If you think about it, the shoulders are the glutes of the upper body. If you want impressive shoulders, you need to prioritize the safest and most advantageous exercise. Contrary to what you might be thinking, barbell shoulder presses aren’t on the list.
To maximize your shoulder growth, skip the barbell press and focus your attention on the single-arm half-kneeling kettlebell press. This move is not only safer but will help you activate and target other parts of your body, too.
The Risk of Barbell Shoulder Presses
Barbell shoulder presses are probably one of the first exercises that come to mind when you’re training shoulders, but they’re often not the safest option, say the experts.
It’s probably one of the most popular upper-body movements, but it demands a lot of stability and mobility. If you don’t have such stability and mobility, it can be easy to strain your lower back. Since the goal is to press the weight directly overhead, many people overarch their lower back, which can lead to pain and may strain your muscles, especially if you’re lifting heavy.
The barbell shoulder press also puts your shoulders in a risky position. When you press directly overhead, your muscles and tendons are compressed and lack the space they need to glide into proper position. Unable to move properly, your shoulders can easily get injured in this position.
Even the grip you use on the barbell can make the move more risky. With the overhead barbell press in particular, you are forced to be in a pronated (shoulders internally rotated, forearms facing down) position, which puts the shoulder joint in a potentially compromised position.
The More Effective (and Safer) Shoulder Exercise
If you want to keep your shoulders and back safe, we recommend that you switch from doing the barbell press to doing the half-kneeling single- arm landmine or kettlebell press; depending on the equipment you have available.
Unlike the barbell press, these exercises allow you to more easily engage your glutes, core and lats, helping you stabilize the weight and provide a safer position. Also, with these variations, you do not have to press strictly overhead in a vertical fashion; instead, you press more at a 150 to 160-degree angle, which is less taxing on the shoulder joint.
Single-arm movements also help you target upper-body muscle imbalances. Usually, you’re able to feel which side is weaker, and if you perform them in front of a mirror, you can see which side is stronger. With a barbell press, on the other hand, you may be relying on your dominant side without even realizing it.
Half-Kneeling Single-Arm Kettlebell Press
- Begin in a half-kneeling position with your left leg in front of you, bent at 90 degrees, foot planted on the ground. Kneel on your right knee.
- Hold the kettlebell at shoulder height in your right hand in a front rack position, letting the bell rest on your elbow.
- On an exhale, press the kettlebell over your shoulder.
- Pause for a moment, then bring the weight back to shoulder height in the racked position.
- Then the other side. Right leg in front and kettlebell in your left hand.
Half-Kneeling Single-Arm Landmine Press
- Begin in a half-kneeling position, with your left leg in front of your body, bent at 90 degrees, foot planted on the ground. Kneel on your right knee.
- Hold the barbell (attached to a landmine) in your right hand at shoulder height.
- On an exhale, press the barbell up and away from your body.
- Pause and then bring the weight back to shoulder height.
- After you’ve done the appropriate number of reps, do the other side.
Give it a try my friends, your shoulders will be grateful.
That’s it for now, see you all the next time.