If you're looking to tone and sculpt your shoulders, the barbell military press is the exercise to do it. The barbell military press is a standing overhead press that provides excellent benefits for your entire upper body. You'll need a strong spine and shoulders if you want to do this exercise safely, so be sure you have some experience with shoulder exercises before beginning. The barbell military press is also an excellent exercise for building your upper body stabilizers, and can help your shoulders look even better than they already do.
Proper Form and Posture
Performing the barbell military press safely is very important, and ensuring that your form is excellent helps minimize the potential for injury. With a barbell that isn't too heavy for you to manage, stand upright with your core strong and flexed, your feet about shoulder-width apart, and bring the barbell up to your clavicle before fully extending your arms above your head. To perform a single rep, lower your arms until your elbows are at 90 degrees, and then push the barbell over your head until your arms are fully extended.
Of the upper body muscles that the barbell military press uses, the shoulders do the most work. Your anterior deltoid, or the front of your shoulder muscle, is the primary muscle involved in the barbell military press. Additionally, your trapezius muscles, lateral deltoids, and levator scapulae all work in tandem to maximize your shoulder's lifting effectiveness. The barbell military press is primarily designed to tone and sculpt your shoulders.
Your shoulder muscles aren't the only part of your body getting a workout from the barbell military press. Your triceps, which are involved in all pushing exercises, also lend a helping hand in this compound exercise. The triceps behave as a joint stabilizer in the barbell military press to ensure that your motion is as fluid and smooth as possible. Your triceps also help your arms fully extend near the end of the exercise.
Supporting Muscle Groups
Due to the compound movement of the barbell military press, many of your muscles work together to keep your joints stable and safe from injury. Your pectoralis major, serratus anterior, and biceps all help keep your upper body straight and rigid while the motion is completed. The supporting muscles work in conjunction with your shoulder muscles to keep your spine and chest upright to avoid injuries and spinal compression.
Adriaan Noordzij has been a writer since 2009, specializing in fitness, gaming and technology. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, he has contributed to IGN and various fitness and health websites. Noordzij serves as the production and IT director for "CHAOS Magazine."