The Elite Physique

Side-To-Side Barbell Shoulder Presses For Building Shoulder Width and Explosive Power!


Side-t0-Side Barbell Shoulder Press – Secret Training Tip #964

If your shoulders need a change of pace…if standard barbell or dumbell presses just aren’t doing it for you anymore…you have GOT to try this exercise. A simple change in how you hold and lift the bar will set your delts on FIRE!  If you’re like me, shoulders are one of your toughest bodyparts to develop. So I’ve 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.

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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.

** Don’t worry! ** I’ll have a link to pictures and video of this exercise in action at the end of the article so you’ll know EXACTLY what you’re doing before trying it out.

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.

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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.

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!

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About the Author

Nick Nilsson is the Mad Scientist and the creator of The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of, that has helped thousands of men and women build and reshape their bodies.

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About the Author

Karen Sessions is an author, competitive natural female bodybuilder, professional fitness coach and nutritionist

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