The Upper Body Move You Never Knew You Were Doing Wrong

by Brook Benten Jimenez on July 9, 2020 in Lifestyle, Sports, Wellness,
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Whether you’ve been exercising for as long as you can remember or you’ve just gotten off the sofa, some common exercises seem like no-brainers. 

But, all too often, it’s on these seemingly obvious exercises that 90% of exercisers (and plenty of certified personal trainers) need a tune-up. Over the next weeks, we’ll dive into a series of moves that you never knew you were doing wrong. Today, for the second in the series, we are covering the Shoulder Press.

A Shoulder Press seems like the most straightforward of exercises. For Pete’s sake, the name describes the move! The common mistake made among lifters is finishing the range prematurely. Let’s dive in—with arms way overhead!

Full Range of Motion

Full range of motion for the shoulders doesn’t stop when the wrists are over the elbows and shoulders overhead. The shoulders should have the flexibility to draw the arms back past the ears. But even the former is a greater range than the majority of the population tap into regularly.

The common mistake made among lifters is finishing the Shoulder Press range prematurely. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

Most people end an overhead press when the arms are slightly in front of the ears. The optimal shoulder press draws the arms further back—beyond the ears! This will engage posture muscles and open the chest while strengthening the shoulders.

Step 1: Rack a barbell at your collar bones with wrists neutral and grip slightly wider than shoulders width. Engage your core to stand perfectly upright with shoulders over hips over knees. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

Optimal Finish

There are plenty of ways to start working toward achieving the optimal finish point for a Shoulder Press. Poor posture and lack of stretching can cause your shoulders to become inflexible. A practice that helps with this is standing in a doorway with arms overhead, latched into the frame, and leaning in.

Step 2: Avoiding any knee dip or bend in the hips (for a “strict” Shoulder Press), and press the bar overhead. Finish when the elbows are fully extended and the wrists are slightly behind the elbows which are slightly behind the shoulders. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

Another practice that helps is acknowledging when you have been sitting/slouching/typing too long and making a concerted effort to take breaks to roll your shoulders and circle your arms. Consider taking up swimming; swimming is a great way to build strong and limber shoulders.

How To (See Photos Above)

Step 1: Rack a barbell at your collar bones with wrists neutral and grip slightly wider than shoulders width. Engage your core to stand perfectly upright with shoulders over hips over knees.

Step 2: Avoiding any knee dip or bend in the hips (for a “strict” shoulder press), and press the bar overhead. Finish when the elbows are fully extended and the wrists are slightly behind the elbows which are slightly behind the shoulders. Maintain core posture described in Step 1.
Hold for a moment, then safely return to Step 1 and repeat for desired repetitions.

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Cover photo courtesy Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

Brook Benten Jimenez, M.Ed., is an exercise physiologist in Georgetown, Texas. She has starred in over a dozen highly acclaimed workout videos. Benten Jimenez was named 2012 “Austin’s Fittest Fitness Professional.”

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