What are the reasons for choosing a seated shoulder press instead of a standing press (barbell or dumbbell)?

  • 2
    I choose standing, for reasons well outlined in Starting Strength: standing is more athletic, requiring full-body balance and strength. Nov 15, 2012 at 3:22
  • Cool. I agree! It's just I see a lot of people doing seated versions when they do them with dumbbells and was wondering if there's a reason to do them seated instead of standing.
    – user4644
    Nov 15, 2012 at 3:46
  • 1
    Only reason I can find is that bodybuilders can put more weight over their heads with seated: tnation.t-nation.com/free_online_forum/… Nov 15, 2012 at 4:03

3 Answers 3


Standing press requires more of the stabilizing musculature than with the seated one. It should however be mentioned that a lot of people lack the required mobility in the shoulder joint to perform the standing press without going into lumbar hyperlordosis. While doing so you effectively exclude the musculature on the front of the abdomen and let the back musculature work on overtime stabilizing your body in a poor position. Tightness in the pectoral minor and lack of thoracic extension is often involved in this. Therefore when performing the standing press you should always make sure that your core is tight and that your rib cage does not tilt in order to make up for crappy shoulder positioning. An exercise I like to recommend to loosen up the shoulder is called "shoulder dislocations", which you can read about here: http://stronglifts.com/shoulders-dislocations/

  • Thank you for this, but it doesn't really answer my question. I don't have problems with the standing press. I am curious though... Why would lack of shoulder mobility contribute to hyperlordosis? Wouldn't hyperlordosis be caused by not activating the abs? Or weak abs? Or just poor layback technique?
    – user4644
    Nov 17, 2012 at 19:53
  • @Kate For me, sometimes it's that achieving proper overhead shoulder position is right at the end of my range of motion, so I'll accidentally use some layback, causing excessive and potentially injurious lordotic arch. Usually happens on rep four or five of a max set. Nov 18, 2012 at 6:03
  • 1
    @Kate No, you might not have any problems with the exercise, therefore it is probably better for you to do the standing version as it requires more muscle activity to perform (due to stabilization). For others having problems, the seated variation may be a better choice. Especially if one has extension based back problems. I hope this clarifies my answer.
    – Wingeer
    Nov 19, 2012 at 19:36
  • Cool. It does, thanks! I take from this that the seated version is a good option to try for people having issues with the standing version.
    – user4644
    Nov 20, 2012 at 23:44

The standing shoulder press is far more beneficial than a sitting one. This is not to say that the sitting one is useless for people with limited mobility or who are trying to isolate just one muscle group.

While standing, your body is able to activate the stabilizer muscles in your back as your arms extend upward.

The use of the back support while doing a seated shoulder press can lead to faulty recruitment patterns in the muscle groups.

If you do plan to use the seated shoulder press I'd advise that you do so without the back support. Remember to use those abs it will save you spine!

Also, the use of the legs in a standing shoulder press is not cheating. It utilizes the entire body and helps develop explosiveness.

  • So, there's no reason to do a seated press? This is what I thought! But, how could so many people be wrong? Anyway, thank you. However, I do think using legs in a press can be cheating if you're doing a press. It's not cheating if you're doing a push press.
    – user4644
    Nov 17, 2012 at 0:33
  • 3
    If your goals are aesthetic and you want to isolate the front shoulder for greater volume, then that is a valid reason to do a seated press instead of standing.
    – Affe
    Nov 17, 2012 at 8:56
  • @Affe , this is a good point! Seems like the closest to answering my question.
    – user4644
    Nov 17, 2012 at 19:54

It would be better to do the seated bench press instead of the standing press if:

  • you have problems with the standing press (based on Wingeer's answer), or
  • you want to target the front shoulder without using any other muscles for aesthetic reasons (based on comments by Dave and Affe), or
  • you want strong shoulders (based on Mike's answer)

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