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7 Exercises That Will Improve Your Military Press

Written by Mark Johnson


The military press is one of the best moves if you want to round out your shoulders, creating that aesthetically pleasing look that will finish off your upper body.

In addition to this, the military press is also a great strength building move. As a compound exercise, you’ll work the front and lateral deltoid muscle, while also calling into play the triceps as well.

All in all, it’s a must have for any workout program.  This said, in addition to doing plenty of military press sets, there are some other exercises that will help improve your performance on the military press that should be included.

By adding these together with the military press, you create a well-rounded workout program that will have you seeing excellent strength gains in no time.

Let’s go over the seven key exercises that you need to know.

Machine Shoulder Press

First up on the list is the machine shoulder press.  Now, why do this and the military press?  If you aren’t training with a spotter around, you’ll find that you can often go heavier on the machine shoulder press than you can with your own weight. This in turn can lead to greater strength gains.

Even if you are working out with a spotter, the machine shoulder press can also be a good move for using as a warm-up exercise, this time going with a lighter weight.  It’ll get you moving through the range of motion that’s coming up next with your heavy military press.

45 Degree Overhead Barbell Press

Another pressing variation to consider having in the protocol is the standing 45 degree overhead barbell press.  This exercise is great for working the shoulders from a different angle, while still incorporating that overhead pressing movement pattern.

For this one, position one end of a barbell so it’s resting safely and securely between two objects and then grabbing the other hand, press it directly over your head until the elbow is straight but not locked.

While doing this, adopt a slight forward lean, making sure to still keep the spinal column straight however. Keep the abs tense and this will help ensure you maintain proper position.

Once all reps are finished with one arm, switch sides and repeat.

One Arm Cable Lateral Raise

The next move to consider is the one arm cable lateral raise.  Using one arm rather than two can help to reduce the level of momentum you use, ensuring it’s just your own muscular power fueling the exercise.

The cable also adds a nice effect to this exercise as it’ll help you maintain continual tension throughout the entire range of motion.

With dumbbells, you won’t have the same amount of tension on the muscles at all times, so you’re more likely to notice weaknesses at certain points in the range of motion.

With cables, you overcome this.  If you don’t have cables where you train, you can still use a dumbbell for this exercise, but keep doing it with just one arm at a time. This will help to limit momentum.  Hold onto a nearby object with the other arm and lean out slightly and you’ll feel the muscle contracting at all points during the exercise.

With this move especially, the mind-muscle connection is key.  Far too many people lose it on lateral raises, which will lead to other muscles coming into play, helping to execute the movement.  This in turn means slower or stagnant results.

Tricep Press Downs

When doing the military press, you’re going to be bringing your triceps into play to a large degree as well. While they aren’t the target muscle of this exercise, they definitely will be contracting, helping you push the weight upwards.

As such, it’s important that you’re doing strengthening work for them as well. The stronger they are, the more they’ll be able to assist the compound move.

Tricep Press Downs can work great for building up this muscle. When doing these, you’ll want to ensure that you are pressing through the triceps, not thinking of pushing down with the elbows.

And like with lateral raises, you want to be sure that you aren’t swinging the weight down either. This will take all the tension off the muscles you’re targeting.

One good way to boost the intensity of this exercise is to not completely finish the rep. While this may sound strange, by stopping just short, you’ll maintain constant tension on the tricep muscle the entire time throughout this exercise, which means greater strength gains.

Also think of squeezing the muscle as you get to the bottom of the movement as well. This will help bring about an extra level of fatigue, pushing your progress farther.

Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press is the next good exercise to help boost your military press performance. This one works well because while the incline bench press is going to target the chest muscle primarily, you’ll also be calling into play the front deltoids as well to a large degree.

As they grow stronger with this exercise, the strength gains will transfer over to the military press, and you’ll find yourself stronger there as well.

You’ll typically want to do the incline bench press on the same day you train chest however, regardless of whether this is the same day as you do shoulders or not. As it still is a chest focused movement, you want to keep it with the rest of your chest work.

Upright Rows

In addition to lateral raises, upright rows can be another beneficial exercise for adding to your protocol to work the lateral and front head of the deltoids.  When doing these, you’ll want to use a set of dumbbells rather than a barbell however to avoid excess stress on the elbow and shoulder joints.

Dumbbells will allow for a greater range of motion in terms of your elbow and wrist position, while a barbell will lock your arms into place.

Be sure to perform this exercise using a very slow and controlled movement pattern as well, using only the muscular force from your shoulders to raise and lower the bar. The minute momentum comes into play is the minute you should stop the exercise and consider lightening the weight.

You don’t necessarily have to go very heavy on this move to feel it – you just need to ensure that you’re using proper form.

Seated Single Arm Dumbbell Press

Finally, the last exercise that you should consider adding to your shoulder workout is the seated single arm dumbbell press. This move is going to help ensure that you aren’t suffering from any strength imbalances between the two shoulders.

If you do a lot of barbell pressing work, this can start to occur. The stronger side of the body will begin overcompensating for the weaker side, in which case, the strength imbalances will only continue to grow larger.

Performing a seated single arm dumbbell press at the very end of your workout session to bring your shoulder muscles to a point of full exhaustion is a great way to see a little extra strength gains.

So there you have a closer look at some of the best exercises that you can add to your shoulder routine to help improve your military press performance.

Always remember to ensure that you are scheduling enough rest time not only between your shoulder training days, but your shoulder and chest training days if you do them on different days as the shoulders will still be worked when doing bench pressing exercises.

Rest is key for optimal strength development so without this there, it won’t matter what exercises you’re doing, you’ll be unlikely to see the results you’re looking for.

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