A strong, powerful set of deltoids gives the impression that you 1) know how to train, and 2) move some serious weight. But before you go increasing your shoulder press volume there are few things to take into consideration.
The fact that general front-sided shoulder pain is rising at a rate comparable to lower-back disorders gives us some information about where people’s training is falling short.
With that said, most are NOT spending nearly enough time developing the musculature of their upper-backs which is a hallmark of healthy, stable shoulders (aids in providing stability and integrity to the inherently most mobile joint in the human body – the glenohumeral joint.)
We’ve covered how to train your upper-back many times over, particularly here with the blueprint on how to build a “barndoor back” so it’s important to note that you better be spending even more time developing the back before you go adding more overhead work.
But when you are ready to spice up your overhead game don’t stop at just the shoulder press or the push press – direct deltoid work is done successfully with novel angles such as with a landmine.
But of course, no one is doubting the efficacy of the classic shoulder press. Luckily there are some easy ways to spice up those variations too if pressing overhead doesn’t cause you any issues.
Shoulder Press Off Of Pins Against Bands
Pin variations are my favorite and one of the reasons is we can strategically target individual sticking points. We can also choose to work in partial ranges of motion which are easier to recover from. In this case, we are using the shoulder press in a submaximal strength setting. Add accommodating resistance to the mix and you have an amazing tool to not only build your lockout (triceps) but also boulder shoulders!
You’ll want to perform each repetition from a dead-stop though so you’re NOT using the assistance of stretch-shortening cycle.
Submaximal Effort – Build to a 3-6RM
Max Effort – Build to a 1RM
Standing Landmine Bilateral Press
The landmine is arguably one of the best ways to press. Why? The scapulohumeral rhythm because we’ve changed the joint angle – people aren’t typically limited by their lack of thoracic extension with this variation. Furthermore, this variation allows for upward rotation, elevation, and protraction of scapula through range of motion.
Performed bilaterally increases loading capacity and allows for more consistent time-under-tension vs. its unilateral counterpart. Now, the unilateral version (both standing & half-kneeling) are still great options and mainstays in our programming.
3-4 x 10-15
Seated Arnold Presses
The Arnold Press named after Arnold Schwarzenegger is an old-school bodybuilding exercise that many younger lifters simply don’t know about or forgot about. What makes it unique is the starting position with palms facing in and rotating to pronated grip upon achieving lockout working all three heads of the deltoids.
For this particular variation, I prefer to NOT fully lockout each rep keeping complete tension on the deltoids through the entire set.
3-4 x 10-15
Bamboo Bar Shoulder Press
The Bamboo Bar is a game-changer for a variety of movements, but even if you don’t have a Bamboo bar you can affix two 5-10# plates to your standard barbell with a light band to achieve the same oscillatory effect.
The oscillations challenge the stability of the deltoids, but also the anterior core. This is important because maintaining a neutral spine will performing an overhead press is tough for some, but this variation encourages a better overall position.
The oscillations also create a burn/pump from hell – longer sets will greatly affect cell pH levels and yield hydrogen ion accumulation thus causing the infamous muscle-burn.
3-4 x 20-25
Dumbbell Hang Power Snatch With A Neutral Grip
Explosive based movements are great to prime the sympathetic nervous system prior to training. If you’re performing them on an upper-intensive day with direct work to the deltoids, the neutral grip DB Hang power Snatch is a great option.
5-6 x 2-3 each
Dumbbell Push Press With A Neutral Grip
The DB Push Press with a neutral grip is a great option for those with pre-existing shoulder issues. These same folks typically struggle with a barbell as the positioning is quite different – the simple change in hand position changes the kinematics of the movement enough to where people can press overhead without exacerbating current limitations.
This is one we opt for quite often for CrossFitters instead of a barbell push press.
4-5 x 8-10
As previously stated, you better be devoting a shit-ton of time to upper-back development before you start ramping up the overhead volume, but varying your presses in terms of implements, angles, and hand position is what’s needs to make gains while staying healthy.