6 Ways to Shoulder Press

Broaden your delts with this diverse menu of pressing moves.


Pavel Ythjall

The overhead press is to shoulder training what the squat is to leg day: the foundational movement from which all other exercises for its respective muscle group stem. When it’s time to train delts and decide on your workout for the day, the first question should be: What type of overhead press am I going to do?

Believe it or not, there are many more ways to answer this question than just “barbell” or “dumbbells.” Those pieces of equipment are in the discussion, of course, but so are machines and kettlebells; bilateral versus unilateral; pronated, supinated, or neutral grip; and seated, standing, or even kneeling. The overhead press (aka “shoulder press”) is a movement with way more variants than most guys utilize. Below are six such options, all of which should be fair game the next time you train delts.

Chris Lund


Defining Difference Doing your presses seated rather than standing allows you to go heavier (because you’re able to use the seated back to push o against), making it a great option for those looking to maximize muscle development (size) in the deltoids.

Execution Sit on a low-back seat or upright bench holding a pair of dumbbells. Lift the dumbbells up to begin with them just outside your shoulders, palms facing forward. Press the dumbbells straight up by contracting your delts and extending your elbows until the weights are overhead with your arms just short of locked out. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the start position.

When to Do It First in your shoulder workout if not doing military press. When doing militaries, either do seated presses second or save them for another day.

Chris Lund


Defining Difference Unofficially considered the fourth “big lift” (behind squat, deadlift, and bench press) the classic standing barbell press is a true test of upper-body pushing strength. But it’s more than just a delts and triceps move. Core stabilization is a vital aspect of military presses; a solid midsection, front to back, is the foundation from which you’ll press upward.

Execution Stand holding a barbell with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Clean the bar up to your shoulders, bend your knees slightly, and tense your body head to toe. Keeping your lower body and torso still, press the bar overhead by contracting your delts and extending your arms. Stop just short of locking out your elbows. Slowly lower the bar back down without letting it rest on your shoulders or upper chest between reps.

When to Do It First in your shoulder workout or upper-body strength session (on a separate day from other big lifts).

Kevin Horton


Defining Difference Just about every professional bodybuilder we talk to includes machine presses in his routine for one or both of two major reasons: 1) safety, as the fixed path of motion generally means slightly less risk of injury to the shoulder joint as compared with a free-weight dumbbell or barbell press; and 2) overload, because pressing with a machine requires fewer stabilizing muscles than with free weights, thus allowing for more weight to be used. In other words, the machine press is a heavier, safer delt-building move— a win-win. 

Execution Adjust the seat of an overhead press machine (Cybex, Hammer Strength, Life Fitness, etc.) so that you’re able to extend your arms at the top of the range of motion and can lower the handles down to your shoulders without the weight resting on the stack. Begin seated holding on to the handles with your hands just outside shoulder width and palms facing forward. Contract your delts to press the handles straight up until your elbows are extended but not locked out. Slowly lower the weight back to the start position. 

When to Do It Early in your workout, in place of barbell or overhead dumbbell presses.


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