How to do a Military Press with Variations & Improper Form
Military Press for the general person:
Every girl and guy wants sexy arms, but how do you get them? I’m going to speak to the general population first, then personal trainers (general peeps, you can skip the personal training section, just read the workouts and watch the video.)
The Military Press is a great shoulder exercise. Any time you press overhead, the main muscles engaged are the shoulders and triceps. Some things to be cautious of are shoulder pain. If your shoulder hurts while pressing overhead, eliminate overhead pressing for the time being. If you’re an overhead athlete, I’d suggest limiting overhead presses to once per week and use lighter weights (10-20 reps.)
Form: Once your chest begins to flare upward like you’re doing an Incline Press, the weights are too heavy. It’s important to brace your core and have your glutes engaged- pretend like you’re squeezing a magical $500 bill between your butt cheeks and someone is about to punch you in the stomach. In the starting position, bring the weights up to the front of your shoulders, and brace while you press up. On the way down (refereed to as the negative), take a breath in to prepare for the next rep. Military Presses should be placed at the beginning of your shoulder day, or if you’re doing a full-body / upper-body split, place them after a back exercise i.e. Hip Thrusts, Bench Press, Chin-Ups, then Military Press OR Incline Press, Dumbbell Row, and then Military Press. In the following video, I will show you the proper form and common mistakes during the exercise. Skip the next paragraph and go to “SHOULDER WORKOUT” if you’re not a personal trainer or interested in becoming a personal trainer…
Military Press for the Personal Trainer:
The agonist for the Shoulder Press aka Military Press (MP), are the Anterior and Medial Deltoids. The triceps are the synergist, and the stabilizing muscles are the rotator cuff (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Subscapularis.) The humeral action is abduction (Medial Deltoid), therefore, the Latissimus Dorsi are the antagonist. The scapulae’s rotate laterally aka upward rotation (middle & upper traps), while the elbow’s extend (triceps). In order to properly execute the MP, the weights need to be appropriate. As the trainer, you’ll see your clients flare their chest up and out which means one of three things: 1- The weights are too heavy and/or 2- the lats and thoracic region lack mobility, and/or 3- The glutes and core are not properly engaged. It’s called a Military Press, not Incline Press, so make sure your client is not arching their back. I like to have our clients at Show Up Fitness stand up and externally rotate their feet in the transverse plane, this will help engage the glutes. Remember, the gluteus medius turns the hip out, which will help keep the pelvis neutral, or slightly posteriourly tilted- this is better than anterior tilted, which can cause too much pressure on the lumbar vertebrae.
Always think about creative ways to challenge your client by adding variations as seen in the video i.e. Arnold Presses, single-arm presses, or accentuated eccentrics. I also enjoy super setting MP’s into lateral raises.
How to Spot the Military Press:
Unless otherwise communicated by the client, spotting occurs at the wrist. Understandably, some of your clients may be using heavier weights, so you may need to support their elbows, just make sure to quickly maneuver to the wrists to prevent elbow collapse in worse case scenarios.
1- Seated Military Press 5 sets of 6-8 reps resting 2-3-minutes (If you’re a beginner, perform 3 sets of 12 resting 1-2-minutes)
2- Standing Military Press 3 sets of 12 reps
3- Lateral Raises Super Set into Face Pulls 3 sets of 15
4- Arnold Press 1 set of 30 AMRAP (Choose a weight that you think that you can do for 30 reps and then do As Many Reps As Possible)
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