Shoulder Press Is Crucial in CrossFit: Ultimate Guide

Written By Charleh Knighton  |  Overhead Press 

The shoulder press, also known as the overhead press or strict press, is a strength training exercise you’ll often see programmed in CrossFit. It builds strength and stability in the shoulders, triceps, and upper back muscles, and can be performed with various equipment such as barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells.

In this ultimate guide to shoulder press in CrossFit, we will explore the importance of this exercise, its variations, benefits, progressions, and a sample workout.

What Is Shoulder Press in CrossFit?

Shoulder press is a compound exercise that involves lifting a weight from shoulder level to overhead. It requires stabilization of the core, legs, and shoulders, and can be performed in a seated or standing position. In CrossFit, the shoulder press builds strength which carries over to overhead movements such as push presses, jerks, and thrusters.

Why Is It So Important to Do Shoulder Press in CrossFit?

Shoulder press is a fundamental movement pattern that can help improve upper body strength, stability, and mobility. It targets the shoulders, which are often neglected in everyday activities, and can help prevent shoulder injuries or imbalances. Moreover, the shoulder press can translate to other CrossFit movements such as handstand push-ups, and can help improve overall athletic performance.

What Are the Shoulder Press Variations?

There are several variations of the shoulder press that can be used to challenge your muscles in different ways and work around restrictions or injury. Some of the most common variations include:

  1. Seated Shoulder Press:
    Performed in a seated position, this variation helps remove the temptation to use your legs for assistance or over extend your back as you press.
  2. Kettlebell Press:
    Using kettlebells increases the range of motion as you start with the weight in a front rack position. You can also use a single arm variation if overhead mobility is limited.
  3. Landmine Press:
    The landmine is an awesome tool if your overhead mobility is so restricted that you can’t get the weight directly overhead. This variation allows you to lean into the barbell and find a range that is comfortable for you.
Shoulder press is crucial in CrossFit ultimate guide

What Are the Benefits to Doing Shoulder Press in CrossFit?

In addition to improving upper body strength, stability, and mobility, the shoulder press can have several benefits for CrossFit athletes. These include:

  1. Improved posture and aesthetics;
    looking for boulder shoulders? Make sure the shoulder press is a staple!
  2. Increased strength for other movements:
    the shoulder press will build strength and stability to improve your performance in movements such as push press, jerks, handstand push ups and snatches.
  3. Enhanced muscle symmetry:
    Shoulder press can help improve muscle symmetry and balance, which can help prevent injuries and improve aesthetics.

What Shoulder Press Progressions?

To progress in your shoulder press, it's important to focus on proper technique, gradually increase weight, and incorporate variations. If you’re not ready or mobile enough to press a barbell right away, here are some shoulder press progressions that you can use to improve your strength:

  1. Landmine press:
    This is a great option for beginners which can be completed from a standing position, tall kneeling or half kneeling.
  2. Single arm seated dumbbell or kettlebell press:
    these are a natural progression when you can get into a comfortable overhead position. 
  3. Dumbbell or kettlebell press:
    the next step would be to challenge yourself further by using both arms at the same time.
  4. Barbell press:
    once you have progressed through the above steps and have built sufficient strength, you’re ready to use the barbell for shoulder pressing!

Shoulder Press CrossFit Workout For You To Try!

Here is an example of a shoulder press workout that you can incorporate into your CrossFit training:

  1. Warm-up:
    10-15 minutes of mobility work and foam rolling, followed by 3-4 sets of shoulder and upper back activation exercises.
  2. Shoulder press strength work:
    5 sets of 5 reps at 75% of your 1RM, with 2-3 minutes of rest between sets.
  3. Metcon:
    Complete 3 rounds for time of 10 push presses (50-60% of 1RM) and 20 box jumps.
  4. Cool-down:
    10-15 minutes of stretching and mobility work, with a focus on the shoulders, upper back, and legs.

In conclusion, the shoulder press is a fundamental movement in CrossFit that has numerous benefits for athletes. It is essential for developing upper body strength and improving overall athletic performance. By incorporating variations of the shoulder press into your CrossFit training routine, you can enhance your strength, power, and endurance.

Remember to prioritize proper form and technique when performing the shoulder press; start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as your strength and technique improve. Moving on to movements such as the push press and push jerk can also be beneficial in developing strength and power.

Overall, the shoulder press is an excellent addition to any CrossFit training program, and with consistent practice and attention to proper form, you can achieve great results in your athletic performance.

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