The Overhead Press – The Best Shoulder Exercise?

In this article I explain why I think the overhead press is the best shoulder exercise for increasing muscle mass.

I’ve used the term "overhead press" as there are so many variations of this exercise, such as the military press, press behind-the-neck, and the dumbbell press (just to name a few).

About the Shoulder Muscles

The deltoid muscle is the muscle group that rounds the shoulder. The deltoid muscle has 3 heads, which are:

  • The Anterior Deltoid – The muscle that rounds the front part of your shoulder.
  • The Middle Deltoid –  The middle of the shoulder muscle group.
  • The Posterior Deltoid – The rear part of the shoulder muscle group that goes down the back.

The best way to get the deltoid muscles pumped is to press weights above your head.

These 3 shoulder muscles can be isolated with certain presses, but there are several great shoulder exercises for building mass in the entire shoulder area that hit the entire deltoid muscle.

My Favorite Overhead Press Exercise

The seated dumbbell press is probably the best shoulder exercise for isolating the entire deltoid muscles. This is considered by many bodybuilders to be the granddaddy of the shoulder exercises.

Below I explain how to perform the seated dumbbell press correctly, then afterwards I explain some variations of the should press.

Seated Press - the best shoulder exerciseSeated Dumbbell Press

1. Sit on a flat bench and lift a set of dumbbells to shoulder height with an overhand grip,  keeping your back straight. At starting position you should have your hands facing each other.

2. Inhale and extend the arms vertically while rotating 90 degrees at the wrist. At the top position the thumbs will be facing each other.

3. Lower the dumbbells back to the start position and exhale.

4. Repeat.

This exercise will contract the entire deltoid, but especially the middle part of the deltoid.

Alternative Dumbbell Press Exercises

There are several variations to this exercise, which include:

  • Doing the exact same exercise, but while standing.
  • Using a suitable bench with a back rest to prevent the arching of the back.
  • Alternating the arms.

Alternative Overhead Head Press Exercises

By replacing the dumbbells for a barbell and standing, you can do front shoulder presses. This exercise is also known as the military press.

The press behind-the-neck is also similar to a military press, except that you lower the barbell to the back of your head. This places more emphasis on the posterior deltoid muscle.

Overall, the overhead press and in particular the seated dumbbell press, is always the first exercise on any muscle mass building shoulder routine I recommend, which is why I think it is the best shoulder exercise.



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