The standing barbell press or military press used to be considered one of the cornerstones of overall strength and fitness. Gym rats, bodybuilders and Olympic lifters all used this basic exercise to build their upper bodies, especially their shoulders and triceps. When the International Olympic Committee dropped the standing press from weightlifting the exercise began to lose popularity. The bench press is usually considered the king of upper body exercises, but the standing barbell press deserves a prominent place in your routine.
Better Technique for Better Results
There’s no way around it, the standing barbell press or military press is not an easy exercise. You are required to support the barbell and maintain a rigid posture with your core muscles, balance the barbell as you lift it overhead (around your face) and press it up through a longer range of motion than lifts like the bench press (source).
How to Perform a Standing Barbell Press
- Clean (lift) the barbell to your shoulders or take it from shoulder height rack.
- Position your feet at shoulder width (apart) or a little wider.
- Flex your thighs, hips and core.
- Take a deep breath then begin to exhale as you use your shoulders and arms to press the weight overhead to arms length.
- Take a breath and hold it as you lower the weight under control to your shoulders (legs should be slightly bent as your shoulders “catch” the weight)
Variations of the Standing Military Press
This basic version of the exercise calls for a plate-loaded barbell and it’s the one most people would get the most from, but there are several variations to pick from. Instead of the standing barbell press you can use dumbells but be aware you’ll have to use less weight because it’s harder to control the two dumbells. There are many machine versions of the military press, but most of them require you to be seated during it. These are a good choice for people with back issues. I don’t recommend using a Smith Machine or performing the exercise behind your head. Choose one of the other variations and work into it slowly so you can learn to get into the proper groove and get pressing.