Seated barbell shoulder press

Exercise details

  • Target muscle: Anterior Deltoid
  • Synergists: Lateral Deltoid, Triceps Brachii, Supraspinatus, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Serratus Anterior
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Force: Push

Starting position

Sit up straight on a bench, holding a barbell at chest height with a pronated (overhand) grip. Your hands should be a little wider than shoulder width apart.


  1. Exhale as you push the barbell straight upward.
  2. At the top of the movement, shrug your shoulders to raise the barbell even higher.
  3. Inhale as you reverse the motions and lower the barbell to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  4. Repeat.

Comments and tips

  • Do not lock your elbows out.
  • Move your head out of the way of the bar by rocking your body slightly forward as the bar ascends and slightly backward as the bar descends.
  • Keep your back straight and head facing forward; don’t look up.
  • Contract your core to stabilize your torso.
  • Keep your elbows a little forward, not directly out to the sides.
  • Overhead presses are great for building functional upper-body strength. The seated barbell shoulder press variation takes your legs out of the equation, which better isolates your shoulders and reduces your potential to cheat.
  • If lifting very heavy, use a bench with a back support and rack. The angle of the back support should be a little less than vertical.

Seated barbell shoulder press video



  • This exercise is a safer alternative for beginners to the military press behind your neck, which can lead to a painful injury called shoulder impingement syndrome. Sitting down also takes the strain off your lower back, making this one of the safest ways to build bigger shoulders.

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