The shoulder press works several muscles of the upper body and offers a host of benefits that improve daily functioning. This exercise can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or a machine. To execute, stand or sit with your weight of choice in each hand at shoulder level with your elbows bent. Straighten your back, stabilize your abdomen then press the weights overhead by extending your arms. Slowly return to the starting position.
The most obvious benefit of the shoulder press exercise is improved strength. The exercise targets several of the major upper body muscles including the deltoids, trapezius, triceps, serratus anterior and the upper portion of the pecs. This exercise is particularly important for women who tend to lack upper body strength. Although you don't really need to worry about it now, as you age you begin to lose muscle and it could eventually be difficult to lift something as small as a can of soup above your head. The shoulder press is an important exercise to do now and continue to do throughout your life to help maintain your health and independence.
An important benefit of the shoulder press exercise as well as any other strength-training exercise is increased bone strength. During the lift, the load placed on your bones by the weights stresses them and causes them to adapt, just like your muscles. Your bones respond by increasing their mineral density and becoming stronger, which decreases your risk of osteoporosis -- something that will definitely benefit you later on.
You will likely experience improved stability in your arms, shoulders and torso after several workouts doing the shoulder press. The movement calls upon the stabilizer muscles of your wrists, elbows and shoulders to ensure that your joints stay in place as you press the weights. While the exercise does not directly target your torso muscles, they are used extensively to maintain your posture as you lift the weights overhead. This will eventually lead to better core stabilization and overall balance, especially if you perform the shoulder press standing up.
Improvements in Other Areas
The shoulder press exercise can benefit you in other areas of your active life. For example, regular shoulder presses can improve your performance during triceps-targeting exercises, bench presses and even hand stand pushups. Keeping your muscles strong with the shoulder press exercise will also decrease your risk of injury during other activities such as swimming, soft ball, lacrosse or other instances where you use your arms and upper body.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Third Edition; Thomas Baechle, et al
- Strength Training Anatomy; Frederic Delavier; 2006
- MayoClinic.com: Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.