How to do a Shoulder Press

What is a Shoulder Press?

Shoulder Press

If you want to strengthen your shoulders and back, the shoulder press is an essential move. Though the front portion of your muscles receive the primary benefits, your deltoids, triceps, trapezius and pecs are also working hard.

The shoulder press is designed to engage the stabilizer muscles in your shoulders, elbows and wrists while also indirectly targeting your abs. Including this exercise in your training routine will help you improve stability, balance and the ability to perform everyday activities.

Below are some of our favorite shoulder press exercises. If you’re new to free weights, we suggest you start at the beginner level and work your way up to more advanced movements.

  • Don’t rush or touch. Avoid fully extending your arms and touching the dumbbells together with each rep to ensure you get the most contraction and engagement.
  • Don’t be stiff. If you’re standing up, slightly bend your knees and keep your chin parallel to the floor.
  • Stay in line. Keep your wrists straight and align your hands with your forearms as you do each rep.


Level: Beginners

Equipment: Dumbbells

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells at shoulder height with your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Slowly lift the dumbbells above your head without fully straightening your arms. Pause at the top.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position.


Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Equipment: Barbell, Plates

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then bend at the knees to place your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width so your palms are facing you (like the start of a deadlift).
  2. Keep your back flat and your shoulders over the bar and keep the bar close to your body throughout the lift.
  3. Once the bar reaches your knees, extend your ankles, knees and hips in an explosive motion to power the bar to your shoulders.
  4. Rotate your elbows to hold the bar at shoulder height, then stand straight and press the bar towards the ceiling until your arms are fully straight.
  5. Return to the starting position.