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Shoulder presses are one of the best upper-body mass-building moves around, working all three heads of the deltoids, the traps and the rotator cuffs in one fell swoop. Sadly, presses are too often done incorrectly, both in form and function, putting you at risk for injuries such as sprains, strains and even tears. Here’s Oxygen’s guide to getting it right:
• Sit tall on a bench with a short back for optimal support. Sitting on a bench without a back is great if you also want to engage your core, but the trade-off is you’re less stable. Translation: You ultimately lift less weight in order to stabilize yourself.
• Hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders, elbows pointed down and palms facing forward. Stack your wrists over your elbows for balance, forearms perpendicular to the floor.
• Spread your feet apart on the floor, which gives you a better base of support from which to press the weight.
• Relax your traps; don’t shrug your shoulders. Tension in your neck and upper back will limit your range of motion.
• Extend your arms and forcefully press the weights up overhead. As your arms come to full extension, move the dumbbells inward so that they touch or nearly touch over your head.
• Return slowly to the start under control and never bounce or use momentum to go into the next repetition.
• For barbell presses, use a bench with a rack and always do your presses to the front of the head to avoid shoulder impingement and a potential rotator-cuff injury.
Beginner Tip: Watch yourself in a mirror to make sure your arms are moving evenly and in sync. It’s not uncommon to have one shoulder or arm that is stronger than the other, so check your form throughout to make sure you’re balanced.
More Shoulder-Press Variations
Single-arm dumbbell press
Standing barbell/dumbbell press
Seated military press
One-arm cable press