Skip to main content

Military Press

What Is A Military Press

How To Do A Military Press

If you’re an advanced lifter looking to build serious shoulder strength, the military press is an excellent option. Requiring good coordination, mobility, and strength, this is a challenging movement that requires you to adopt a strict rigid position and press a barbell above the head, using zero momentum from other body parts.

This is a compound exercise that works the deltoids and triceps, with the core also working to stabilise the torso. It requires a good level of strength and stability, so we’d recommend starting with the dumbbell shoulder press or shoulder press machine first to build this up. It’s unlike you’ll be able to lift as much load with the military press as other shoulder presses due to the lack of lower body movement and leg drive.

While the military press is often used interchangeably with the overhead press, the two exercises are different: the military press requires a stricter posture with the movement coming fully from the shoulders and arms, while the overhead press allows for more momentum and adopts a wider foot stance with a soft bend in the knees. Most people will find the overhead press easier and we’d recommend mastering the technique and building strength with the overhead press first. We’ve covered instructions for both below.

Commonly Asked Questions On Military Press

  • The military press primarily works the anterior deltoid and medial deltoid, with support from the triceps and the clavicular head in the upper triceps. The core also works to keep the torso stable and protect the lower back.

  • Reaching a plateau in your military press is normal and it can be challenging to increase the load. Adding the push press into your routine can be helpful for improving your military press; this is because the legs are involved moving the weight, so a higher load can be used and the upper body can be exposed to heavier weight. Making sure to do the military press at least twice a week can also help to increase the weight and break through a plateau quicker.

  • The military press feels so challenging as it limits involvement from the other parts of the body, relying solely on shoulder and tricep strength. The narrow stance also creates a less stable base, meaning the core and shoulders have to work hard to remain stable and protect the back.

  • The military press can be performed as a seated shoulder press, and most people will find they are able to lift a higher load as they have a more stable base to press from. This is a good way to expose the shoulders to more weight, but will mean the core and stabilising muscles are worked less. Combining both variations (on separate days) can be helpful in a training programme.

Military Press Tips

Performing the military press correctly is important to ensure the correct muscle groups are targeted and to reduce injury risks.

Maintaining a neutral hip throughout the movement is crucial as it prevents the lumbar spine from overextending, which can put strain on the lower back. If you are struggling to maintain a neutral hip and spine, drop the load and work on form.

If you find your rotator cuffs are under stress during this exercise, it may be due to the position of your arms. Instead of pressing the arms so they’re directly to the side of the head, position them slightly in front of your body as this will reduce stress on the shoulders.

How To Do A Military Press

  1. The military press starts by resting a barbell on the front of your shoulders above the collarbone. This can be done by lifting and placing a barbell from the floor, or using a squat rack to set the bar in place.

  2. Place your feet shoulder width apart with toes slightly pointed out. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to maintain a neutral spine.

  3. Press the bar overhead and extend the arms until your elbows are locked. Make sure the movement only comes from the shoulders and arms, with the rest of your body rigid.

  4. Remaining stable, slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.

How To Do An Overhead Press

  1. Using a barbell that you can position on the front delts or opting for a barbell set up in the squat rack, begin the setup of the overhead press by resting the barbell on the front of your shoulders.

  2. Assume a hip width stance, with a soft bend in the knees and ensure your feet remain planted throughout. Grip the bar just outside of shoulder width and squeeze your glutes to maintain a neutral hip position.

  3. Straighten your knees to generate some momentum while extending your arms simultaneously until the barbell is above the head.

  4. Remaining stable, slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position, assuming a soft bend in the knees again before commencing the next rep.

If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.