Weightlifting is the standard for strength training and building muscle. It can be used to help burn calories to lose or maintain a healthy weight. Among the exercises in this genre is the military press, a highly recommended exercise to add to any workout routine. The military press muscles worked include the triceps, trapezius, and deltoid. Performing this exercise as part of your routine will also help tighten your core, as it must remain engaged throughout to provide stability. Along with the many other benefits from this exercise, you will want to add it to your routine as quickly as possible. The focus today is on the muscles worked during the military press, how you complete the exercise and its benefits. Also explained will be the differences between it and the overhead press and the shoulder press, as they are often confused. Read on for everything you need to know about the military press.
What Are The Military Press Muscles Worked?
The military press is a type of overhead press that targets the shoulders and arms. However, while working these muscles, you will also find significant benefits for your leg and core muscles. Specific muscle groups include the triceps, trapezius, and deltoid (5).
Proper posture and motion will achieve great results for all targeted muscle groups. You will strengthen these muscles and burn calories, helping with weight loss. It is an ideal combination.
What Muscles Are Worked By Barbell Military Press?
The primary muscles used in the barbell military press are the same as the dumbbell military press muscles worked, except for greater emphasis on the chest muscles. This is a multi-joint exercise more suited to building muscle mass, power, and strength than the single-joint exercises.
How Do You Do A Military Press?
A military press is an advanced technique that can pose a high risk of injury if not performed correctly. Having the proper form at all times will prevent accidents and allow you to use the exercise to become stronger. You can do a standing military press following these steps:
- Bend with your knees to reach your dumbbells on the floor.
- Assume the starting position with your feet shoulder-width apart and the dumbbells at shoulder height.
- Press the dumbbells overhead until your arms have fully extended.
- Maintain this position for a few seconds.
- Return the dumbbells to shoulder height.
- Repeat this for the number of repetitions and sets you have chosen.
Alternatively, you can complete this with a barbell, which you will want to lower and raise behind your head. Standing military press muscles worked also include your core and legs, which are used in stabilization.
There is also the option to do this exercise seated. It is very similar but will require an incline bench. Follow these steps:
- Seat yourself on the bench with your lower back firmly against the bench’s back, resting one dumbbell on each thigh. Your shoulders and back should be completely straight.
- Bring the dumbbells to shoulder height.
- Rotate your palms to face forward with your forearms perpendicular to the ground.
- Raise the dumbbells over your head with a pressing motion until you completely extend your arms.
- Maintain this position for a few seconds.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height.
- Repeat this for the desired number of repetitions and sets.
The seated military press will not work your legs like the standing version, but your core will still get a workout (3).
While the standard exercise calls for raising and lowering the barbell behind your head, some recommend against this. You can hit yourself in the back of the head or neck with the bar, causing a severe injury. The alternative would be to keep the bar in front of your chest and head for the entire motion (2).
Additionally, you will want to maintain a neutral spine with no arching. If you find that your back is beginning to arch or you are wavering, you should reduce the weight you are using. Otherwise, this improper posture could lead to a back injury.
Benefits Of A Military Press
The benefits of a military press are numerous. This exercise is the foundation for many other maneuvers, making it essential to a workout routine. If you can correctly perform a military press, you will be an expert at overhead and shoulder presses.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine determined that overhead presses, such as the military press, were far superior to both bench presses and incline presses at the activation of the shoulders. The muscles targeted were the upper trapezius and anterior deltoid (9).
Good form during this exercise will make it easier to perform other variations of the military and overhead press. This will provide you with greater variety in your workout routines, keeping you from getting bored.
The military press also provides a greater range of motion in the shoulders. This enables better muscular function in your daily life and the ability to perform other exercises more efficiently. A study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery suggests that this exercise could be beneficial to retraining patients who have decreased scapular and rotational function (6).
When performing this exercise with dumbbells, the benefits increase. Dumbbells provide both mechanical and metabolic overload, which lead to muscle growth. They can also create better coordination between joints, increasing stabilization with movement.
Finally, they allow you to complete military presses from wherever you are without the need for a gym. This is exceptionally beneficial if you do not have the time to stop at the gym to get your workout in for the day. The military press dumbbell muscles worked will be just as effective at home as they are at the gym (1).
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What Is A Military Press Vs. An Overhead Press?
What can be confusing is that the military press is a type of overhead press and the two are often erroneously interchanged. They are performed very similarly, adding to the confusion. The primary difference is in the muscles targeted.
We have already mentioned that the military press primarily targets your triceps, trapezius, and deltoid muscles. The overhead press primarily targets your deltoid, triceps, and pectoral muscles. To get the most out of your workout, you will want to incorporate both exercises at some point in your weekly routine (9).
Is A Shoulder Press The Same As A Military Press?
The military press focuses more on the shoulders than the shoulder press, despite its name, because it does not involve leg movement. The shoulder press concentrates primarily on the deltoids, serratus anterior, triceps brachii, and trapezius. Like the overhead press, this exercise emphasizes the chest, which the military press does not (4).
Is A Military Press Better Seated Or Standing?
The choice between seated and standing military presses does not come down to which is better. They are both efficient exercises. The seated option will not have as significant an effect on your legs as you will not need them to stabilize yourself as you would while standing. So, if you want to impact your legs, the standing form is better for you. If you have other exercises for your legs, seated will work fine.
The Bottom Line
The military press muscles worked extend beyond the shoulders and through the core, providing an extensive workout. The more weight you use, the more your core and legs will feel it. It is an excellent option for building strength and stability.
With all the benefits available from this exercise, it is no wonder it is highly recommended. You cannot go wrong when choosing this exercise by providing a greater range of motion in your shoulders and a greater activation in the shoulders than alternatives.
Whether seated or standing, it offers an excellent muscle workout. The choice of which form is best for you will depend on the overall goal of your workout session. It is also equally beneficial with barbells and dumbbells.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Benefits of Dumbbell Training (2019, acefitness.org)
- 7 Risky Exercises and Better Bets (2022, webmd.com)
- Exercise 101: Military Press Using Free Weights (n.d., winchesterhospital.org)
- How to Do a Shoulder Press (2022, webmd.com)
- How to Do the Dumbbell Military Press (2019, healthline.com)
- Kinematic characteristics of the scapula and clavicle during military press exercise and shoulder flexion (2014, sciencedirect.com)
- Measuring upper limb disability for patients with neck pain: Evaluation of the feasibility of the single arm military press (SAMP) test (2020, sciencedirect.com)
- Military-inspired Training: Take the Good, Avoid the Risk (2019, acefitness.org)
- Shoulder Muscle Activation of Novice and Resistance Trained Women during Variations of Dumbbell Press Exercises (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)