T Nation

Shoulder press types

What’s the advantage/disadvantege of each?

Standing Dumbbell
Standing Barbell Military
Standing Barbell Behind the Neck

Or the seated variants.

I am trying to pick 1 to include in my program.


I would avoid the military press behind the neck as it put to much strain on the shoulders. Your other 2 options are good choices plus push presses.

I like see-saw presses. You work the obliques and I seem to use triceps more.(A lagging part for me)

In faith,

Contrary to popular belief, pressing behind the neck isn’t necessarily as harmful as you might think. I’d only steer away from this movement if you have had shoulder injuries in the past or have a limited range of motion. (Ian King has written on this topic somewhere on the site).

As far as which exercise to choose, USE THEM ALL. Using one exercise can lead to stagnation of results after a short time. Rotate them through your program. Depending on your training age your you’ll need to rotate them faster or slower. If you’re new to training rotate them every 3-4 weeks. If you’ve been training longer (>1 year) you should change sooner.

There are many more and you can also involve different mediums but the question is - why limit yourself to one and maybe alternate through a larger grouping.

In faith,

Coach Davies

what kind of program is it? what are your goals?

An obvious advantage of barbell press is being able to use higher weight. But dumbells allow a greater range of motion and would therefore hit the traps and triceps harder (towards the top). Also you can vary the grip with dumbells allowing to use a semi-pronated grip (hands facing each other) which if you have shoulder problems can be a bonus as it can alleviate some of the impingement problems common to shoulder work.
I would select one and when you need to change because of stagnation switch exercises.

Thanks for the replies.

I am currently dieting… going to diet from now until Christmas in an attempt to be as cut as possible by then.

Currently my training regimen mainly revolves around strength training. The volume is on the lower end. It’s something along the lines of 5x5 training using mainly compound movements.

With this in mind, would barbell movements be better than dumbbell movements?

BTW, what is the main difference between doing a shoulder press sitting or standing in terms of how it hits the muscles (or any other differences)?


If you sit it is harder to cheat…

Your original question was what are the advantages/disadvantages?
I’m gonna get a little Socratic on you:
When you stand up to do your barbell press, what keeps you from falling backward? Your core musculature and other stabilizers.
When you do them seated, what holds you? (ans: the bench).
When you do a one-arm dumbbell press, what keeps you from falling over? That’s right, those stabilizers again.
Barbell or dumbbell, if you are standing, how much weight are your legs supporting? Yup, bodyweight + the lifted weight.
When you are seated, how much weight are your legs supporting?
So, you only want to include 1 exercise. Wouldn’t you like to include the one that gives you the greatest muscle recruitment?
And Coach Davies is, as always, absolutely right. No matter which one you chose, your body will adapt. So rotate through a variety of protocols.

  • Coach Clarke -

Coach Clarke,

Thanks for the awesome reply!

I knew there was some reason why I found standing military presses to be so much harder than seated ones! When someone replied “it’s harder to cheat when sitting,” I thought, wow I must be screwed up if I can do more sitting than standing!

Standing presses for now it is… mainly cuz all my workout life I’ve been doing seated shoulder presses.


Steihl, don’t forget to include an explosive vertical pressing movement in your week. For me, push presses are superior to any of the ones you listed.

Those push presses are a total blast!

I had never done them until I gave Meltdown training a try.
I think they deserve a rotation into your workout. Each rep causes you to dig a little bit deeper. Explosive compound movements sure make time in the gym more enjoyable.

Sots press is also a killer. Go into a full squat and military press a dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell from the full squat position.

Mike Mahler