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.

How To Do It:

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 dumbell presses with 50 lb dumbells, 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. Also, 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.

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.

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

Here's the setup - note how the left 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.

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

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

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

Now it's a press to the top. Once you're at the top, start lowering the end of the bar down to the other side, taking up the weight on your right arm.

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

Now the weight is all on the right arm with the left arm for balance.

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

Here's a side view of the exercise. Not the staggered grip on the end of the bar. One hand is right at the end - the other hand is on the bar pressed right against it but NOT on top of it.

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

Here's the press to the top.

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

Then down on the other side.

Side-To-Side Shoulder Press Side-To-Side Shoulder Press
Side-To-Side Shoulder Press

This is why I call it the "Side-To-Side Shoulder Press." You start with, for example, a left-hand one-arm press, bringing the bar overhead and across then performing a right-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.


Overall, this exercise is an excellent alternative to barbell and dumbell 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.

I think you're going to like it!