Barbell Shoulder Press

  • Alternative Names: Barbell press, seated barbell press, seated barbell shoulder press
  • Type: Strength
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Equipment: Barbell
  • Muscles Targeted: Shoulders, traps, triceps
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Average Number of Sets: 3-4 with 6-10 reps each
  • Variations: Incline, standing shoulder, behind the neck, decline, floor, one arm, and Smith machine barbell presses
  • Alternative: Dumbbell shoulder press, upright barbell row, dumbbell shrug

The barbell shoulder press, commonly called the barbell press, is a vertical press exercise used for training the shoulder thereby increasing its strength and promoting muscle growth. It can be included not just in your shoulder routine but also in your upper-body and full-body workout routine.


  • Aside from the anterior deltoid, this free-weight exercise targets your medial and posterior deltoids thereby improving your posture and stability.
  • Helps athletes, powerlifters, and weightlifters to improve their sports performance.

Barbell Vs Dumbbell Press

Barbell Press Dumbbell Press
Form The elbows point slightly forward, activating the front and middle deltoids more Elbows point out laterally, recruiting the middle and rear deltoids more
Weight Used Involves lifting heavier weights Does not involve pressing as heavy as the barbell version

How to do a Barbell Shoulder Press

Sit straight on a flat bench with your back supported in a squat rack and have the barbell positioned at a height just above the head. Hold the barbell using an overhand grip so that your palms are facing forward. Move the barbell up over the head and extend your arms to the locked out position. Make sure the bar is slightly in front of the head. Lower the barbell down to your shoulder level and then lift it back up to the initial position.

Barbell Press Tips

  • Instead of flaring your elbows out, focus on bringing them forward since it will be easier on your shoulder joints.
  • Make sure to keep your feet flat on the ground and do not lift your toes and heels.


  1. Incline Barbell Press: Involves lying down on an incline bench and then performing the same movement as the basic barbell shoulder press.
  2. Standing Barbell Shoulder Press: Unlike the basic seated version, it is performed in a standing position.
  3. Behind the Neck Barbell Press: Is similar to the standing barbell shoulder press except that you place the bar at the back of your shoulders.
  4. Decline Barbell Press: Is performed by lying supine in a decline bench at an angle of 45 degrees and then holding the bar with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width grip.
  5. Floor Barbell Press: Requires you to lie face up on the floor and then follow the same movement as the conventional barbell shoulder press.
  6. One Arm Barbell Press: Is performed by grabbing the barbell at its center with one hand using a neutral grip, while keeping your shoulder under the bar.
  7. Smith Machine Barbell Press: Done by sitting on a flat bench under a Smith machine and then pressing the barbell until your arms are fully extended.

Alternative Exercises

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Upright Barbell Row
  • Dumbbell Shrug

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