So I've been working on shoulders for quite some time. I often only do either:

1.Dumbbell or barbell shoulder presses (overhead, full extension).

2.Wall presses or press ups (push ups).

3.Chest and static weight holding with medicine ball out in front of chest.

So far I see no noticeable improvements in shoulder strength per se. I used to do bench presses, and it made virtually no difference either.

My concern is maybe I'm doing it wrong, so I'll demonstrate my form:

I tend to let the bar/dumbbell go down low enough for it to touch my clavicle/delts, and then push back up (no leaning back, etc.) with no jerking/momentum pushes (well, sometimes I will, but that's just for getting the most weight up for like a one-rep max).

Anyways, I either don't see any improvement in strength over doing this about once or twice a week over several weeks/months, and I'm guessing that the problem is possibly in lack of variation, perhaps?

Should I let the bar/dumbbell go down as far as possible, or should I stop almost near the bottom and go back up? Also, what are the best exercises for shoulder strength improvements (to increase shoulder/overhead presses, clean and jerk, etc.)?

  • How many sets, how many reps, what weights, and how "about once or twice a week" do you exactly mean? Feb 22, 2014 at 8:30
  • A video of your form would also be useful. Feb 22, 2014 at 16:15
  • There's a good discussion over at tnation about OHP (bit.ly/1CaKTpH). Some of the things I'd recommend is nailing your form (narrower grip, elbows forward, tight body), and making sure your triceps are strong. Weighted dips, etc.
    – Eric
    Sep 23, 2014 at 15:13

3 Answers 3


If you want to get better at a particular exercise you'll just have to continue practicing it. This is a common colloquialism when people ask "how can I improve my bench press?". More advanced lifters will say "bench more".

If you want to increase shoulder strength you're going to need to find the deficiency in your form or nutrition to help you overcome it or you just need to practice it more. There could be other factors involved such as your recovery, the sleep you are or are not getting, alcohol consumption, etc.

When you're overhead pressing you don't want to rotate your wrists too far back. You should be keeping your knees locked because if you don't you'll find that you have a tendency to perform what is actually called a push pres which takes work away from your shoulders.

A good tip for performing the overhead press is to squeeze your shoulder blades and lats back together as hard as you can and bring your elbows in front of the bar a little more. This gives you a more stable platform to push off from. Your entire body needs to be tight as well. I don't think you would get much benefit by performing accessory exercises on the lats or triceps (if you're not already doing them, that is) that would translate over to the OHP. It's just something you're going to need to work at.

Keep in mind the OHP tends to be explosive but do not let momentum take over. You should be bringing the bar back down below your chin to the point that you're having to pivot your head back and forth each time it travels up and down to clear the bar. The area where the bar returns to is typically referred to as your shelf.

Here is a good video illustrating form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWeRuB9uWNE

  • 1
    I can't agree that the OHP is "explosive" because any lift short of cleans becomes a meat grinder as you approach your 1RM.
    – Eric
    Sep 23, 2014 at 15:07
  • I agree with you. Sep 30, 2014 at 20:51

Chirstopher’s answer is great. I will just add a couple of my thoughts.

Something that might be holding you back are muscle groups other than your shoulders and triceps.

Core strength – is your core strong enough that that you don’t shake or wiggle around when overhead pressing.

Back strength –a common muscle imbalance that I see in lifters is that the pressing (bench / overhead) is much stronger than there pulling (rows, pull-up, chin ups.) This can be caused by the muscle imbalances inherent in all new lifters and the over emphasis on the pressing exercises. This will limit your ability to control the weight when it is over your head.

  1. Increase the weights frequently. You won't get stronger lifting the same weight all the time
  2. Increase your workout frequency. Once or twice a week isn't enough to generate the strength you desire. Make it about 3 (alternating) days a week.
  3. Perform your pushups daily. Add pullups (and some other body weight exercises) to it and increase the repetition as you see fit. Those will work your core, back and shoulder muscles.
  4. Include cardio in your workout; increase your endurance and put those heart and lungs to work.
  5. Have fun with it :).

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