The shoulder press is certainly one of the best exercises to hit your shoulders and build strength and shape.
However, most times, it is hard to hold the weight above your head without trying to compensate by bending at your lower back. This can be potentially dangerous!
Luckily, there is an exercise variation for the shoulder press that increases stability and will help you lift more weight: Meet the Kneeling Shoulder Press!
The Shoulder Press Exercise
The Shoulder Press exercise is one of the most basic and most used exercises to build the shoulder muscles, the deltoid. If you would like to read more about the deltoid muscle and how to activate all three parts of it effectively, check out my muscle activation series.
This exercise works all three parts of the deltoid muscle but the middle part of the shoulder muscles is activated to the highest degree. There are different variations to this exercise that shift the focus either more on the back part of the deltoid muscle, the rear deltoid, or the front part.
Also, you can use dumbbells, a barbell or even kettlebells for this exercise. With a kettlebell, you would be doing a one arm Shoulder Press, which is a highly effective unilateral movement.
In addition to that, there are different ways to perform this exercise. You can do it standing, sitting on a bench, even combine it with an exercise for the lower body; like Squats and Shoulder Press.
However, the hardest part of this exercise is to keep your core stable. You are not only working your shoulders, your entire core, back and legs have to engage to keep your body in a straight line. The shoulder joint is the most flexible of all joints in our body and is not secured enough with ligaments. Thus, it is even more important that the muscles surrounding it are strong to keep the Humerus head in the joint capsule.
Especially if you are just starting out and don’t have much control over your core and glutes, it can be tempting to lean back while pressing up the weight. This will put a lot of force on your lower back, which will lead to back pain and injuries. Also, I see many people using the trapezius muscle (side of your neck) to press the weight up. The trapezius muscle gets activated when you shrug your shoulders.
By doing this exercise in a kneeling position, you are not only preventing injuries but you will also immediately feel the difference in the muscles that are activated.
How to perform the Kneeling Shoulder Press
- Make sure to warm up your Shoulder joint first. You can find examples of exercises in my muscle activation articles.
- Take your dumbbells or barbell and get on the ground in a kneeling position. Make sure to put a mat under your knees to protect your knee-joints. Let the weights hang at your sides.
- Now squeeze your glutes and contract your core. Your pelvis should be slightly tilted posteriorly. Read all about proper glute activation here. Your gaze should be straight forward.
- Now raise the weights up to your shoulders.
- Gripping the dumbbells firmly, take a deep breath, push your shoulder blades down and contract the upper back muscles. Now, breathing out, slowly press the weights overhead.
- While completing this movement, you should be constantly working against yourself. Try to keep your shoulder blades down and back the whole time. You will not only feel this working your shoulders, but your upper back too!
- Do not lock out your elbows completely at the top, keep a slight bend.
- While lowering the weights, breathe in. Again, you should be working against yourself. Try to think of your upper back muscles as they pull the weights down. You should not lose the contraction once you have arrived at the top and then quickly let the weights drop. This will lead to shoulder-joint injuries!
- Do not lower the weights too far. Once they have reached the level of your head, pause and repeat the steps above.
Benefits of doing the kneeling Shoulder Press
- Constant glute and core activation
- Trapezius muscles (neck) is taken out of the movement. Thus, you have to use solely your shoulder muscles to do this exercise.
- Works the whole body (compound movement) and increases focus on the muscles worked.
If you are a beginner, I would not recommend doing exercises like Squat to Overhead Press. You need to learn the proper way to perform a Shoulder Press first and how to contract your entire body to protect your joints. The Clean and Press or Squat and Press exercise is highly effective for muscle-building and speeding up fat loss but only if your fitness levels allows you to complete them safely.
How to use this exercise in a routine
- You should do the Shoulder Press, no matter which variation you use, at the beginning of your workout (after a warm up). Especially if you are using heavy weights, doing this exercise at the end, when your muscles are already fatigued, increases the risk of unwanted injuries.
- I like to super set this exercise with an exercise focused on the back. This way, I can engage the upper back muscles while performing the pressing part of this exercise even better. For example, I would combine this exercise with Bentover Rows or Reverse Fly.
- As I mentioned above, you can complete this exercise by using Dumbbells or a Barbell. I like using Dumbbells because this way each side has to work hard to press the weight up. When you are using a barbell, the body tends to activate the stronger side much more, which leads to muscle imbalances. None of us are symmetric in nature but we can use proper exercise to even out our body as much as we can.
Have you tried the kneeling Shoulder Press before?
I hope you find it as effective as I do!