WSBB Blog: Top 5 Shoulder Exercises
Time to Read: 3min
As a strength athlete, building world class pressing power is a requirement if you want to compete at the highest levels of your sport. To properly and quickly build your press, you must strengthen the muscles of the chest, back, arms, and shoulders. In this article, we will talk about the shoulder exercises we use at Westside Barbell to produce some of the strongest bench presses in powerlifting.
The push press is one of the best exercises to introduce overhead presses into your programming if you are new to the movement. It allows for you to use lower body drive to begin the movement, giving your shoulders a break by initiating the barbells movement. Unlike the strict press, or the seated overhead press, the push press allows you to press the bar using your entire body which feels natural to someone new to the movement pattern with weaker shoulders.
This exercise can be used as a main or accessory exercise. When performed as a main exercise, we recommend working up to top sets of three or five reps. As an accessory exercise, you can program the push press on either ME or DE upper days.
When performed as an accessory exercise we recommend three to five sets of five to eight reps. Specialty bars that can be used for this exercise include the axle bar, log, or a 65lb squat bar.
Strict Standing Overhead Press
The strict standing overhead press is a more demanding movement than the push press. The strict press requires you to brace as much as possible while using your upper back and shoulders to initiate the barbell’s movement. The strict standing overhead press is a great exercise to develop shoulder, upper back, and tricep strength that will pay dividends to your off of the chest strength in the bench press.
Additionally, the strict standing overhead press is one of the best accessory exercises when training for overhead press limit strength. This exercise can be used as a main or accessory exercise. When used as a main exercise, we recommend working up to a max effort single or set of three.
When used as an accessory exercise, we recommend working up to a top set of three to five reps. Same as the push press, the axle bar, log, and the heavy squat bar are the recommended specialty bars to use for this exercise.
Seated Overhead Pin Press
The seated overhead pin press is one of the best ways to manipulate the position of the bar and attack specific weak points in your overhead press. Additionally, it is one of the safest approaches when training your shoulders to press heavy weights overhead. To execute this exercise as your main workout, set the pins at mid forehead height.
We recommend working up to a top set single when used as a main exercise. When used as an accessory exercise, we set the pins where they need to be in accordance with the lifter’s weak point. Aside from developing overhead pressing power, as well as eliminating specific weak points, the seated overhead pin press is a great way for bench press focused athletes to develop their tricep pressing and lockout strength.
Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press
The standing overhead dumbbell press is one of the most simple, yet most difficult exercises you can do when training the shoulders. The movement is real simple, pick up the heaviest set of dumbbells you can press, row them up to your shoulders, and begin pressing them overhead. This exercise will always be performed as an accessory exercise, and should be performed using the heaviest dumbbell you can use while completing the prescribed sets and reps your program calls for.
Similar to the other pressing exercises, the standing overhead dumbbell press will assist you in building extremely powerful shoulders.
Front Plate Raises
An old school exercise, front plate raises are one of the most effective ways to target not only the front delts, but the entire shoulder. They can be done standing up freely, or slightly leaned against a wall for support. This exercise will always be an accessory exercise, and it is recommended you perform three to five sets of twelve to fifteen reps when programming these into your training.
It might be a simple exercise, but front plate raises are one of the best ways to finish a shoulder exercise. When done correctly you should barely be able to raise your arms above your head after.
As we mentioned previously, if you want to have world class pressing power and be competitive in your sport it is imperative that you take your shoulder training seriously. By building the strongest shoulders you can you are not only improving your bench and overhead pressing strength, but you are improving your upper body durability and lowering your risk of shoulder injury as well. Throw a few of these exercises into your rotation for a month or two and watch your overhead and bench press improve.