds before doing the next set.
Proper Form Set No. 2
Once again, pulling-up on the bar will activate your lats to re-stabilize your shoulders. Press up with control and lower back down with control. Rest and re-set for 20 seconds before moving onto your 3rd set.
Proper Form Set No. 3
Start by repeating the set up from rep 1 and 2, but this time try lifting the barbell so that your arms are fully extended, then at the top of the press, bend at your elbows until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder. Hold for one second before returning to starting position while demonstrating control in your movements. Rest and re-set for 20 seconds.
Proper Form Set No. 4
Make sure you do these reps with as much control as possible. As the reps get higher, the more fatigued you will be. You will need to be aware and utilize more muscles to produce enough strength and stability to get you through the last couple of sets.
Making sure your core is tight, your feet are pressed and pushing back, inhale to engage your core muscles. While contracting your upper body muscles, press up to complete the lift successfully, and lower back down with control. Make sure you use the full 20 seconds to reset yourself. You may want to get up to walk around or perform some arm movements that will increase circulation before your next set.
Proper Form Set No. 5
The last 2 sets we focused on movement that makes elastic tension so that you are building a lot of power on the bottom half of the press. Try starting at the top and lowering down with control to the bottom, adding a slight rebound to get some elastic tension.
Proper Form Set No. 6
When you are doing the last press, raise your arms until the bar clears your head, then try to slightly move your head forward to bring the bar back in line with your ears. This will allow your deltoids to contribute and add stability at the top of the press.
In conclusion, making sure you have a proper warm-up will be beneficial to not only prepare your body for your best workout possible, but will also help you stay injury free. By making some minor tweaks to your shoulder press, you’ll become better aware of the supporting muscles that add greater power and stability to your shoulder press. Taking some time to rest and reset between every rep will enable you to lift a heavier load and build your upper-body strength with ease and control.