Shoulder Press: For a toned upper body

The shoulder press, also known as the overhead press, is a weight training exercise for the upper body.

This exercise helps in gaining muscular arms and also, strengthens the core. It usually requires a dumbbell, barbell or any other form of weight.


The muscles of your upper body, especially those on your back, help you do several daily activities and bear a lot of loads. Hence, irrespective of whether you are working on a weight-lifting program or not, it becomes imperative to keep your upper body muscles conditioned. One way of doing so is to do the shoulder press.

While doing the shoulder press from a standing position, several muscles are put to work including the pectorals (chest muscles), deltoids (shoulder muscles), triceps (arms), trapezius (upper back). Besides these muscles, as standing upright requires balance, the abdominal and lower back muscles are also recruited.

Categorization of the exercise

The shoulder press falls under the weight training exercise category for the upper body.

Preparation for the exercise

Like all other exercises involving weights, shoulder press also requires the athlete to take some safety measures to avoid injury.

According to many fitness coaches, a shoulder mobility check should be performed before doing the shoulder press. The check involves a simple process. The athlete should try to raise his hand above his head. If he can successfully align his hands with his ears, then he can safely proceed to the exercise. Otherwise, the exercise might not be safe, and it is advisable not to do the exercise.

How to do a shoulder press

Given below is a step by step guide for doing the exercise:

1. You should stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip the bar with your arms slightly wider apart than shoulder-width. Then you can either heave the weight into position or simply load them on supports, raised to chin height. 

2. After the weights have been installed in their proper position, you should squeeze your shoulder blades together, push your chest out, and stabilize your core.

3. After following the above two steps, you would be in a proper posture to do the exercise. Begin pressing the bar overhead. You should tilt your head back while the bar is passing in front of your face. Once the bar has passed your face, press it up as long as your arms are not locked overhead. Make it a point to tilt back the weight slightly to vertically align it with the back of your head.

Benefits of doing the shoulder press

Shoulder press, when included in the workout routine, brings a lot to the table. Some of the benefits that it offers are:

1.     Shoulder press increases the strength and size of your triceps’ muscles. You can obtain bigger and stronger arms.

2.     It increases the strength of the muscles of the upper back and conditions them.

3.     It increases the strength and size of the shoulder muscles.

4.     When formed from a standing position, the exercise also builds core strength by strengthening the obliques, transverse abdominal muscles, and spinal stabilizers.

Variations of the exercise

Push Press: Starting from a standing position, bend the knees and hips slightly to take up a position as if you are about to jump. Press the bar overhead while bouncing back to the standing position by straightening your hips and knees.

Bradford Press: The starting position is the same as that of the standard shoulder press. The only difference is that you need to lower the weight behind your head instead of lowering it in front of your head. This variation should be done with lighter weights to avoid the risk of injuries.