The military press, also called slow forward, is an exercise that allows you to train the upper body, with a series of highly modular mechanics that make it one of the favorite exercises in bodybuilding or powerlifting workouts.
What is the military press and why do it
It is a compound movement, with an open kinetic chain, which acts on the extension of the shoulder and elbow in order to induce multi-muscle training stimuli, with particular attention on the deltoids that make up the shoulders.
It can be performed in either a standing or seated position, although beginners are generally advised to choose the seated option.
The military press can also improve muscle co-activation in the shoulder and pectoral area, as well as improve the stability of the abdominal muscles that are activated during the extension movement.
Military press: the muscles involved
It is a classic movement exercise with a compound muscle activation pattern. It is capable of activating a large number of muscle groups simultaneously during each repetition, although not all are activated equally.
As such, the muscle groups involved during a repetition are separated according to the extent to which they are activated. Thus, we can speak of primary motor muscles, responsible for the greater production of force, and secondary motor muscles, which work in an auxiliary capacity, then there are the stabilizer muscles which contract in a static manner.
Specifically, all the muscles involved are:
- Anterior head of the deltoid (target muscle).
- Upper trapezius.
- Great breastplate.
- Lateral head of the deltoid.
- Great toothed.
- Triceps brachii.
Primary motor muscles
The most significantly activated muscle group is the deltoid, a trio of muscles that make up the shoulders and are responsible for much of the strength behind the military press.
The three heads of the deltoid muscle group are trained equally, each is activated during each rep, and are all supported by other primary motor muscles, such as the triceps brachii.
If you are interested in the topic, discover our article on how to train the pectorals.
Secondary motor muscles
While the deltoids and triceps bear the brunt of the weight, there are other muscles that work during the military press.
These are the pectoralis major, which contracts at the beginning and end of each rep, the trapezius muscles, which activate during the top of each rep so as to prevent shoulder impingement, and the aforementioned triceps brachii. .
The muscle groups used as stabilizer muscles during the military press are mainly the core, and to some extent also the quadriceps.
Military press: how to do the right exercise
To begin performing the military press, you must first place a barbell at collarbone height on a squat rack or power cage, as well as load it with an appropriate amount of weight for your strength level.
Once the barbell has been placed at a comfortable height and loaded with an appropriate amount of weight, stand in front of the barbell with both hands approximately shoulder-width apart below the bar and palms in a supine grip (facing the ceiling). .
The military press form, like most exercises, is divided into two phases:
- Ascending or concentric phase, which involves shortening of the triceps, pectorals, and deltoid muscle groups to produce shoulder abduction and elbow extension.
- Descending or eccentric phase, in which the weight is returned to its original position with a stretch and relaxation of the triceps, pectoral and deltoid muscle groups.
Here is the step-by-step execution:
- Start in a standing position, without hyper-extending your knees.
- Bring your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grab the barbell with palms facing forward.
- Bring it up to the sternum, with the forearms placed underneath.
- Push the barbell straight up, without moving your legs.
- Return to the starting position.
If your goal is strength, we recommend doing 4-6 reps, while if your goal is hypertrophy, increase the reps from 6 to 10.
All the benefits of the military press
The military press, like most exercises, has a variety of benefits. Let’s find out in detail.
Increased upper body push strength
The most important benefit of consistently performing the military press is the progressive increase in overall strength in the upper body. In the long run, this allows you to perform exercises that involve a push up, even with more important overloads.
Strengthening of the shoulder girdle
Like most forms of resistance exercise, the military press is capable of inducing a strengthening response in the various connective tissues of the shoulder joint and all nearby areas.
This will result in a reduced risk of injury, as not only the skeletal muscle fibers are thickened, but also the bone and connective tissue.
This mechanism occurs as the body’s natural response to repeated tension and pressure induced by resistance exercise.
Alternatives and variations of the military press
Among the variants, we point out the following exercises.
1 – Arnold press
The Arnold press is an exercise that focuses on the deltoid, triceps and trapezius.
- Sit on a bench and hold dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing you.
- Push the dumbbells up and over your head while rotating your palms so that they face forward at the end of the press.
- The key to doing the movement well is the correct rotation of the palms only after the lift is complete.
2- Push press
The push press is one of the first variants of the military press, and it stands out because the movement exploits the thrust of the legs in the concentric phase of the movement, lifting the load explosively.
After that, the load is lowered in a controlled manner to the starting position in the eccentric phase. In the push press, the thrust of the legs allows you to lift heavier loads than those used in the military press.
3- Shoulder press da seduto
Another very common alternative is the seated shoulder press.
- Sit on a bench and hold the dumbbells at shoulder height, with a pronated grip facing you.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground for added stability.
- Raise the dumbbells directly above your head in a controlled manner.
- After that, lower the dumbbells to shoulder height to complete the rep.
4 – Front raises
Front raises are a very effective exercise for working the shoulder muscles.
- With a firm grip at your sides, hold a flat weight in your hands and reach your arms straight out in front of you.
- Your arms should remain straight throughout the entire movement.
- Lower the weight slowly and in a controlled manner, and then lift it back up to shoulder height.
5 – Lateral raises
Another alternative to the military press are lateral raises.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lean forward slightly.
- With your elbows slightly bent, use your deltoids to lift the weights broadly.
- Once you reach shoulder level, return to the starting position.
6 – Military press with dumbbells
The first variant of the classic military press is the one with dumbbells, which can be performed standing or seated.
The movement is the same as the classic exercise, here’s how:
- Sit on a flat bench inclined at 75°.
- Take two dumbbells and carry them on your shoulders.
- Push and lift the two weights straight up.
- Be careful not to open your elbows, and slowly return to the starting position.
7 – Military press al Multipower
This exercise is suitable for beginners and those unfamiliar with this movement, because the machine guides and supports you throughout the movement.
- Place a bench under the multipower.
- Bring the barbell to shoulder height and lift it without fully extending your arms.
- Return to starting position.
Military press: all the mistakes not to make
While the form of the military press is relatively simple and appropriate even for beginners, there are several common mistakes that even experts make.
Push with your legs
One of the most common mistakes novice athletes make is pushing with their legs to lift the weight.
This occurs when you have not fully mastered body control. This error reduces the total resistance placed on the shoulders and, consequently, also the benefits of the exercise.
One way to remedy the problem is to perform while sitting, which allows you to keep your legs still and motionless during the movement.
Incorrect posture of the spine
The spine must remain neutral throughout the exercise, which may be difficult to achieve if excessive weight is being used or if the lifter is simply not aware of how to execute the military press.
The most common mistake is spinal hyperflexion, in which the athlete leans backwards curving the lower back, thereby compressing the spinal discs in the lumbar and thoracic portions of the spine, and increasing the risk of injury.
A rookie mistake, but easily corrected concerns the position of the elbows. When you execute the military press, your elbows should point slightly in front of you.
Avoid spreading them laterally, in order to avoid shoulder problems and instability during movement.
Contraindications and warnings
The military press is a…