In the world of weightlifting, safety is usually a top priority. A single mishap could mean the loss of a career and in the worst case scenario, death. In exercises where the lifting of heavy loads is part of a workout, the risks involved are of an even higher magnitude. This is why spotters are required for most of the big lifts like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.
Shoulder presses are no different. To be able to do them safely, you not only require to have the strength, but you also need to have the right form so that you can execute the press from beginning to end without causing harm to yourself.
We are going to break down the motions of performing a barbell shoulder press and give you a step-by-step guide so that you can learn how to execute this exercise safely and effectively without risking yourself.
First things first
Before we go into how to do a barbell shoulder press, it is important for you to know that there are two variations of this exercise. You can do it seated or standing. While the differences in execution are not major, it is important to take them into account because a small mishap could cause a lot of damage.
Standing barbell shoulder press
This exercise can be thought of as a variation of the military press. But unlike the military press that requires your heels to be pressed together, this exercise is done with your feet at hip’s width apart, requiring less core strength. It is, therefore, great for beginners who want to increase strength, density, and stability of their core and upper back region.
1. Starting position: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the barbell at chest position. Your wrists should be slightly wider than the width of your shoulders and facing forward. Your elbows should point downward.
2. The execution: Press the barbell upward until your elbows lock out as you brace your abs and squeeze your glutes. Do not lean back as this can cause severe back injuries. Instead, hold the barbell directly over your head. Finish the execution by slowly bringing down the barbell to the starting position.
Seated Barbell Shoulder Press
Performing the barbell shoulder press when seated isolates the shoulders by limiting the use of other muscle groups to assist with the lift. It is, therefore, good for increasing the size and strength of your shoulders.
1. The seating position: You should be seated on a bench with an upright back support. The barbell should then be positioned just above your head. Grab the barbell with your palms facing forward and your hands slightly wider than the width of your shoulders.
2. Starting position: Once you have the correct grip on the barbell, lift the barbell and lower it to your collar bone (shoulder level). Your elbows should be by your sides. Avoid the urge to tuck or push them out. This is your starting position.
3. The execution: Always ensure that you have a firm grip on the barbell as you are executing the press. As you are exhaling, press the barbell overhead until your elbows completely lock out. The final position should be slightly in from of your head. Now lower the barbell down slowly to the starting position as you are exhaling. Repeat the press for the desired amount of repetitions.
If you follow these simple guides on how to do a barbell shoulder press safely, you will be doing it like a professional in no time with minimal risk of injuries.