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The Shoulder Press

Strengthen your whole upper body by perfecting this classic lift.

You already know the exercise will turn pea-sized delts into pumpkins, but the shoulder press can bring you harder abs and increase your bench press as well. According to Jim Wendler*, a strength coach in London, Ohio, the exercise activates more core muscles than a crunch and helps build the strength to heave bigger loads on every upper-body lift.

To do it:

1 STAND WITH YOUR FEET SHOULDERWIDTH APART OR SLIGHTLY NARROWER, and grab the bar with a slightly wider-thanshoulder- width grip (wrap your thumbs around the bar). To get the bar into position, you can either explosively heave it up off the fl oor and up to your shoulders, or set the bar at shoulder level on the supports of a power rack. If the bar is on the rack, nudge it off and let it rest against the front of your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and push your chest out.

2 BEGIN PRESSING THE BAR OVERHEAD, RETRACTING YOUR HEAD AS THE BAR RISES to keep it out of the way. When the bar passes your head, press it up and slightly backward so that it ends up in line with the back of your head. Hold for a moment, then lower the bar back to your shoulders. That’s one rep.

TIP

Try these pressing variations for more muscle

Push Press

From the starting position, bend your hips and knees slightly as if you were about to jump. Bounce back up quickly, straightening your hips and knees, and explosively press the bar overhead.

Bradford Press Press the bar up as normal, but leave a little bend in your elbows at the top. Lower the bar behind your head, then press it back up. This move keeps all the stress on the delts.

SUREFIRE SHOULDERS Three secrets for better pressing

  • Never allow the bar to touch your upper chest when you lower it. If you find that it does, “raise your elbows up slightly,” says Wendler. This will prevent your delts from stretching too much.
  • Pressing heavy loads requires significant recovery time, so limit the exercise to one workout per week. “If you train your upper body twice a week, do bench presses one day and shoulder presses the next,” Wendler says.
  • Don’t get psyched out. “The first rep is the hardest,” says Wendler, “because the lift starts with no eccentric [lowering] phase and no stretch reflex.” After the first rep, the reflex will kick in to help you.
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