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Standing Military Shoulder Press: Is It Just A Shoulder Exercise?

Standing Military Shoulder Press: Is It Just A Shoulder Exercise?

PinExt Standing Military Shoulder Press: Is It Just A Shoulder Exercise?

I consider the standing military shoulder press to be one of… if not the best upper body lifts! Why? Not only does this lift sculpt some pretty impressive shoulders but it will greatly increase your upper body strength for other lifts. To get the most benefits out of this exercise, we are going to take a look at how you can utilize a “power surge” to lift the weight while increasing ab definition all at once.  Implementing this sneaky technique will help you bring out the best in other pressing movements. I truly believe that every man and woman should include this exercise into their regular weight training program.

standing military shoulder press Standing Military Shoulder Press: Is It Just A Shoulder Exercise?

(Ryan Reynolds has some of the best shoulders in Hollywood. This is the kind of look you want to aim for…if you are a guy.)

Generate A Boost In Your Shoulders By Contracting The Abs

This is one of the biggest reasons why I highly recommend standing for this particular lift. When standing, the abs act as the mediator between your hips and your shoulders. So by contracting the abs, it provides a very stable foundation for you to push upwards from. This will also help increase a greater contraction in both your shoulders and triceps. Thus, maximizing the amount of weight lifted.

Protect The Spine, Flex Those Abs

In a previous post I explained the importance of protecting your spine by generating strong abs. Keeping the abs tight and flexed will keep you from slouching or sagging while pressing the weight overhead. So not only will this protect your spine but it will sculpt up the midsection. It’s definitely a nice side benefit from a shoulder exercise.

Generate Even More Power With This Sneaky Technique

We know that breathing properly during each rep is very important but let’s kick it up a notch. “More power!” as Tim Allen would say, is exactly what we are going to elevate with some advanced breathing techniques. Before lifting the weight make sure to take a deep breath in. As you begin to lift the weight you want to simultaneously flex your abs while forcing the air out of your lungs. You want to make sure that you tighten your lips so the air has a little more difficulty escaping too fast. Doing this for at least 3-5 seconds (or longer) to get all the air out will give you the ability to flex the abs even harder. This breathing technique increases ab definition, supports the spine, and ultimately generates more power to your shoulders to finish the lift. It’s like one stop shopping!

Two Schools Of Thought On The Proper Way To Start The Lift

I will be honest; I don’t know which one is better or more effective so I will let you decide. Just be smart. I see a majority of people set their barbell on a squat rack close to shoulder height and then taking the weight off and lifting from there. Some people think that you should start by lifting the weight into a “clean” position. Their reasoning is that if you can’t clean the weight into starting position then you have no business trying to lift the weight above your head. I understand both viewpoints but I am not going to say what way is superior. What I will say is that I am NOT a fan of using “wrist straps.” Developing real grip strength is far superior.

Grip Strength Incorporates “Irradiation”

We have already established in a previous post, “Enhance Your Upper Body Strength With Thick Bar Training” how increasing grip strength will ultimately increase upper body strength. Well I have been using Fat Gripz for the standing military barbell press for awhile now and I am hooked more than ever. I have noticed significant strength gains in other lifts because of it. Why could this be happening? Remember, the harder you can contract or generate tension in a muscle the more strength will be demonstrated in that muscle. Well the principle of “irradiation” says that a muscle can be contracted even harder when the surrounding muscles are contracted. This is what is happening when the forearms are generating tension from Fat Gripz’ thick handles. As the forearms are generating tension, your biceps, triceps, and shoulders will “borrow” strength from the forearms.

To Sit Or Not To Sit

I have done seated dumbbell shoulder presses for a long time and they still do very well developing the shoulders. But it just doesn’t have the same maximizing benefits as the standing shoulder press. Instead of just scrapping the exercise, I include both of them. I use a barbell for the standing military shoulder press and dumbbells for the sitting shoulder press. Utilizing both standing and sitting exercises will without a doubt increase your gains in all other upper body moves.

PinExt Standing Military Shoulder Press: Is It Just A Shoulder Exercise?


  1. I rarely perform standing shoulder presses as I always avoided lifting heavy objects over my head. It is something I should probably start doing differently in my workouts. But I am with you on forgetting about wrist straps. Those things are just best to do without and instead develop grip strength the natural way.


  2. Nice post. What would your recommendation be for foot positioning? Split? Parallel? Is there an advantage or disadvantage to either of them? I found that keeping my feet parallel cause excessive back extension. Have you experienced this as well? Thanks!

    • thefitnesschronicle says:

      Ah man you are missing out. It’s definitely one of my favorite moves. Even if you don’t do it, you can still achieve some pretty impressive shoulders. I just find this one to be the best. I never realized how important raw grip strength was until I starting linking the principles of “irradiation.”

      I actually start out with parallel feet when I am warming up with a little lighter weight. I eventually go to a staggered/slight split when I start throwing up some heavier weight. I have found excessive back extension with parallel feet as well so I try to make sure everything is as stable as possible.

  3. Andrew says:

    While it is a great exercise, it is also is one of the worst exercises to perform if you have anything wrong at your shoulder. Anybody with impingement, tendonitis, or bursitis should steer clear of this exercise because the motion involved can promote compression of the soft tissues underneath the AC joint.

    Proper form/posture is extremely important!

    • admin says:

      @ Andrew

      Yes that is true. You just have to be smart and use your head. If you have a shoulder problem then obviously this lift won’t be in your every day routine.

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