6 Best Vertical Pushing/Pressing Exercises for Shoulders

Arms 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

Vertical pressing is the technical term for pushing weight overhead.

You probably think of this as shoulder day and rightly so. Vertical pressing is a necessity for building boulder shoulders, and we all want those.

Here are the 6 best vertical pushing exercises and why.

Why You have to Do Them

Vertical pushing develops the anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, triceps, and muscles of the rotator cuff.

Overhead stability is a great indicator of overall shoulder health. The ability to press a weight vertically overhead is a sign of a well-functioning rotator cuff because many of these exercises put the shoulder through near complete range of motion.

If vertical pressing causes pain, or you lack the ability to press it vertically over the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint you have some issues to address.

1. Overhead Press

This is sometimes called a military press, shoulder press, or it is shortened to OHP.

Whatever you call it, know it is the heaviest exercise for vertical pressing.

Big weights mean big growth.

2. Behind the Neck Press

The Behind the Neck Press is exactly what it sounds like—an OHP behind the head.

Grab the bar with a wider than usual grip and duck under the bar like a squat.

Pick the bar up and step back into a hip-width stance.

Press the bar overhead to lockout then back down to the base of your skull.

You will have to go lighter with these than you do with the OHP but these will work the medial deltoid more. This is good because this is the largest & most prominent “shoulder” muscle.


This is very similar to the OHP but typically done seated. This exercise will challenge the stabilizers of the shoulders more and leads to more activation of the deltoids.

This exercise is easier for most people because you do not have to worry about hitting yourself in the face with a barbell.

Bringing the dumbbells together at the top will work the anterior (front) deltoid more but isn’t necessary.

4. ARNOLD Press

The Arnold Press, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, is excellent for working the delts.

This exercise is similar to the dumbbell press but the starting position and motion are different.

Begin with the dumbbells in the same position you would end a chinup with. Palms facing your chest.

As you press, rotate the dumbbells out so they finish in the same position as a normal dumbbell press–palms forward. It is a corkscrew motion.

As you lower the weights reverse the corkscrew motion so you end in the start position–palms facing your chest.


Landmine presses are great because they create an arc away from you allowing the shoulder blade to move correctly and add more stress to the anterior deltoid while keeping the shoulders pain-free.

To do these correctly you need to hinge at the hips so your torso is perpendicular to the path of the landmine press.

Remember to use good pressing mechanics and maintain external rotation of the shoulder at the bottom.

6. Bottoms Up Z Press

This exercise is huge for shoulder stability.

A well executed bottoms-up Z Press will challenge the rotator cuff while also working the deltoid muscles.

The seated position also makes it challenging to arch the low-back. This is a common compensation when pressing overhead. With the Z Press you now have to press through a true full range of motion.

Grab a light kettlebell. Start with 5lbs.

Sit on the ground with your legs together and in front of you like you are about to do a sit and reach.

Sit tall with good posture then bring the kettlebell up to the starting position. This starting position is an inverted kettlebell and gripped neutral.

The kettlebell is called bottoms-up when held in this position.

Press the kettlebell overhead until your arm is fully extended then return to the starting position.

Develop The Rest of Your Body

Vertical pressing exercises are great, but they aren’t a complete workout.

You need to add in more upper body pushing, pulling, and don’t forget about your legs.

Not sure what to do?

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Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.