How to Do a Military Press With Perfect Form

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The military press is one of the best exercises you can do for your shoulders. This exercise existed even before the bench press gained credence and it was used as the test of total upper-body strength. And even though today it might be on the decline in popularity, the military press is still the most effective exercise you can do to build anterior deltoid strength. On top of that, it also works your upper back, traps and core muscles. So include it into your training program in order to develop well-defined shoulders and overall body strength. Here’s how to do a military press with proper form.

How to Do a Military Press Correctly

how to improve military press

Performing the military press with poor form can lead to targeting the wrong muscles and injury. So it’s important to learn to do it correctly, which will also help you to maximize the training results.

There are also different variations of the military press. You can do it either seated or standing up. If you want the whole body training, then the standing option is the one for you. In addition to shoulders, it also requires more core, lower back and leg engagement. So if you want a slightly easier version, then perform it seated.

You can also use either dumbbells or a barbell. It’s good to mix them up as they activate the muscles in a slightly different way. The dumbbells, for example, incorporate more balancing muscles into the movement. The barbell, on the other hand, allows you to lift more weight. And as a result, you’ll build more strength and muscle.

How to Do the Standing Military Press

It’s best to use a squat rack, which will make it easier to get the bar into position. So, to start, set the bar at the same height as if you were squatting – at mid-chest height.

1. Hand Grip

how to do a military press

Your hand grip is one of the first important factors that can make or break your lift. An overly wide grip will place undue stress on your shoulders and an overly narrow grip will not allow you to generate enough strength to get the bar up. So place your hands on the bar (with palms facing forward) just outside of the shoulder-width. You want your wrists to travel straight above your elbows with your forearms staying vertical to the ground throughout the move.

2. Unrack the Barbell

military press grip

Once you’ve got your grip right, unrack the barbell. To do so, slightly bend your knees, contract your core and glutes, place the bar on your collar bone and lift it up. Then, take a step back so you’ll have enough room to raise the bar. Hold it in front of your head at the level of your shoulders or depending on your body composition, you can hold it right under your chin.

3. Feet Together

The difference between the overhead press and the military press is that the latter uses a narrower, military stance. Your heels should be together and the toes pointing out.

4. Don’t Flare Your Elbows

proper military press form

Flaring your elbows can hurt your shoulders. It will also affect how much you can lift. So make sure that your elbows are pointing forward. Keep them right under your wrists. This will allow pressing the bar upwards in a more natural arc.

5. Lift the Bar Up

military press technique

Stabilize your abdominal muscles, squeeze your glutes and start to lift the bar. As you near the top, breath out and push your head slightly forward to get your biceps aligned with your ears. This will help you avoid arching your back and will ensure that you press with good form.

Your back should stay neutral with just a slight natural curve when you stand. It shouldn’t be arched or too flat. Don’t lean back excessively when you’re struggling to push up the weight.

As you press the bar up, you want to focus on driving through your heels and not toes. This will help you to keep stability and tension in your lower body. Moreover, this rigid frame will generate a chain of power, transferring energy from your heels to your arms and help you to drive the weight up.

Press the bar until your elbows are locked. At the top, shrug your shoulders, which will provide a stronger lockout position. It will also help to avoid shoulder impingement.

Also, remember to keep your core engaged. It’s pivotal for strength activation and for protecting your back against the excessive strain.

6. Lower the Bar

As you slowly lower down the bar, take a deep breath in. You can lower it to about chin or collarbone level. On the way down, also move your head slightly back so you don’t hit yourself on the forehead.

Don’t go too low with the bar as it will make your shoulders excessively rotate inwards. This will take the emphasis off your deltoids.

7. Repeat

As you exhale, bring the bar back up until your elbows are locked out. Continue the movement for the recommended amount of reps.

How to Do a Seated Military Press

seated barbell military press

Performing a seated military press is very similar to the standing version. You just need to find a bench to sit on and instead of the narrow stance, keep your feet shoulder-width apart.

Keep in mind that the seated military press works fewer muscles than the standing version. This exercise focuses more on the shoulders and arms. It doesn’t develop as much overall strength and muscle.

What About Military Press Machines?

standing barbell military press

A military press machine is good for when you want to isolate muscles. However, the eliminate the need for balancing muscles, which are used to stabilize the movement. So if you want to get maximum results of muscle, strength and joint mobility, the free weights are more effective.

Bottom Line

Use the advice in this article to get the best results from your military presses and build a strong, powerful upper body. Mix it up by doing the seated and standing version and alternate using the barbell and dumbbells. Or just experiment and find what works best for you.

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