Get bigger arms with THIS classic exercise for biceps, pecs and shoulders

Bicep curls be gone

best exercise: shoulder press military press alternatives
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The shoulder press is a great way to get big arms and is one of the 'Big 5' compound exercises you need for an easy (well, relatively easy, in terms of equipment needed) full body workout.

We've already covered these ones:
Bench press

Now we move on to the standing shoulder press, also known as the military press or overhead press. Again, it's a compound exercise that works multiple muscles in the same time, making you stronger and ultimately more leaner.

This one concentrates on the upper body, in fact, the uppermost part of the body, your delts (and triceps too). The standing military press will work mainly your delts (shoulders), triceps, but it will also activate the upper chest and your core too. Your rear delts are being worked by a different exercise (bent over row).

Standing shoulder press (or overhead press) can be performed with barbells, dumbbells and even kettlebells. This is a push exercise and was mentioned on our best push-pull workout plan too.

To be honest, any exercise working your triceps actively will be a push exercise, because triceps are flexed when you extend your arm.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Stay safe!

One thing to keep in mind when working with large weights is that form is more important than stacking up plates on your barbell. Not only it is less likely that you will get injured if you performing the exercises, using a good form will also work the correct muscles too. 

A good way to avoid injury is to get a training buddy who can keep an eye on you while you perform your sets. When you do your overhead presses, you basically move heavy weights in front and over your head. Always check your surroundings and make sure you can perform the whole range of motion without obstruction.

And always, always warm up before exercising and make sure you don't push your muscles too much. Rest is equally as important as the exercise itself.

To perform a standing barbell overhead press, pick up the barbell from the ground using an overhand grip and rest it on the top of your chest. Legs are shoulder width, core engaged.

When you press the bar up, it moves in a straight line. In order for it to be straight, you will need to move your head back and forth a bit as the bar passes in front of it.

Try to keep your core engaged all the way through the motion and don't arch your back, that will just lead to lower back pain. 

If you are in the gym, it might help to do some reps with the barbell and watching your form in the mirror. There is no shame trying to perfect your form and as I said  a million times before, you won't impress anyone performing exercises with a bad form and injuring yourself.

Standing barbell overhead press: variations and alternatives

You can also check out our article on the best shoulder exercises for inspiration.

  • Dumbbell overhead press
  • Double kettlebell overhead press
  • Seated dumbbell shoulder press
  • Push press
  • Pike pushup (bodyweight alternative)

On recovery and nutrition

To avoid any injuries and to help recovery, stretch after every strength training session (and after every cardio sessions as well). Foam rollers can be found in most gyms and you can buy them on Amazon too, a quick and inexpensive way to massage the tired muscles.

Resistance bands are not only great for workouts (see lunges above) but they are also an effective way to stretch your hamstrings after you did your squats.

You might want to keep an eye out for your protein intake as well. If you are doing strength training, try taking in around 2 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight per day. So, if you weigh 70 kg, you'll need to eat 140 grams of protein per day. Humans haven't got protein reserves, so you have to continuously take protein in throughout the day. 

And make sure you drink plenty of water as well. A decent gym water bottle doesn't cost all that much.