The seated barbell military press is notoriously hard to perform because it decreases body mechanics and involves less muscles.
However, it still remains one of the best ways to improve your overhead pressing strength.
It is simply a military press that is done seated, unlike its conventional counterpart.
The seated position you take while performing it has both benefits and a few drawbacks, as you’ll find out later in this article.
For now, let’s begin with how to do it properly:
- Get a partner to help you rack and un-rack the barbell to set it up.
- Sit on the press bench, and lay the bar against your clavicle.
- Grab the barbell with an even grip and drive it up. Your elbows should be tucked under it and your forearms vertical.
- Once the bar reaches your chin, tuck your head backwards to let it pass.
- Push until the bar goes above your head and your arms are completely extended.
WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE SEATED BARBELL MILITARY PRESS WORK?
The anterior deltoid is the most targeted muscle during overhead presses.
The reason for this is that it’s main function is to flex your shoulders, which it does as you press the barbell upward.
The medial deltoid is responsible for abducting your shoulders when you extend your arms to your sides like you do in jumping jacks.
While this exercise involves more flexion than it does abduction, the medial deltoid still contributes in helping you press upward.
Your rear deltoid helps in pulling movements.
This means it is the least involved deltoid in movements that involve pressing upward such as the seated barbell military press.
One of the primary functions of your triceps is to extend your elbow. So, you’ll always use it in pressing movements both over your head and in front of you.
In this exercise, its role becomes more apparent as your elbows reach your shoulder and it starts extending your arms overhead.
The rhomboids and traps on your upper back are recruited as you press the weight over your head to add stability to your shoulder blades and shoulder girdle.
BENEFITS OF THE SEATED BARBELL MILITARY PRESS
ALLOWS YOU TO PUSH A LOT OF WEIGHT
According to research, the seated barbell press is the variation of the overhead press that allows you to push the most amount of weight.
The reason for this is that when you perform the overhead press standing, you are quite unstable, which requires that you use more energy to stabilize your body.
On the other hand, when you do it sitting you are way more stable ,so all your energy is used to press the barbell.
This allows you to push more weight to increase strength and hypertrophy faster.
IMPROVES THORACIC SPINE AND SHOULDER MOBILITY
You may realize that when you first start performing this exercise, you are unable to press a lot of weight overhead when seated.
This could be due to having limited mobility in both your thoracic spine and shoulder girdle.
When you perform the seated barbell military press regularly, you will notice that your mobility issues are slowly improving because it forces you to use a strict upright posture throughout your reps.
EASY ON THE BACK
If you have, in the past, hurt your back and sustained an injury, consider the seated barbell military press one of the best ways to work your shoulders without hurting your back.
As you perform it while seated, your lower back is relieved of a lot of stress so that you don’t have to strain it.
Also, this movement gives you back support in form of the seat pad, which makes it ideal if your back is still weak.
CORRECTS BAD FORM
The seated position in this exercise does not allow room for poor form.
It does not just uncover and address your mobility issues but it also corrects faults in your biomechanics as well.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE SEATED BARBELL MILITARY PRESS
DUMBBELL OVERHEAD PRESS
This movement focuses on your deltoids just like the seated barbell military press, but you do it with dumbbells instead of a barbell.
How to do it:
- Stand upright with your back straight.
- In each hand, hold a dumbbell at shoulder level using an overhand grip.
- Breathe out and raise the weights overhead in a slow and controlled motion.
- Inhale and get them back to your shoulders.
SEATED BARBELL MILITARY PRESS MISTAKES TO AVOID
The seated barbell military press works the clavicular head of your upper chest to a certain degree as it helps flex your shoulders.
However, take care not to lean too far back because the further you lean back, the more your upper chest gets activated.
Keep your upper body upright throughout the press to place more emphasis on your deltoids.
Once in a while you may be tempted to watch the bar as it moves up but please, for the sake of your neck muscles, resist the urge!
And if you really can’t help it then you can instead do your reps in front of a mirror. This way, you will be able to monitor your form and watch yourself without needing to crane your neck.
FLARING YOUR ELBOWS
To prevent your elbows from sticking out, keep them under the bar throughout the lift. This will help you maintain proper form and prevent you from sustaining shoulder or wrist injury.
In as much as this exercise is a beast when it comes to building shoulders, there are a few drawbacks of it that you need to be aware of before getting into it.
Firstly, it takes quite a while to set-up, which may not please you if you are impatient.
Also, it is generally easier and safer to do with a partner, which makes it unideal if you are working out alone.
Save for these drawbacks, it is a highly effective exercise that could get you the solid shoulders you desire, but only if you do it with the correct form.
Take note of the mistakes mentioned in here to help you master the correct form for this movement, and don’t forget to stay consistent with it for the best results.