Seated Barbell Shoulder Press

Exercise / Shoulders

Seated Barbell Shoulder Press Overview

The seated barbell shoulder press is a compound exercise that targets the muscles of the shoulders, triceps, and upper body. It involves pressing a barbell overhead while seated on a bench or chair.

How to do:

Barbell Shoulder Press

Starting Position: Begin sitting down with your feet firmly on the ground. Hold the bar at shoulder level with your palms facing forward.

Form: Exhale and press the bar over your head. Hold for a short second at the top and then slowly lower back to the starting position. Focus on feeling the burn in your shoulders throughout the movement. This helps ensure you’re engaging the target muscles effectively.

Personal Trainer Tips:

  • Start light: It’s important to focus on proper form before adding weight. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good form throughout all your reps. Gradually increase the weight you lift over time to keep challenging your muscles and promote growth.
  • Control the weight: Don’t use momentum to lift the weight. Focus on using your muscles to control the movement.
  • Complete Range of Motion: Lower the barbell down to at least chin level to achieve a full range of motion for optimal muscle engagement.
  • Keep your core engaged: This will help you maintain proper posture and stability throughout the exercise.
  • Breathe: Breathe out as you press the weight overhead and inhale as you lower it back down.

Standing vs Seated:

Compared to the standing shoulder press, the seated variation reduces the need for core stabilization, allowing for greater isolation of the deltoids. This can be beneficial for targeted shoulder development programs designed for athletes or bodybuilders.


Barbell shoulder press action is effective to build up strength, but if you start this exercise without warming up or with excess weight, you can cause injury. Before starting exercise, always apply warm-up and stretching movements to your shoulder muscles and start by choosing a weight according to your fitness level.

Seated Barbell Shoulder Press – Benefits

1. Shoulder Development:

Barbell shoulder press is one of the most basic movements to develop and strengthen shoulder muscles. While it’s a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups, the primary target for development is your shoulders, specifically the deltoids.

The deltoids are a three-part muscle group:


shoulder anatomy posterior deltoid exercises

  • Anterior deltoid (front shoulder): This is the most visible part of your shoulder and the primary mover during the seated shoulder press. It lifts your arm forward and plays a key role in stabilizing the shoulder joint. The pressing motion directly strengthens the front delt, leading to increased size and definition.
  • Medial deltoid (lateral shoulder): This raises your arm out to the side and contributes to overall shoulder stability and rounded shoulder definition. While not the main focus, the medial delt is also engaged as it helps stabilize the arm during the press.
  • Posterior deltoid (rear shoulder): While not directly targeted during the press, the rear delt works to counterbalance the front delt and helps maintain proper shoulder posture.

This exercise primarily targets the deltoid muscles, helping to develop size, strength, and definition in the shoulders.

2. Compound Exercise:

The barbell shoulder press is a compound lift, meaning it works multiple muscle groups at once. While the deltoid is the primary mover, the seated shoulder press also engages the triceps brachii (back of the upper arm) during the pressing motion. Additionally, core muscles are activated to maintain proper spinal alignment throughout the movement. This synergistic activation contributes to overall upper body development and stability.

3. Functional Movement:

The shoulder press motion mimics pushing movements we use in daily life, like putting away groceries or lifting objects overhead. Strengthening these muscles improves your ability to perform these tasks with ease and reduces the risk of injury.

4. Builds Upper Body Strength:

Performing the seated barbell shoulder press with heavy weights can lead to significant increases in upper body strength and power. Over time, progressive overload with this exercise can help you lift heavier weights, which translates to improved muscle strength and power output.

Barbell Shoulder Press – Muscles Worked

Target - Anterior Deltoid
Synergists - Supraspinatus
Synergists - Triceps
Synergists - Lateral Deltoid
Synergists - Trapezius
Synergists - Serratus Anterior
Stabilizers - Levatos Scapula
shoulder press muscle worked