The Shoulder Press

Commonly known as the “strict press”, the shoulder press is the foundation for every other overhead movement. The mechanics of a neutral spine, straight bar-path, and a stable overhead position are the key elements.

Learning the set-up, execution, and finish of this lift precedes the push press, push jerk, and split jerk.


Before pressing the barbell overhead, your set-up will be similar to the front squat: the bar rests on the torso just above the collarbone, feet are shoulder-width apart, and the hands are outside of the shoulders.

Where it differs from the front squat is the grip and elbow position.

A full grip is used with all fingers on the bar with the thumb wrapped around. This will help you press the barbell up with the hands, not the fingers–surprising, I know. But I see the opposite happen all of the time.

Next, your elbows should also be slightly in front of the bar. Notice how they are not parallel with the ground. In the shoulder press, you need to find the comfortable medium between your elbows being directly underneath the wrists and the elbows pointing forward.


Throughout the execution of the shoulder press, the most basic mechanic is to keep your heels on the ground. This basic point of performance is followed by the most overlooked mechanic: pushing your shoulders up into the bar.

As you can see in the second image above, the athlete initiates the press with the shoulders–think of it almost as a shrug. It’s really a simple cue easy to overlook, but will be the difference between lifting moderate weight and heavy weight.

As weights continue to get heavier, faults depicted in the images above and below almost always follow. In the above picture, the athlete is arching her back and losing her core’s strength. In the picture below, the athlete is pressing the barbell out away from the center of her foot.

Both of these faults are caused by the athlete wanting to use the pectoral muscles as opposed to the shoulders. When pressing weight overhead, the shoulders and core do the lifting–not the chest.


The final component is to simply finish with your elbows locked out and shoulders tall. As you can see in the image above, the athlete’s elbows are stiff and her shoulders are up near the ears.

Happy pressing!



AMRAP 12 Minutes:
60 Double Unders
20 Alternating Dumbbell Snatches
20 Single Dumbbell Stepback Lunges

*Images used fromĀ here.

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