Welcome to Modify This Move, a series that will provide you with all the information you need to modify a common exercise to suit your needs, your body, and your mood. Each tale explains a fundamental fitness action in detail before offering a variety of variations based on your current level of fitness or energy, any current or past ailments, or the muscles you wish to focus on the most. So leave your ego at the door and make sure every workout is appropriate for where you are right now.
You might stack a large box of clothing on the top shelf of your wardrobe, take a large book from your tall bookshelf, and carry your kid (or dog) into the air in the style of the Lion King in just one day. These actions all involve the overhead press as a movement pattern.
According to Kristie Larson , a NASM-certified personal trainer and body-neutral strength coach in New York, adding the shoulder press to your training program can benefit you given how frequently you raise your arms above your head, frequently with a heavy weight in hand. According to her, performing this exercise “builds strength primarily via the shoulder and works it through its full range of motion with control, which crosses over to a lot of your regular tasks.”
The front, medial, and lateral deltoids, which all assist in moving your arms in all directions and protect and stabilize your shoulder joints, are the three primary muscles in your shoulders that are put to the test by shoulder presses, according to Larson. According to her, the exercise also strengthens your triceps because they have to help you lower the weight slowly back to your shoulders. According to Larson, your core is used to maintain your trunk firm and erect throughout the entire exercise.
There are adjustments, progressions, and alternatives you can use to make the seated shoulder press perform greatest for your body and desires, even though it is frequently the preferred exercise to target these muscles. Try a modified shoulder press version that focuses on your upper body if you’re completely new to the exercise or want to perfect your form with a high weight, for instance. Do you wish to correct muscular imbalances or enhance your overall coordination? You can take steps toward achieving such objectives by performing straightforward shoulder press variants. And if you have shoulder pain, a shoulder press with a minor grip variation will help you gain strength without aggravating your problem.
No matter your skills or level of fitness, you may modify the shoulder press such that it becomes a welcome rather than a dreaded addition to your workout regimen. Because the shoulder press has so many functional applications, Larson advises everyone to incorporate some variation of it into their weekly exercise routine. Find the press that works for you; there are so many different ways to alter it.
Are you prepared to put the upper-body exercise to the test and work on your IRL movement patterns? Practice the sitting shoulder press using the instructions below, and then watch as Larson shows you how to change it up with nine other shoulder press variations that are suitable for people of all fitness levels and talents.
A SEATED SHOULDER PRESS: HOW TO DO IT A. With your feet flat on the ground and a dumbbell in each hand, sit on a bench with your core tightened. Raise elbows a few inches in front of the body at chest height while maintaining a 90-degree bend in the arms. palms facing forward. This is where everything begin.
B. While exhaling, press the dumbbells directly overhead until the biceps are next to the ears and the wrists are stacked directly over the shoulders. Keep your core active.
C. Lower the weights back to the starting position while inhaling, bending elbows.
The sitting shoulder press is a useful exercise that can help you develop upper-body strength and learn functional movement patterns, but it shouldn’t be your only option. Don’t be hesitant to experiment with alternative shoulder press variations that work with your body, goals, and present needs if the standard exercise doesn’t feel right for you.
Here, you’ll find shoulder press modifications that increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise as well as replacements that will help you reach particular fitness objectives, such as improved coordination, stronger shoulders, or muscular balance. Additionally, Larson offers shoulder press variations that are easy on the joints if you have shoulder pain and get your heart pumping when you need some cardio.
Whichever variant you select, keep in mind to keep your elbows slightly in front of your chest rather than parallel to it, advises Larson. (Read: You shouldn’t have a perfectly straight upper body.) In the starting posture, she says, “you want to be able to see your hands or the dumbbells in your peripheral vision.” This helps to more effectively target the muscles you wish to work while reducing stress on the tendons and ligaments in the shoulder. As you push through your reps, keep listening to your body. If anything doesn’t feel right, try a different activity.
Scaling-down Shoulder Press Variation: Half-Kneeling Strict Press The thought of hoisting a pair of dumbbells into the air can be a little intimidating, regardless of your level of experience with the shoulder-press or your readiness to increase your weights. Because of this, Larson advises reducing the intensity and switching to this shoulder press variation, in which you kneel on the floor and raise one weight at a time. As she says, “Because you’re closer to the ground, it can be less daunting and easier to drop the weight if you were to fail the rep.” It also enables you to concentrate solely on one arm at a time. Additionally, she continues, kneeling instead of standing provides you a strong foundation, meaning your core won’t have to work as hard to keep you upright and stable.
A. Kneel down while keeping your knees at a 90-degree angle and a dumbbell in your right hand. While keeping the right knee on the ground, extend the left leg forward and place the foot flat on the ground. Raise the right elbow a few inches in front of the body, out to the side, at chest height. with the left arm outstretched and the right palm facing forward. This is where everything begin.
B. While exhaling, push the dumbbell directly overhead until the biceps are next to the ear and the wrist stacks are directly over the shoulder. Keep your core active.
C. Lower the dumbbell back to the starting position while inhaling; bend elbow.
Variation of the shoulder press for a higher level: single-legged standing strict press If doing a standing shoulder press is easy for you, you might want to try a single-leg standing stringent press to enhance the difficulty. According to Larson, the shoulder press variation tests your stability and core strength because you’ll have to work harder to stay stable. It also puts stress on your hip flexors on the raised leg.
A. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your feet hip-width apart and your abs tight. Lift the left knee toward the hips. Raise elbows a few inches in front of the body at chest height while maintaining a 90-degree bend in the arms. palms facing inward. This is where everything begin.
STRICT PRESS AS A SHOULDER PRESS VARIATION FOR FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH Turn to the rigorous press, in which you stand tall and press a pair of dumbbells squarely overhead, advises Larson, to increase your functional strength and stability. In real life, you do a lot with your arms raised overhead, she explains. And a strict press helps to make it a really powerful and comfortable stance, making it simple to accomplish when you come across it in daily life.
A. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your feet hip-width apart and your abs tight. Raise elbows a few inches in front of the body at chest height while maintaining a 90-degree bend in the arms. palms facing forward. This is where everything begin.
A CARDIO BOOST SHOULDER PRESS VARIATION: THRUSTER This shoulder press variation combines resistance training with cardio in a very difficult way. According to Larson, you should squat down at the top of each rep before pressing up as hard as you can. This will help you lift the dumbbells overhead and raise your heart rate. Additionally, the exercise tests the stability of your shoulders. When you reach the lock-out position, you need to be able to stabilize the joint and then control the weight as you lower yourself because you’re moving so swiftly and powerfully, she explains.
A. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your abs tight. Raise elbows a few inches in front of the body at chest height while maintaining a 90-degree bend in the arms. palms facing inward. This is where everything begin.
B. Keeping your chest up and keeping your back from rounding, sit back into your hips and bend your knees to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or nearly so.
C. Press the dumbbells directly overhead while simultaneously straightening your knees through your feet as you exhale, stacking your wrists squarely over your shoulders and positioning your biceps near to your ears.
D. Lower the weights back to the starting position while inhaling, bending elbows.
ALTERNATING SHOULDER PRESSES TO CORRECT MUSCLE IMBALANCES SHADOW PRESS Although having one arm somewhat stronger than the other is completely normal, major imbalances might result in compensatory movement patterns and, ultimately, increase the risk of injury, according to the American Council on Exercise . The alternate shoulder press is now available. Working each arm separately will assist in redressing those imbalances, claims Larson. And by doing it alternately, your non-dominant side can take a brief break while the dominant side is at work.
A. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your feet hip-width apart and your abs tight. Raise elbows a few inches in front of the body at chest height while maintaining a 90-degree bend in the arms. palms facing inward. This is where everything begin.
B. While exhaling, press the dumbbell in your right hand directly above until your biceps are near to your ear and your wrist stacks are directly over your shoulder. Keep your core active.
C. Lower the dumbbell back to the starting position while inhaling; bend elbow. Next, press again on the left side.
SHADOW PRESS PUSH PRESS is an alternative to PUSH THROUGH PLATEAUS. Having trouble finishing the last few reps or increasing the weight? Try a push press, advises Larson, in which your lower body will assist in pushing the weights upward. To lift the weights overhead, however, you will just slightly bend your knees, unlike the squat-based thruster. She says that this tiny bump in power can help you finish your set or perhaps lift higher loads that you couldn’t quite handle with a conventional press. The push press can help you break through any training plateaus and get used to the sensation of a greater weight traveling overhead, according to Larson. You can go to a strict press with the same weight after you’re confident with the larger load in a push press, she adds.
B. Exhale as you drive through your feet to straighten your legs and press the dumbbells firmly overhead, stacking your wrists directly over your shoulders and positioning your biceps near to your ears. Keep your core active.
ROTATIONAL SHOULDER PRESS: SHOULDER PRESS VARIATION TO IMPROVE COORDINATION This shoulder press variation calls for tremendous coordination between your hips, shoulders, and core as you spin at the trunk while extending one arm overhead, according to Larson. She also points out that athletes who play rotational sports like tennis or basketball may find this approach to be very helpful.
B. Press the dumbbell in your right hand directly overhead while exhaling, bringing your biceps up to your ears. While simultaneously turning the trunk to the left, elevate the right heel off the floor while maintaining a stable core.
C. Rotate the trunk back to the beginning position while bending the elbow and lowering the dumbbell on an inhalation. Next, press again on the left side.
ARNOLD PRESS: A SHOULDER PRESS VARIATION TO STRENGTHEN THE WHOLE SHOULDER MUSCLE GROUP This shoulder press variation effectively works all three of your deltoids because of a 180-degree rotation that occurs midway through the exercise, according to Larson. “This can be a really wonderful alternative if someone is truly seeking to gain size in their shoulder muscles,” she continues. However, Larson advises against doing this motion if you have a history of shoulder trouble or injuries since it could place too much strain on the joint.
A. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your feet hip-width apart and your abs tight. Raise your elbows to chest height while keeping your arms bent. Tuck your elbows into your body with your palms facing inward. This is where everything begin.
B. While exhaling, press the dumbbells squarely overhead, turning your arms so your palms face forward and your biceps are adjacent to your ears. Keep your core active.
C. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position while bending your elbows and inhaling. Rotate your arms so your palms are once again facing your body.
NEUTRAL GRIP PRESS IS A SHOULDER PRESS OPTION FOR SHOULDER PAIN. According to Larson, the neutral grip press is the best exercise for people with shoulder pain because it relieves pressure on the shoulder joint by keeping the weights close to your body’s midline. She also points out that the shoulder press variation targets the triceps more specifically than the standard exercise does.
Anthony Cunanan took the pictures. Jenna Brillhart is the director of art. Kristie Larson, a fitness professional and model Girlfriend Collective’s activewear Exercise machine: Ignite by SPRI