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The Upper Body Move You Never Knew You Were Doing Wrong

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

Many of us have been exercising for as long as we can remember. But sometimes, seemingly obvious exercises need a tune up. Over the next several blog posts, we'll dive into a series of moves that you never knew you were doing wrong. This one covers the Shoulder Press.

A shoulder press seems like the most straightforward of exercises. For Pete’s sake, the title, itself, describes the move! The common mistake made among lifters is finishing the range prematurely. Let’s dive in (with arms way overhead)!

Full range-of-motion for the shoulders doesn’t stop when the wrists are over the elbows and shoulders overhead. The shoulders should have the flexibility to draw the arms back past the ears. But even the former is a greater range than the majority of the population tap into regularly. Most people end an overhead press when the arms are slightly in front of the ears (insert picture). The optimal shoulder press draws the arms further back, beyond the ears! This will engage posture muscles and open the chest while strengthening the shoulders.

Improper Shoulder Press :(

Proper Shoulder Press :)

There are plenty of ways to start working toward achieving the optimal finish point for a shoulder press. Poor posture and lack of stretching can cause your shoulders to become inflexible. A practice that helps with this is standing in a doorway with arms overhead, latched into the frame, and leaning in. Another practice that helps is acknowledging when you have been sitting/slouching/typing too long and making a concerted effort to take breaks to roll your shoulders and circle your arms. Consider taking up swimming; swimming is a great way to build strong and limber shoulders!

Step 1: Rack a barbell at your collar bones with wrists neutral and grip slightly wider than shoulders width. Engage your core to stand perfectly upright with shoulders over hips over knees.

Step 2: Avoiding any knee dip or bend in the hips (for “strict” shoulder press), and press the bar overhead. Finish when the elbows are fully extended and the wrists are slightly behind the elbows which are slightly behind the shoulders. Maintain core posture described in step 1.

Hold for a moment, then safely return to Step 1 and repeat for desired repetitions.

About the Author

Brook Benten, M.Ed., is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist. This Texas girl has been trailblazing fitness for two decades. She champions continuing education and has impacted the field as an executive director of healthy living, CEC provider, fitness magazine writer, campus recreation fitness director, and workout video star. Brook is a presenter for SCW Fitness at SCW MANIA conventions and "Train with the Trainers" livestream weekly workouts. She is a lifestyle columnist for Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Benten is an ambassador for Power Music and Lebert Fitness; she is among an international team of six Master Trainers for Johnny G Spirit Bike.

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