Side-to-Side Barbell Shoulder Presses

If you're like me, shoulders are one of your toughest bodyparts to develop.

So I've had to develop effective ways to really hit my shoulders HARD and get the best results possible.

This exercise is one of my favorites for building strength and explosive power in the shoulders. I've found it to be VERY effective for hitting the lateral delts as well, which is critical for building shoulder width.

To perform this exercise, you'll need a barbell and a power rack. That's it.

Instead of pressing the barbell from inside the rack, though, and taking a "traditional" grip on the bar, you will be standing OUTSIDE the rack on one side, facing in. You'll be pressing ONE END of the bar, using the other end as a pivot point.

 



 

First, you'll need to set one of the safety rails up near the top of the rack - about forehead level is good. The other rail should be set at just about shoulder height.

Set an Olympic barbell across these rails so that it's sloping down to one side. Load the high end of the barbell with at least one weight plate (45 or 35 lbs) to counterbalance the end you'll be pressing.

Load the lower end of the bar with weight - start with a weight that is fairly light (if you can do dumbbell presses with 50 lb dumbbells, start with just a 45 lb plate on the bar) until you get an idea of how the exercise works. THEN you can start adding plates.

Be VERY sure you've got good collars on BOTH ends of the bar. You don't want any plates sliding off.

Now you're ready to start the exercise.

Stand at the low end of the bar (outside the rack) facing in towards the rack. Grip the end of the bar with both hands (not overlapping but butted up so they're right BESIDE each other on the end of the bar). One will be closer to the end than the other - you can switch that grip on the next set to keep things even.

Build Bigger, Wider Shoulders With Side-to-Side Barbell Shoulder Press

The press comes primarily from the right arm in this picture. The left arm is just for guidance and balance.

Note how the far side rail is up near the top (about forehead height) - the working side rail is at about shoulder level. I'm standing on the outside of the rack facing in towards the barbell. I'm taking a staggered grip on the very end of the bar.

Stand a little off to one side to start with here. When you do the exercise, you're basically going to be doing a press with one hand (using the other hand for guidance and balance), bringing the bar up and overhead then lowering it down on the other side. Then you'll repeat, going back over to the other side.

Build Bigger, Wider Shoulders With Side-to-Side Barbell Shoulder Press

Build Bigger, Wider Shoulders With Side-to-Side Barbell Shoulder Press

You can see why I call it the "Side-To-Side Shoulder Press." You start with, for example, a right-hand one-arm press, bringing the bar overhead and across then performing a left-hand one-arm press. You go back and forth until you've done as many reps as you can.

When you're doing the press (especially at the bottom of the movement), be careful to use the other hand primarily for guidance and balance, NOT to try and pull up on the bar for help. That other shoulder will be in an awkward position to exert force and you don't want to risk injury.

If you want to REALLY finish off the shoulders (I like to do this on my last set), when you're done with the side-to-side movement, you can continue with a two-arm press directly to the front.

Build Bigger, Wider Shoulders With Side-to-Side Barbell Shoulder Press

Build Bigger, Wider Shoulders With Side-to-Side Barbell Shoulder Press

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Overall, this exercise is an excellent alternative to barbell and dumbbell presses. It's a novel yet EXTREMELY functional shoulder exercise that has the potential to build excellent power and strength in the shoulders.

The positioning of the bar, the side-to-side movement and the fact that you're gripping on a MUCH thicker portion of the bar all contribute to the overall effectiveness of the exercise.

For a similar neutral elbow position that's easy on the shoulders, try Calf Machine Shoulder Presses.

 

 


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