The Best Shoulder Exercises

Vertical pushes are the best shoulder exercises.  They build the strength and muscle mass of the deltoids, trapezius and triceps. 

In the Elastic Strength program you build the strength and size of the shoulders with the standing overhead press (a.k.a. the press) and, if you desire, handstands.  The standing press is essential (unless you are unable to do it due to injury) while the handstand training is optional. 

Standing Overhead Press

The standing overhead press is a fundamental exercise for building strength and size of the shoulders and arms.

I recommend standing overhead pressing to everyone, including people who also want to develop a handstand.  The standing overhead press is better than the handstand for progressing in vertical pushing strength because it is more easily scaled and incrementally progressed than any handstand or handstand press variation.  

You will do the standing overhead press because it increases the strength of your base and teaches you how to use your body as a unit to transmit force from your feet through your torso to your arms.  

You can do the standing overhead press with a barbell or an X3 bar and resistance bands. The barbell has the advantage of systematic incremental progression, while resistance bands have the advantage of providing increased resistance in the overhead position where you are stronger.  

The barbell press is fundamental and superior to the dumbbell press for several reasons, including: 1) it is easier to load and systematically progress a barbell than dumbbells; 2) it is easier to safely get a barbell to your shoulders – using a rack – than to get dumbbells of adequate weight to your shoulders; and 3) overall the barbell provides a superior neuromuscular stimulus due to a combination of stabilizing and greater load.1

Ideally you can combine a barbell with resistance bands.  That way you can incrementally progress using the iron plates, while also obtaining variable resistance from the resistance bands. 

You need to think big on this.  If you want really big shoulders and triceps, you should gradually progress to doing standing presses with a load equal to your body weight for a set of 6-10 repetitions.  When you reach that goal, aim for a load 25% greater than your bodyweight.

Handstand Training

The handstand is a fundamental gymnastic strength training vertical pushing exercise.

If you are following a handstand development course, you can incorporate it in the Elastic Strength program as an alternate or addition to standing overhead press.  

If you want to develop a really high quality handstand, I recommend you choose the Gymnastic Bodies Handstand 1 course and implement the progression into the Elastic Strength program. 

However, whereas that course prescribes up to 5 sets of each exercise in the progression sequence, I recommend doing only 1-2 sets in a session. 

The Best Shoulder Exercises Summary

When doing the Elastic Strength program, you do the best shoulder exercises, either standing barbell presses or handstands.


1.  Fimland, M. (2013). Effects of Body Position and Loading Modality on Muscle Activity and Strength in Shoulder Presses. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(7), 1824–1831-1824&ndash-ndash;1831-1824–1831.

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