Seated Barbell Shoulder Press – Seated Military Press
Seated barbell shoulder press, sometimes referred as a military press, is simple but very effective, and is one of the basic exercises around which all shoulder routines are constructed. The barbell shoulder press can be performed while sitting on a weight bench or while standing, although the sitting position is recommended for beginners because of greater stability.
Other names for this exercise:
- Seated military press
- Front military press
- Seated military barbell press
- Seated barbell shoulder press
- Seated barbell shoulder press in front of the head
- Front barbell shoulder press
This front deltoid exercise is performed in the same manner as behind-the-head presses, except instead of lowering the bar behind the head, you lower to the front. Bring the bar down until it just touches the upper chest. Once again, no bouncing, just smooth controlled reps.
How to Perform Seated Barbell Shoulder Press?
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit on an upright seat, using a rack if one is available, and grasp the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip. Slowly lower the bar down in front of your face until it’s below chin level.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Forcefully press the bar up in a straight line and over your head without locking out your elbows at the top. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position – until it’s in front of your throat (or to your chest at about the height of your collarbone). Push the barbell up from the top of your chest again.
Comments & Tips
Most bodybuilders find it more comfortable to lower the bar to the front. It also eliminates the risk of striking the head or neck. There is a tendency to arch when doing the exercise, so be careful. A slight arch to bring the bar to the upper chest is fine, but nothing excessive. The seated position means that you are not able to “help” the bar up by using your legs and so tends to isolate the effects of the exercise. Always wear a belt when doing any variation of this exercise, which can place a large amount of stress on your lower back.
Muscles Engaged in Seated Barbell Shoulder Press – Front Military Press
Front presses put most of the stress on the front and side delts. The rear delts and traps receive some stimulation, but not as they do with rear presses (behind the neck press). The upper pectorals are worked if you lean back when doing the exercise. More precisely:
- Main muscles: deltoid (front, middle), triceps (except long head), supraspinatus
- Secondary muscles: deltoid (rear), pectoralis major (upper), trapezius (upper), biceps
(long head), serratus anterior, triceps (long head)
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, pectoralis major (lower)
Barbell Overhead Press Variations
- Perform overhead presses behind the neck to deemphasize the front deltoid and involve more middle deltoid. Lower the bar behind your head to the point at which the barbell is even with the top of your ears;
- Do overhead presses while standing, which requires using your whole body for stability.
Barbell Overhead Press Substitutes – Replacement Exercises
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press (dumbbell overhead press)
- Smith machine overhead press – in front of the head or behind the head
- Machine shoulder press
Closing Thoughts (Conclusion)
Seated barbell shoulder press (front military press) is a must for building massive shoulders. This is very important upper body lift for any guy looking for visible size and power gains. It is a compound exercise, which means it uses multiple muscle groups. Improving on the shoulder press will also make you stronger when you bench press.
You can perform this exercise while standing, but the seated position means that you are not able to “help” the bar up by using your legs and so tends to isolate the effects of the exercise.
Furthermore, because of the availability of bars, you can do presses with a bar in almost all gyms or at home. You can use a lot of weight in this exercise, but you should remember that the shoulder joint is relatively fragile.
Any overhead barbell press – in front of the neck or behind – can be stressful for some bodybuilders. Other bodybuilders are able to do all the pressing variations pain free. Our advice is to start with light weights until your body finds its groove. And stay within your comfort zone.
If a seated barbell shoulder press feels like it’s pulling apart your shoulders joints, it’s not right for you. Try seated dumbbell shoulder press instead.
Finally, the chest press already stimulates the front part of the shoulders. If you are seriously training your chest, it is not necessary to focus on the front of the shoulder, especially because this zone of the deltoid is the easiest to develop. In that case try to focus more on developing your lateral and posterior (rear) deltoid muscles.