The Shoulder Press is a great exercise, especially when done standing. Just the motion of a properly executed Shoulder Press will not only strengthen the entirety of the shoulders (anterior, middle and posterior deltoid), but also the triceps, muscles of the abdomen (or core), and even tighten the muscles of the middle and upper back. When done standing, the Shoulder Press becomes a functional (real life) movement and works the core even more. Let's first look at how to do it properly.
Proper form with a standing Shoulder Press begins in Anatomical Neutral Posture, holding the weight up to the sides of your torso bent 90 degrees at the elbow and 90 degrees at the upper arm and obliques (your side-abs). Contract the abdomen and the glutes (butt) slightly to ensure that the hips do not shoot forward or have the lower back arch excessively. Make sure your palms are facing in front of you, not towards the other palm. Press the weight above your head, keeping the hands directly above at the elbows and arms parallel with one another and your torso. Once up, hold the arms and weight above your head with arms straight, making sure to keep your head back. Bring the weight back down slowly to a 90 degree bend at the elbow, keeping the arms parallel with the torso. Good work, you did one repetition.
Now there are several misconceptions about the Shoulder Press, one of which can cause terrible lower and upper back pain to those that do it. Next time you do the Shoulder Press exercise, try and watch where your arms go when extending up. If they go directly above or slightly behind your head, fantastic! The trouble comes if they go in front of your head for it is no longer just for the shoulders; you are now doing what I like to call 'The Upper-Trapezius Press'. Your upper trapezius (lower neck) muscle is doing all the work, which is why your shoulders are coming up during the exercise (they are, trust me), which means you are rounding your back, putting unnecessary and unwanted pressure on your spinal erectors (spine holding-up muscles). I'd bet your arms aren't even going straight. Make sure when you perform the Shoulder Press exercise you press above your head. By the way, if you find it terribly difficult ask a Personal Trainer to help you with the movement next time you're in a gym, or just swallow your pride and lower your weight :-)
Secondly, do not sit and do a Shoulder Press. Why you ask? Well let me ask you a question... when was the last time you lifted up an incredibly heavy object above your head while sitting? Long time huh? Or, maybe never. It is not functional when you are seated doing a Shoulder Press, because everytime you lift a heavy object over your head you are standing. This means that if you don't train your core to hold you up while preforming a standing Shoulder Press, you won't have the strength to do it in real life when you need it. The standing Shoulder Press is functional, so use it!
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