Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBarbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelIntermediate
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Traps, Triceps
Target Muscle Group


Shoulders Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Military Press (AKA Overhead Press) Overview

The military press is a complete shoulder building exercise perfect for building shoulder muscle. The military press is an exercise with many names and is often referred to as the shoulder press, overhead press, and strict press.

The military press is used primarily to build the deltoid muscle. It also indirectly targets the other muscles of the shoulder, your triceps, and your core. Since the military press is completed standing up, it involves a lot of core strength to help stabilize the spine while pressing weight overhead.

There are a number of variations to the military press you can use to target the deltoids from different angles and different ways.

These military press variations include:

Be sure to add a variation of the military press to your shoulder workout to get the benefits from one of the most complete shoulder exercises out there.

Military Press (AKA Overhead Press) Instructions

  1. Adjust the barbell to just below shoulder height then load the desired weight onto the bar.
  2. Assume a shoulder width stance and place your hands at (or just outside of) shoulder width with a pronated grip on the bar.
  3. Step underneath the bar and unrack it while keeping the spine in a neutral position.
  4. Take two steps back, inhale, brace, tuck the chin, then press the bar to lockout overhead.
  5. Exhale once the bar gets to lockout and reverse the movement slowly while controlling the bar back to your chest.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Military Press (AKA Overhead Press) Tips

  1. Reach tall at the top and don’t worry about keeping the shoulders packed down and back.
  2. Allow the elbows to rotate and point outward at the top of the movement but tuck them tight to the ribcage at the bottom.
  3. Fight to control the bar from rolling your wrists into extension and think about “rolling your knuckles toward the ceiling.”
  4. Keep momentum out of the movement and don’t add any additional leg drive by flexing and extending the knees.
  5. Squeeze your glutes and brace your abs as you press. You shouldn’t be leaning back excessively as you press.
  6. Imagine you’re trying to look out a window at the top, your ears should be in line with your biceps.
  7. If your shoulders are bothering you during the movement, consider experimenting with a wider grip or utilizing some of the vertical pressing progressions listed on the site.
  8. You can use a staggered stance to prevent the lower back from arching excessively but if you still can’t control the anterior core then consider using a half kneeling regression shown on the site.
Posted on: Fri, 09/23/2022 - 21:29

It says to keep your wrists from rolling back, and yet in the video...

Posted on: Mon, 02/28/2022 - 05:40

Hello! When I come done with the bar I experience a quick bolt of electricity coming down from my right lower arm. When I lay the bar done I dont have any pain anymore and by every other exercise I also do not experience this kind of pain. What should I do? What can it be?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 02/28/2022 - 08:11

Hi, Maddox. No idea what it could be. Best bet is to see a doctor.

Posted on: Wed, 03/09/2022 - 12:10

Hi Maddox
I am not medically trained but I have had c4-c7 (cervical discs) fused together because I had severe bulging discs plus more.
As advised by the previous comment I would see a dr just to confirm or rule out disc issues because you don’t want to make it worse if it is a disc problem.
If the bulging disc starts to touch the nerves it is excruciatingly painful and I would not wish that on anybody

Posted on: Mon, 09/14/2020 - 21:32

I know someone already asked but I did not see an answer. Should I add weight each time if so how much? What do you do if you have an injured shoulder but still want to get a strong workout. Thank you!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 09/25/2020 - 16:07

Hey Lisa - the weight you use should be one that you can move safely and with proper form for the given number of reps.

Posted on: Tue, 12/31/2019 - 15:45

Isn't exhaling on exertion better?

Posted on: Thu, 06/13/2019 - 14:38

Just getting back into love it thanks

Posted on: Wed, 07/13/2016 - 23:32

For two years now have had a pacemaker / defibulator. So the old school military press could damage it. Si can't I use a military press machine?

Posted on: Tue, 05/27/2014 - 08:46

dont seem to be able to get motivated anymore constantly tired workout at home need someone to give me a kick up the arse

Posted on: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 18:08

Motivation is difficult when working alone. The easy answer is to get a partner, even if this person only watches you work out! This is not always possible for some folks. Just like everything else you do, set up a schedule, and goals. You pay your bills on a schedule. Treat your workout as a bill. It is a MANDATORY payment on your future health. "I will work on my arms and chest only on Mondays at 7-7:30 PM." "I will work on my back only on Wednesdays at 7-7:30 PM." "I will works on my legs and glutes only at 7-7:30 PM on Friday's."

If your goal is to lose weight, as well as tone muscle, put this on your schedule. "I will weigh myself every Saturday morning at 9 AM." Progress is the best motivator. Do only those exercises that help you achieve your goals. Don't worry about other stuff. Keep it simple and short. Good Luck.

Posted on: Wed, 05/21/2014 - 14:42

I hurt my rotator cuff about four years ago. I reinjured it doing the military press about two to three years ago. Is there another exercise that I can do that would be safe for me?

Posted on: Wed, 03/26/2014 - 17:39

I wonder if I could do this with dumbbells?

Posted on: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 04:46

yes you can

Sherry Dashiell
Posted on: Sun, 10/15/2017 - 12:36

Sure you can do it with dumbbells standing up make sure to engage your core!

Posted on: Sat, 05/04/2013 - 11:31

Power clean or military press? Is it ok to mix the two in same work out?

Posted on: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 08:26


Is there an alternative to this exercise, like using dumbells for example? I'm female and I've found that the men at gym tend to hog the bar bells.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 04/04/2013 - 17:07

You can certainly sub dumbbells for the barbell, so no worries. Simply perform the same movement, and you should be just fine.

Posted on: Fri, 05/10/2013 - 10:11

you can also do something called the alternate Russian press, two dumb bells, one in each hand, starting position is with both hands up in the air straight above your head, don't lock elbows, lower one down, keep elbow out front with arm about a 30* in front as well, press back up, lower the other side, repeat, you can do this seated, however standing is harder which means, better for you!! good luck

Posted on: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 23:04

I've seen tutorials that say to lock out your shoulders and arms at the top of the movement to maximize hypertrophy.

Posted on: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 09:14

Do i increase the weight on the military press like I do the squats,and deadlifts?

dharmendra singh
Posted on: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:02


Posted on: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 00:11

This one made me really sore.

Posted on: Fri, 12/07/2012 - 05:06

Whats the difference b/w Smith press machine and military press if i go with military press is it ok or i have to do both exercise.

Posted on: Sat, 11/03/2012 - 11:13

This workout works like magic. Awesome

Satya Prakash
Posted on: Wed, 10/17/2012 - 13:56


This exercise and Smith Machine Shoulder Press look same. Is there any difference. Can I use only one. Which one is better if I use only one?

Posted on: Thu, 11/22/2012 - 08:03

Try to avoid the Smith Machine as it forces you into an unnatural movement.

Posted on: Thu, 11/22/2012 - 13:18

While getting used to the way the exercise feels seated at the smith machine would be fine but the use of free weight will add an extra element to the work because you have to stabilize the weight. While stabilizing the weight all the muscles stay engaged and it will really rip up your shoulders.

Satya Prakash
Posted on: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 00:38

Thank you all for the reply.
Yes, I saw that getting experience in Smith machine is easy and safe as I can use the safety bar there. After Smith machine I use free weight with less weight and do more repetition to pump my shoulder more.

Posted on: Wed, 07/24/2013 - 13:05

I think this exercise could might as well be a substitute for the Smith machine exercise.

Posted on: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 15:22

Awesome exercise! A must for shoulders!

Posted on: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 00:26

Can it be done sitting down?

Posted on: Thu, 05/10/2012 - 20:56

Can you use an EZ barbell instead?

Posted on: Thu, 05/10/2012 - 17:03

Can you use an EZ barbell for this instead of the Olympic?

Posted on: Wed, 07/17/2013 - 17:53

Should be able to, its still a bar and your still pressing upward. The wide grip you have to take shouldnt affect it anyway.

Posted on: Mon, 04/30/2012 - 09:51

Even with man flu when shoulders day comes round you gotta smash it. NEXT

Posted on: Tue, 04/17/2012 - 06:52

Can dumbells be used in this exercise

mohit soni
Posted on: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 14:43

nice one

Posted on: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 10:14

rocking exercise....

Posted on: Sat, 02/18/2012 - 11:13

This is the KING of shoulder exercises. If you're not mixing this exercises in with your routines you're missing out on mass