A Neutral Shoulder Press for the Medial Deltoids

Use dumbbells to do the neutral shoulder press exercise.
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The neutral grip shoulder press works the front and medial deltoid muscles the same as a standard shoulder press does, but it offers some benefits that other shoulder press variations do not. The neutral grip is easier on the shoulder joint than other shoulder press grips, offering an alternative for lifters with weak or previously injured shoulders. Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.

Shoulder Anatomy

Three main muscles, referred to as the deltoids, comprise the shoulder joint: the anterior deltoid located on the front of the shoulder, the posterior deltoid on the back of the shoulder and the medial deltoid on the side of the shoulder. The shoulder press exercise targets the front and side shoulder muscles, with several muscles in the upper back and arms assisting during the movement.

Neutral Grip

For a neutral grip, position your palms so they face each other, as opposed to facing toward or away from your body. Use dumbbells, a cable machine, resistance bands or a shoulder press machine with a neutral grip option to perform the neutral shoulder press exercise. You cannot do this grip variation with a barbell. The neutral shoulder press movement involves the triceps more than other shoulder press variations.


Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your elbows pointing toward the floor and the dumbbells resting near your shoulders. Turn your wrists so your palms face each other. Exhale and press the weights overhead, keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body. Do not flare your elbows out to the sides. Continue pressing until your arms are fully extended overhead. Pause for a count, inhale and slowly return to the starting position. Complete eight to 12 repetitions.


The standard grip overhead press involves shoulder abduction, lifting the upper arm up and out to the side, and internal rotation, turning the upper arm inward. As you abduct and internally rotate the shoulder, the space between the top of the humerus bone and the acromion, the rounded end of the clavicle bone, decreases. As this space gets smaller, the acromion can impinge, or squeeze, the tendons and tissues in the space, causing shoulder pain and limited functionality of the joint. The neutral grip variation of the shoulder press exercise eliminates abduction, because your elbows stay close to your body, reducing the chances of shoulder impingement.

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