Military Press: What Muscles Are Involved the Most?

military press

You can often hear that the military press is one of the best exercises for the deltoid, although some resources position it as one of the best, but for the development of the muscles of the shoulder girdle. In general, there are no better and worse, but there are multiple and single-joint, comfortable, traumatic, and many more adjectives can be found that describe the exercise.

The sense of military press

Anyway, the military press is a multi-joint exercise, which involves mainly – the front delts, triceps, and the middle delt. It’s strange to use this exercise for hypertrophy as far as triceps is much less active in this exercise than, for example, in a narrow grip press. The middle delt is involved less than when doing lateral raise, and the front delt in 90% of athletes dominates the middle and rear.

The activity of each deltoid was examined by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) experts.

On the graphics, you will see that the dumbbell shoulder press, which is biomechanically close to the military press and is number one for the front delt, sixth for the middle and eighth for the rear deltoid muscle.

The most effective exercises to activate the anterior deltoid muscle:
military press with dumbbell
Credit: ACE
The most effective exercises to activate the middle deltoid muscle:
military press dumbbells
Credit: ACE
The most effective exercises for activating the posterior deltoid muscle:
military press standing
Credit: ACE

So far, only numbers and theory, but what about practice?

Given exercise on a real-life example

We did the maximum number of repetitions of a single-joint exercise on the middle delt – lateral raises to failure, strictly with 12.5 kg for 14 repetitions.

After the rest, we performed a military press with a 70 kg barbell at 12 reps to failure and immediately began to lateral raise with the same 12.5 kg. How many reps do you think we did?

We performed 12 repetitions in the same technical manner. Yes, the experiment is so-so, but it showed us that our middle delt is far from exhausted by this exercise, but the triceps – yes.

We checked the triceps with the French press, in which we could perform the same weight instead of 12 total 7 reps after the military press.

In our opinion, the military press is an exercise with far from ideal conditions for the spine and a relatively low stimulating effect on the deltoid in general.

Additionally, see whether it is necessary to do ab exercises.

What is more, why not read how to stress your inner-chest correctly with the right exercise.