How to Do a Shoulder Press

How to Do a Shoulder Press

There’s no faster way to sculpt bolder shoulders than by pressing weights overhead. But you have to earn the right to do so. And by that, we mean prove that your shoulders are stable and mobile enough to execute the move safely.

The Test

Here’s the test: Stand tall with your arms at your sides (no weights), take a deep breath, and then raise your arms straight overhead as you exhale. You want your biceps by your ears. If you have to arch your back or tilt your head forward to get them there, then the shoulder press isn’t for you—not yet. Weave more shoulder mobility and upper back strengthening exercises into your weekly training plan until you’re able to raise your arms overhead without any compensatory movements. Once you can, you’re ready for the shoulder press. Here’s how to perform the move with perfect form.


Targeted Muscles

The shoulder press targets your shoulders, upper back and arms muscles.


How To Do the Shoulder Press Perfectly

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a pair of dumbbells in front of your shoulders with your elbows tucked and palms facing each other. Press the weights directly above your shoulders until your arms are straight and your biceps are next to your ears. Pause, and then lower the weights back to the starting position.


Make It Easier

Use lighter weights, or perform a push press. Assume the same starting position as the shoulder press, but then dip your knees and push up explosively with your legs, using that momentum to help you press the weights directly above your shoulders.


Make It Harder

Use heavier weights, alternately press each arm overhead (i.e., perform an alternating shoulder press), or do a single arm shoulder press (equal reps with both arms).


Bonus Tip

As you set up for the exercise, brace your core like you’re about to be punched in the gut, and then maintain that tight core for the duration of the set. Why? Because when your core is braced, it’s a lot harder to overarch your back. If your shoulders are in pain following a workout, try these yoga poses.


You can find this move in the P90X workout, Shoulders & Arms. Want more basic moves? Click here.