Complete Guide To The Barbell Shoulder Press & Military Press

Barbell Shoulder Press

Master the military press in the gym and you’ll be well on your way to serious upper body strength and muscle gains!

Compound movements are the perfect way to build muscle and strength. After all, they work multiple muscle groups at the same time, which gives them the edge on isolation exercises.

One of the most popular compound exercises out there is the military press or the barbell shoulder press. This particular movement is one which can lead to increased strength and upper body mass gains once you have perfected your form.

In the following article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the military press and how it can help you on your fitness journey. In the process, you’ll discover how to correctly perform the movement, and find out the benefits of the exercise too. So, without any further delay, it’s time to get to it!

What are the Benefits of the Military Press / Barbell Shoulder Press?

With the barbell shoulder press & military press, there is no denying that you can pack on serious muscle mass in your deltoids.

Of course, you’ll need to remain consistent and focus on progressive overload. If you do just that, you’ll soon begin to make considerable progress.

In terms of the muscles worked with the military press and barbell shoulder press, the movement primarily works the medial deltoid – the central part of your shoulders. When you place focus on this particular area of your body, you’ll be well on your way to increased muscle mass on your shoulders.

However, as the barbell shoulder press / military press is a compound movement, you’ll also find that it works the anterior and posterior deltoids, in addition to the traps. What’s more, you’ll even activate muscles in the anterior and posterior portions of your upper-arm with this particular exercise!

One of the biggest benefits of the barbell shoulder press and the military press is that it increases your athletic performance. This will help you to perform better in many other exercises including squats and deadlifts. Here are some other benefits of the military press:

Increased Strength in Your Shoulders

In terms of hypertrophy, it can be said that the barbell shoulder press / military press is hugely beneficial. Increased shoulder strength will help you to perform better in other exercises. So, it is most definitely worthwhile performing the movement regularly as part of your weekly gym routine.

Improved Shoulder Health and Overhead Performance

Optimal shoulder health will allow you to perform shoulder exercises more effectively. This is due to improved joint mechanics, increased muscle strength, and greater resistance to any potential injuries. Of course, it is always a good idea to warm up and cool down when exercising in the gym. But, if you ensure maximum health in your shoulders, this will certainly be useful on your quest to build upper body strength.

How to Correctly Perform the Military Press / Barbell Shoulder Press

In order to make the most out of the barbell shoulder press / military press, you’ll obviously need to perform it correctly, right?! Well, in the following section, we’ll fully explain how to properly execute the move. That way, you can obtain the maximum muscle building benefits.

Here’s how to correctly perform the move:

  • Place a barbell around chest height on a squat rack with a challenging yet manageable amount of weight placed onto the bar.
  • Ensuring that you have enough room, lift the barbell in front of you until your arms are fully extended.
  • Make sure that your palms are facing out and your hands are placed slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Rest the bar on your hands and not your fingers. This ensures maximum power as you perform the movement.
  • Return the bar down to shoulder height and repeat the lift for your chosen number of reps per set.
  • Re-rack the bar onto the squat rack after the end of each set – giving yourself an appropriate amount of rest in between sets.

Which is Better – A Barbell / Dumbbell Shoulder Press or Military Press?

The barbell shoulder press is commonly used as the main form of shoulder training. This is because it offers huge athletic benefits in terms of the greater amount of weight which can be lifted. With a barbell, there is far less shoulder stabilization required as opposed to using dumbbells. So, for overall shoulder development, it can be said that the barbell shoulder press has the edge.

However, if you decide to make use of dumbbells instead, this might be helpful for correcting muscular imbalances. Using dumbbells means that you need to stabilize your shoulder muscles in order to correctly execute the movement. The most important thing is to discover what works best for you.

For instance, Olympic weightlifters need to have an exceptional amount of strength in their shoulders and triceps. This will allow them to perform their best during lifts and ensures maximum overhead stabilization. Competitive fitness athletes will also benefit from increased shoulder strength too. This is because they will be able to execute movements such as the snatch and the clean and jerk more effectively.

For general fitness, it can be said that building bigger shoulders will help you in more ways than one. For instance, it will improve your ability to perform key movement patterns. This includes squats, horizontal and vertical push/pull movements and more.


Well, that concludes our complete guide to the military press and barbell shoulder press! You would definitely be making a wise decision if you incorporate either of these awesome shoulder exercises into your gym routine. This is all thanks to the excellent muscle building benefits of the exercise.

As always, you’ll need to lift a considerable amount of weight with the move to obtain maximum benefit. However, you shouldn’t attempt to lift more weight than you can handle. This has the potential to backfire as it might just cause you serious injury.

Also, if you don’t perform the exercise with a full range of motion, you simply won’t be getting the best bang for your buck. Instead, you should ensure that the weight is challenging enough for you to complete 8-12 reps for around 2-3 sets.

Once you’ve mastered the military press and combine it with other compound exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and the bench press, it will only be a matter of time before you build a muscular and toned physique. Along the way, you’ll be able to enjoy increased upper body strength and definition too!

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