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Why you should try the javelin press to get really strong shoulders

There's more to shoulder training than performing the overhead press. Try the javelin press to get really strong and stable shoulders

American football star performing the javelin lift.
American football star performing the javelin lift. (Courtesy You Tube)

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Within the set patterns of working out our muscles, it is easy to forget some basic exercises that can be easily integrated into the workout. We focus on the shoulders this week, and look beyond the usual system of overhead presses, followed by lateral and front raises, and probably some face pulls and shrugs. But there is another kind of overhead press that is easy to do, incredibly safe for the joints, and also checks off the required single-side exercise from your list.It’s the javelin press.

The javelin press should have become more popular since the 2020 Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra belongs to India. But the move’s popularity has tapered off and I have never seen anyone attempt it in a gym. Doable with a bar or dumbbells, the javelin press is not only an excellent muscle-builder and core-challenger, but also fixes your overhead mechanics, which in turn, will make all the other overhead presses better and easier.

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“It forces the lifter to pack their shoulders into the optimal position as anything less will cause the bar to tilt uncontrollably. It’s for this very reason that the javelin press tends to be very joint friendly as the heightened instability requires the lifter to centrate their shoulder joint into the most biomechanically sound position. This takes stress off the joints and connective tissue thereby ensuring the surrounding musculature absorbs all the force,” says an article in titled Fix Your Overhead Mechanics With the Javelin Press.

It adds that the effects of the exercise on the shoulders, traps, back and triceps in this exercise are “through the roof”. Which might all make one think that is a tough exercise, but the fact is that it’s quite the opposite. Depending on your strength, it is preferred that you use a bar; even starting with a smaller bicep curl bar will make the road to using a heavier Olympic bar easier. The grip will be neutral, as if you are holding a javelin. The only thing one has to take care of is to make sure the starting point is not too low. “Don’t allow the elbow to drop excessively low in the bottom position as this promotes collapsing and faulty recruitment patterns,” states a Gym Guider article on how to do the javelin press.

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Drive the bar up in an overhead position while maintaining the neutral grip and bring it back down in a controlled eccentric movement. Rest for a moment or two at the bottom and drive back the bar upwards for the next rep. The neutral grip will also promote another underrated part of the body, which is the wrist. A strong wrist means a strong grip, and all these pointers make the javelin press an exercise which goes far beyond just working the shoulders.

If you believe you are not strong enough to do the javelin press in a standing position, feel free to try a half-kneeling javelin press. The only change here is that you are half-kneeling, almost in a lunge position. The arm which will drive the bar up will be on the same side as the foot which is placed ahead. The suggestion is try this first to get an idea of how a bar reacts to the physics of this press.

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A Men’s Health article titled This Old-School Muscle Move Will Help to Strengthen Your Shouldersexplains this: “Fighting the barbell’s instability is a recurring theme when it comes to the javelin press. In this case, the final challenge is maintaining control during the eccentric (lowering) phase of the press, which is going to require greater control from your wrists to your core to fight against the bar’s momentum, which may cause the barbell to rotate awkwardly.”

There are some workouts online which mainly use the javelin press as a precursor to your other main overhead lift: either the overhead or military press or even the landmine press. There is an instant comfort in realising that your muscles are ready for the two-handed overhead press because the javelin version has prepared your entire body. A lot of athletes tend to throw out the other arm to the side in a bid to balance the body, and that is no issue at all. In fact, it is a natural reaction to your body trying to maintain balance.The final step to this progression is of course the two-handed javelin press, but it needs a lot of mastery with the one-handed version first.

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.

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