Seated Barbell Military Press – Exercise Video Guide


Muscles Targeted: The seated barbell military press is one of the best overall mass building exercises to build up your shoulders. This exercise targets all three heads of the deltoids as the primary muscles and also works your triceps as a secondary muscle group. By using the barbell, you can really pack on some serious weight to overload your shoulders. The frontal and medial heads of the deltoids will get the majority of the stress on this exercise due to the placement of the barbell going in front of your head during the movement. You want to always avoid lowering the bar behind your head with this exercise. Going behind your head is the incorrect technique since it puts too much stress on your rotator cuffs and the possibility of injury to this area is very high. Always focus on lowering the barbell in front of your head, to ensure you place the maximum amount of stress on your deltoids. To really hit the rear deltoids well, you will need to add some specific read deltoid exercises into your overall shoulder workout.

Exercise Advice: Begin by sitting on an upright bench at 90 degrees. Most gyms have a seated shoulder press rack, which comes in very handy when doing this exercise. If you’re using this specific setup, the barbell will be positioned on a rack either in front of you or behind your head. Depending on the position of the seat, choose the rack position that is the easiest for you to get the barbell off the rack and into the starting position. If the barbell rack is directly behind your head, this usually works the best since you can just press the barbell up off the rack. It’s always the safest to use a spotter on this exercise and have them assist you with a lift off of the barbell into the starting position. If the barbell rack is in front of you when you are seated in the shoulder press rack, it might be a little difficult for you to lean forward to press the barbell off the rack and then sit back so you’re firmly planted in your seat. It’s probably best to avoid this setup with the rack in front of you in this case since you want to avoid moving too much with a barbell loaded with weights over your head.

To start the exercise, position your hands on the barbell with a shoulder width grip. Your hands should be in an overhand closed grip (thumbs overlapping the barbell). Slowly press the barbell off the rack, or have your spotter help you with a lift off to get the barbell up to the starting position, which will be directly over your head. From the top position, slowly lower the barbell down in front of your face to the bottom position which will be when your elbows are at about 45 degrees. This is usually the position where the bar is just under your chin. If you have any shoulder issues, try to avoid going any lower than this since your rotator cuffs will be stressed too much if you go any lower. From the bottom position, slowly press the bar back up over your head to the top in order to complete one full repetition.

Things To Avoid: When you’re performing the seated barbell military press, the biggest thing you want to avoid is lowering the bar behind your head. This will place way too much stress on your rotator cuffs and could cause serious injuries to your shoulders overtime. The safest and most effective way to perform this exercise is to lower the bar in front of your head to ensure you place the most tension on the front and middle part of your deltoids. Another thing you want to avoid is taking to narrow of a grip which will cause you to target your triceps muscles versus your shoulders. A shoulder width grip is the best position for your hands to be on the bar. Make sure to avoid going too low when you lower the bar down to the bottom. Your elbows should be at about 45 degrees at the bottom. You also want to avoid using too much weight when not using a spotter. The last thing you want is to have a bunch of weight on the barbell with it over your head and nobody around to help you if you can’t get the weight back up to the top. So, always have a friend come over and spot you when attempting heavier weights and lower reps.

Reps and Sets: For the best muscle building regime, stick with a repetition range of between 8-12 reps per set. Your overall sets for the seated barbell military press should be in the range of 2-3 since the deltoids are a medium-sized muscle group. Your total sets for your entire shoulder workout should be around 6-8 for the best results. Since you will be using your shoulders during many of your chest exercises, they will be stimulated multiple times during the week, so you really don’t need too many sets to make them grow. Only train your deltoids once per week to allow maximum recovery so the muscles can repair and grow from your workouts. Rest time between sets should be between 2-3 minutes depending on the repetition range. The lower reps and heavier weight you do, the more rest you will need to fully recover between sets.

Other Exercises To Use: A few other great shoulder exercises to combine with the seated barbell military press in your shoulder workout include the Standing Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises and the Seated Front Dumbbell Deltoid Raises which will allow you to really hit all areas of the shoulders. It’s always good to include multiple exercises in your workout routine to ensure you hit the muscles from different angles in order to shock them into growth. Always try to avoid doing the same exercises for each and every workout since your muscles will get used to the same stimulus and they will start to plateau. Always try to mix it up and do something different with your exercises, reps, sets and overall workout routines.

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