Building the Shoulders – The Press Exercise


The shoulder is one of, if not the most, mobile joints in the human body. It allows us to reach down, reach up, sideways, back, and all points in between because of its extensive range of motion and construction. It allows us to pull, push, throw, and support loads in pretty much any position thanks to its musculature and mobility. It is active to some degree in virtually every movement possibly conceived in the fitness and sports realms. The press is perhaps the oldest barbell exercise in existence. As is the case with many long-standing things, it is underappreciated. Picking up a weight and pushing it overhead is so basic a movement that it is quite literally the most logical thing to do once you have picked it up. This is likely the best overall upper body exercise with a barbell. It holistically trains the musculature of the shoulders and the elbows. It is also quite effective at providing an isometric training stimulus for the entire body below the shoulders as everything between the floor and the shoulders is involved in stabilising body positions. In the start position for the press, the feet are placed directly below the hips – a narrower stance than would be used in the squat.

Having the hips over the feet puts the calves and thighs in a virtually vertical line, making it a very efficient supportive position. At the other end, the bar will be resting across the shoulders, with the elbows close to directly underneath the bar. This position ensures that force application to the bar is as efficient as possible. From there, all you need to do is push up (press) the bar from touching the shoulders to full extension (with the elbows locked out) at the top. 





  • Kilgore, Lon. Anatomy without a scalpel. Iowa Park, Tex.: Killustrated Books, 2010. 


  • Kilgore, Lon, and Michael Hartman. Fit. Iowa Park, Tex.: Killustrated Books, 2011.


  • Rippetoe, Mark. Strong enough? Thoughts from thirty years of barbell training. Wichita Falls, TX: Aasgaard Co., 2007.


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