How to do Seated Barbell Press: Variations, Proper Form, Techniques, Barbell

The seated barbell press is an upper-body compound lift that builds strength in the shoulders, trapezius, and triceps. This bilateral push exercise is a variation of the overhead press and can be used in full-body, upper-body, push, or shoulder-focused training plans. 

The proper seated barbell press form includes adjusting the barrel to shoulder height, positioning the bench or chair beneath the bar, sitting on the bench or chair and unracking the barbell, pressing the barbell to lockout at the top of the range of motion, and slowly lowering the barbell down to chest height. 

There are different seated barbell types and variations that work muscle groups in varying quantities. These variations include the dumbbell overhead press, seated overhead press, push press, Olympic press, kettlebell press, Arnold press, and military press. 

Some common seated barbell press mistakes to note are not involving a full range of motion, flaring out your elbows at the bottom of each rep, and looking up instead of directly ahead. The most common injury that can occur when not using proper form includes shoulder strain, lower back strain, and wrist pain.

Learn how to master seated barbell press techniques to increase your grip strength, build chest and shoulder strength, and avoid injury. 

How to Perform Seated Barbell Press with Proper Form?

The Seated Barbell Press is an effective exercise and one of the best shoulder workouts to include in a routine. Performing the seated barbell press with proper form is essential for strength building and avoiding injury. Proper form is the correct technique to do an exercise safely without injury. 

Learn how to dominate the seated barbell press by following this step-by-step guide. 

  1. Stand, adjust the barbell to just below shoulder height.
  2. Load the necessary weight onto the bar.
  3. Place an adjustable bench in an upright position beneath the bar.
  4. Sit on the bench.
  5. Use a pronated grip to unrack the bar.
  6. Inhale, brace, and tuck the chin.
  7. Drop the bar to your chest.
  8. Exhale and return the bar to the lockout position.
  9. Repeat for the appropriate number of times.

What are the benefits of Seated Barbell Press?

The seated barbell shoulder press is a compound exercise that helps build muscle in the shoulders, stability in the wrists, and increases bone density.

What are the benefits of Seated Barbell Press
Benefits of Seated Barbell Press
  1. Improves bone density: Strength training can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and sports-related injury 
  2. Improves stability in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder: Joint stability is essential for strength training and Olympic lifting 
  3. Improves strength in bones, tendons, and ligaments: Avoids injury and repetitive motion injury 
  4. Improves triceps, trapezius, and upper chest: Aids in other functional movements, such as triceps dips, pushups, pullups, and barbell bench press 

What are the mistakes for the Seated Barbell Press form?

The most common mistakes for the seated press barbell exercise can be detrimental to building muscle and avoiding injury. Maintaining proper seated barbell press form is key to establishing a foundation for shoulder strength and a full range of motion. 

  1. Not using a full range of motion – Seated barbell press form includes bringing the bar down to the top of the chest
  2. Flaring out your elbows – Elbows should be only slightly in front of the bar (avoid elbow sprain, tendinitis) 
  3. Looking up – Avoid craning your neck backward (neck strain) 

How to Determine Proper Weight for Seated Barbell Press?

Individuals can determine the best weight for the overhead press seated exercise by starting out very light and working their way up. Beginners should start with 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps and increase the weight by 5% once the last reps of the 3rd set are easy to perform.

How to Determine Proper Weight for Seated Barbell Press
How to Determine Proper Weight for Seated Barbell Press

Which muscles are involved while performing Seated Barbell Press?

The sitting overhead press specifically works the pectorals, deltoids, triceps, and trapezius.

  1. Pectorals –  Although less used than with a flat press or pushup, the pectorals are during the concentric and eccentric portion of the seated barbell press. 
  2. Deltoids (Posterior, Anterior, Medial) – The anterior deltoid is the most active muscle during the seated barbell press when raising the arms overhead. 
  3. Trapezius – The trapezius helps to stabilize the shoulder muscles during the pressing motion of the barbell. The upper, middle and lower trapezius muscles help with the rotation and retraction of the shoulder blades while your arms move overhead. 
  4. Triceps – The triceps are the muscles on the back of the arm that straighten the elbow out for a full range of motion. Users can target the triceps even more during the exercise by using a close grip on the barbell. 

What is the Seated Barbell Press Variations?

A seated barbell press variation is an alternative exercise that works for the same muscle groups in differing quantities. 

  1. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press – This shoulder press seated exercise uses dumbbells instead of the barbell to tax the stabilizer muscles and allows personalization via changing angles, rotation, and grip
  2. Swiss Ball Dumbbell Shoulder Press – Taxes the core due to the instability of the Swiss ball 
  3. Dumbbell Shoulder Press – Correct muscular imbalances due to the unilateral movement
  4. Inverted Shoulder Press – Uses body weight to increase strength in the chest, triceps, and shoulders (focuses more on triceps and shoulders vs. chest) 

What are the necessary equipment for Seated Barbell Press?

The seated barbell press requires a barbell, barbell rack (or spotter), and seat/bench. The user must maintain a proper seated military press form by setting up the equipment to the correct height/angle ahead of time.

What are the necessary equipment for Seated Barbell Press
Necessary equipment for Seated Barbell Press

The military press sitting exercise is a unique compound lift that is smart to incorporate into different strength training plans.

  1. The seated barbell press does not use any momentum, but a variation of the lift (push press) incorporates momentum and leg strength
  2. This exercise is an upright variation of the flat-lying barbell bench press
  3. The seated press is commonly used with either a barbell or dumbbells 

Does Seated Barbell Press affect the hormones?

The seated shoulder barbell press increases anabolic hormones, like testosterone, insulin growth factor, insulin, and catecholamines.  

Does Seated Barbell Press Increase Testosterone?

Testosterone is a male anabolic steroid hormone that controls fertility, strength, muscle mass, and red blood cell production. The seated barbell press increases testosterone before and after the lift. Follow a 12-week get ripped workout plan incorporating the seated barbell press to boost strength. 

Is Seated Barbell Press a military movement?

The seated military shoulder press is a military movement that can help with bodyweight exercises, such as pushups and pullups. 

Is Seated Barbell Press dangerous?

The sit-down shoulder press is not dangerous if performed correctly. The only risks of performing the seated barbell press are not racking the bar correctly, setting up the bench at the incorrect location, using a weight that is too heavy, or using improper form. 

Is Seated Barbell Press essential?

The seated barbell press is an essential exercise that builds shoulder strength for foundational and functional movements. 

Is Seated Barbell Press an Olympic lift?

The sitting press is not an Olympic lift, but it can help build shoulder strength for Olympic lifts such as the snatch, overhead squat, and clean and jerk. During the snatch, the internal rotation in the shoulder joint is essential. During the final catch position during the barbell clean, the external rotation of the shoulder is key for stabilization. During the overhead position of the Olympic lifts, the flexion of the shoulder is necessary for stabilizing the bar. Building shoulder strength via seated barbell press is effective in building stability and strength for Olympic lifting. 

Is Seated Barbell Press a compound exercise?

The shoulder press with barbell exercise is a compound exercise that builds strength and range of motion in the upper body. 

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