Military Press Variations You Must Know About

Military press variations (Photo via Dollar Gill/Unsplash)
Military press variations (Photo via Dollar Gill/Unsplash)

Military press is a compound exercise, and more specifically, it’s a strength training exercise. The purpose of the military press is to work on strengthening the upper body, especially the triceps and shoulders.

There are certain variations of the exercise that you should be aware of, the primary reason being that variations allow you to prevent the muscles from hitting a plateau. While you don’t need to change your routine every time you work on your muscle groups, it’s good to switch it up every two weeks to ensure your muscles do not get too used to one variation.

Muscles Worked During Military Shoulder Press

The following are the muscles that are most affected during the exercise:

  1. Shoulders (delts)
  2. Triceps
  3. Trapezius (upper back)
  4. Chest
  5. Core

How To Do a Military Press?

Barbell press (Photo via Arthur Edelmans/Unsplash)
Barbell press (Photo via Arthur Edelmans/Unsplash)

Before learning the variations, it’s best to first understand how to do the exercise. Once you know the form, it’ll be easier to visualize the variations.

The most common variation in the exercise is the barbell military press. Here are the steps you should follow to do the exercise:

  • Set the barbell at shoulder level and add suitable weight plates to it
  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart
  • Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip and keep them slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Unrack the barbell, and put it on your shoulders
  • Your elbows should be in front of the bar, and your wrist should be straight
  • Engage your core and glutes, keep your back straight, and push the barbell towards the ceiling
  • Extend your arms overhead until your arms are fully extended and the barbell is directly overhead
  • Hold the position for a second before steadily lowering the barbell to your shoulders
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps

The standing military press is the most common variation in the exercise. However, there are some others you should be aware of, and it’ll truly help you in the long run.

Military Shoulder Press Variations

Military press (Photo via John Arano/Unsplash)
Military press (Photo via John Arano/Unsplash)

The following are the variations that will enable you to keep your muscles from becoming too comfortable with one type.

1. Seated Military Press

In this variation of military shoulder press, you have to do the same exercise as the barbell overhead press, with the slight difference being that you'll be seated on a bench instead of standing.

Keep the bench at 90-degrees or slightly inclined and your feet firmly pressed onto the floor. While exercising, keep a slight arch on your lower back.

2. Dumbbell Military Press

In this variation, you can either do the seated press or the standing press, but the only difference is that you’ll be using a pair of dumbbells.

Now, since you’re holding one dumbbell in each hand, it will challenge your stability. It’s advised that you start with light weights to understand how to stabilize your arms before moving to heavier weights.

3. Single-Arm Military Press

In this variation, you’ll be performing a dumbbell press, but one arm at a time. This allows you to isolate the shoulders and work on them individually.

3. Behind-The-Neck Press

This is a challenging variation since it involves pressing the barbell overhead from behind your neck. It’s not recommended for beginners or individuals with prior shoulder injuries.

4. Push Press

In this variation, you can consider adding some more weight than you would for a barbell military press. The idea is to slightly bend your knees and use that leg drive to attain momentum before pushing the barbell overhead.

A push press is usually performed to improve the upper body's explosive power.

Benefits (Photo via Aaron Brogden/Unsplash)
Benefits (Photo via Aaron Brogden/Unsplash)

The military shoulder press is a popular exercise for shoulder muscles. It can help with improving upper body strength, boosting metabolism, improving shoulder stability, and increasing bone density.

However, as a compound exercise, it’s not the easiest to master. You must not attempt it for the first time with heavy weights. In fact, start with just the barbell or light dumbbells before working your way towards heavier weights.

If your form is incorrect, you’ll be putting yourself at risk of injury, which could take months to heal. Therefore, remember to exercise reasonable caution while performing these exercises.

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Edited by Susrita Das
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