Fitness tip: the standing shoulder press |

Fitness tip: the standing shoulder press

Henry Kliebenstein
For the Health of It

The legs have been a focal point during my series on exercises, so today I would like to travel a bit north and hit the shoulders.

Since the leg exercises have also worked on other parts of the body, I thought I would reverse it today with the standing shoulder press also known as the standing military press. This exercise is designed to work primarily the anterior and medial head of the deltoids, but as you will see it is also another full body exercise working the legs, arms, back and chest. Keep in mind that whenever you are performing a resistance exercise designed for a certain muscle, in this case the shoulders, many other muscles groups are working.

To begin stand with your feet about shoulder width apart on the floor in front of a squat rack with a bar positioned about chest height.

Grab the bar with both hands placed just outside of your shoulders and rest it on the top of your chest. Keep your back perfectly straight, your knees should have a soft joint (a very slight bend, you don’t want to lock your knees since this can restrict the blood flow and may result in getting light headed), and slowly begin to press the bar upwards while exhaling until the bar is directly overhead.

Once you reach this position pause briefly and then lower the bar back to the starting position to the top of the chest while inhaling. Repeat the process for the number of repetitions that you have selected. I recommend starting with three sets of 10 repetitions for beginners.

This exercise may also be done from a seated position, (anyone with any back problems should always do these seated), and when doing this you will no longer incorporate your legs, but you may be able to lift more weight since you now have more back support. Another variation is to try the exercise using dumbbells, both standing and seated. When using a bar the weaker shoulder can cheat off of the stronger shoulder by way of the balance of the bar. Dumbbells however keep each shoulder working independently.

Another positive result of the dumbbell is by changing your grip you will change the direction that the muscle will be worked such as palms facing out, facing each other, and facing you.

One important factor to keep in mind is never sacrifice form for repetitions. Once you reach the point that you start to move your body to get additional reps such as bending your back, stop! This is where many injuries occur that can almost always be avoided.

Remember that weight training is a small part of your overall health, and combined with cardiovascular training and a sensible eating plan you are well on your way to a long and healthy life. Stay hydrated. Due to space restrictions I am unable to elaborate further on this topic so if you have any questions please feel free to contact me at the information below.

Henry Kliebenstein is an International Sports Sciences Association certified personal trainer, fitness therapist, and specialist in performance nutrition, training in his private studio in Truckee, and can be reached by calling 587-3886 or by e-mail at

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