If you have a hard time developing your shoulders, this exercise is going to be a lifesaver for you.
Personally, shoulders are one of my WORST bodyparts. It's tough to keep them strong...tough to get them bigger...and tough to really feel them working when I'm actually doing shoulder exercises.
The first time I used this technique, it absolutely blew my mind. As soon as I finished the set, my shoulders felt like they were inflating.
The blood was came rushing in and I knew I was on to something special...that RARELY happens to me with ANY shoulder exercises.
What makes THIS exercise so special for building the shoulders?
You're going to reach near muscular failure TWICE within the same set. AND you're going to do it with NO REST in between the two phases of the exercise. BAM BAM...one part right into the next.
But here's the twist...it's not a typical drop set in which you reduce the weight to achieve this! You're going to use the SAME weight for both phases of the exercise.
The REAL key lies in the range of motion of each part of the exercise...
You see, when you do a normal barbell shoulder press, as you push the barbell up, you go through what is called a strength curve. In basic terms, it means at the bottom of the movement you are fairly strong. But as you press further (normally about 3 to 5 inches up in the movement) you hit a point where the leverage in your shoulders changes. The exercise gets a lot tougher.
This is called a sticking point - it's basically the weakest point in the exercise. Another example of a sticking point is commonly seen in the bench press. If you were doing a bench press using a heavy weight, lowered the weight to your chest then started to press but couldn't get past a certain point (a few inches above your chest), THAT is also a sticking point.
Bottom line, you can only lift as much weight as you can move through that WEAKEST point in the range of motion of an exercise. But OUTSIDE that sticking point, your muscles are stronger and can lift more weight!
The question becomes, how do we still do full range-of-motion lifting while putting greater tension on the muscles to maximize their strength in OTHER phases of the movement?
We're going to break the movement into two distinct phases. On the first phase, you're going to do FULL reps of the shoulder press. When you can't do any more full reps, you're going to do partial reps in ONLY the top, stronger half of the range of motion.
It's a powerful technique and it'll get your shoulders burning like crazy.
The key to getting the most out of this exercise is the setup.
How to Do the Two Phase Barbell Shoulder Press:
First, you'll be doing this exercise in the power rack. While there IS a way to do it without being the rack (and it is still effective that way), the rack is going to allow you to really push your shoulders to the maximum.
Set the safety rails in the rack to just below shoulder height. You're going to be doing a standing military barbell press for your shoulders, bringing to the front, of course! I NEVER recommend doing any behind-the-head shoulder pressing - it can cause shoulder damage.
For this exercise, start with a weight you can get at least 8 to 10 reps for. I would suggest doing 3 or 4 sets of this exercise in total for your shoulder workout.
Grip the bar with your pinkies or fourth fingers on the smooth rings of the Olympic bar. You need to take a narrower grip on the bar than with the bench press. The rails should be set so you have to bend your knees a bit to get under the bar. The bar should be held across your upper chest.
Next, begin the pressing movement.
Press the barbell up in front of your face then lockout at the top. When you do a military press, your knees should be slightly bent and abs tight to keep stress off the lower back.
Because of the path of the bar, you will be leaning back a little bit - it has to go in front of your face. But as soon as the bar clears your head, shift your torso forward so that the bar is DIRECTLY over your head. It almost resembles a bobbing-forward motion.
This is a key point that a lot of people miss with the shoulder press. If you keep leaning back, it keeps tension on the front delts and takes it off the rear delts.
Lower the weight slowly back to your chest then press again. Keep going until you can't get the weight past the sticking point. Try and get it past the sticking point, though! We want to be sure you're right at the limit.
When you're done, set the bar back on the safety rails. And here's the trick that's going to set your shoulders on fire...keeping your hands locked onto the bar, drop down onto your knees under the bar. Now keep pressing in the partial top range of motion of the press!
Because the bar is now ABOVE the sticking point, your shoulders have better leverage and can continue with the exercise! Do as many reps as you can until you can't even budge the bar. I prefer to set the weight down on the rails in between reps here but you can keep a continuous movement, if you want. Do it whichever way feels best to you.
By exploiting the top range of motion after fatiguing the muscles in the full range of motion, you're going to finally be working the shoulders with FULL resistance in the whole range of motion.
When you're done, stand up. Your shoulders will be swelling up any second now...
As I mentioned previously, there IS a way to perform this technique without a power rack.
First, perform the barbell shoulder press, just like above. Now, instead of doing reps until you can't get past the sticking point, you're going to have to stop a rep or two SHORT of that point of failure.
Basically, you're going to have to complete that last rep to the TOP. When you're at the top, now lower the bar only halfway down (just above where your sticking point normally is) then press it back up to the top.
Keep doing reps in this shortened range of motion until you can't hold the bar up anymore.
Give this exercise a try in your next shoulder workout. If you've got good shoulders, this will blow them up even more. If you've got poor shoulders, you're going to be in for a treat.
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