Military Press

How to Military Press: Top 5 Tips

The Military Press is certainly the king when it comes to building strong shoulders! Also often referred to as an overhead press or standing barbell press - when performed correctly this exercise will be the key to getting strong shoulders and also helps lay the foundation for many other lifts. It does have its risks because of the stress that is on the shoulder joint in the top position, but when you understand the technique required you can actually use these risks to be build the most stable shoulders there are.

Purpose of the movement:

Breaking the movement down to its most simplest - start with the bar in a front squat rack position, resting on the clavicle close to the neck. Then press the weight overhead. When performed in a standing position it is much more than just a shoulder exercise. Because of the bracing involved and balance/stability required it is pretty much a full body exercise. Variations of the military press can help with a lot of Olympic lifting finish positions.

Muscles involved:

When completed in a standing position the military press becomes a full body exercise. With lower body and torso assisting with the stabilisation of the weight through out the movement. The main upper body muscles working are:

  • Deltoids
  • Triceps Brachii
  • Pectoralis major

Equipment needed:

To perform the military press equipment needed:

  • Bar
  • Plates
  • Floor/rack

Optional extra equipment:

Weightlifting belt, wrist wraps/grips

Step by Step guide:

This guide will be for the standing military press using a rack.

  1. Make sure the rack is set up correctly with the bar sitting just below shoulder height
  2. Unrack the bar, so it is now sitting in a front squat rack position with the bar resting on the front of the shoulders. You want your grip just outside shoulder width. Feet placed also at shoulder width.
  3. From this good start position - press the weight up above your head.
  4. Keep the bar traveling in a reasonably straight path, don't let it go too far away from the body in the top position.
  5. Make sure your elbows stay under the bar throughout the movement.
  6. Control the weight back down to the top of the shoulders.
  7. You can lean back slightly with the initial press and then lean forward slightly at the top lockout position.
If you do have any issues with your shoulders or back during the movement, firstly get someone to check your technique. There are also some other variations to the movement worth trying - using dumbbells would be a great start.

    Top 5 Tips:

    1. Ensure you have the correct grip and foot placement before first press
    2. Keep the bar in a straight path
    3. Finish lockout with the bar in line with your body midline
    4. Keep your elbows under the bar
    5. Stay strong through your torso to prevent over arching through the spine


    Get the technique down pat and add the military press to your training routine if you are chasing big strong shoulders. Make sure to follow this guide to ensure the movement pattern is correct.

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