Putting a weight above your head is one of the most important things you can do on a regular basis. The benefits of overhead pressing are huge for both strength and hypertrophy. Even if you are just trying to improve your overall athleticism, it is a move that is well worth doing. The move isn’t just something that will strengthen your shoulders, if done properly, your entire body should get involved in the movement. Let’s discuss how to perform a perfect overhead press.
Note – We are going to be discussing the regular, standing barbell press, there are many variations, but mastering this one first is key, you can then move on to other more advanced movements.
The Set Up
Legs – Your legs should be roughly shoulder width apart. Basically you need to feel like you are in a strong position. As long as you feel firmly “grounded” then your position is ok
Hands – Again, roughly shoulder width apart. This is the strongest position for your arms, as it puts the weight evenly on your shoulders and triceps. If you are too wide or too narrow, you won’t be as strong in the lift.
Rack – It is important to get the bar into a comfortable position across your shoulders. This is important again because you need to have a strong start to the movement. Take a look at the video below to see the correct form.
Lats – When in the rack position, you need to flex your lats. This provides a “shelf” for you to press strongly off.
Shoulder Blades – Push them downwards. With your lats strong, and your shoulder blades compressed, you will have the perfect platform for your reps.
Abs – You guessed it, tighten your abs, flex like you are at the beach. They should be tight for the whole movement
Glutes and Legs – Squeeze your glutes tight together, (clench your ass basically), and tighten your legs, get your quads and your hamstrings involved.
Grip – If you are a beginner, then just use a normal grip. If you are used to having a barbell in your hands, then use the false grip.
So to recap. Tighten your entire body before you make the lift, get into a strong rack position, hands and feet shoulder width apart. Next, the lift!
As was mentioned above, you need to view this movement as your entire body moving the weigh, not just your shoulders. So, let’s take a look at a few tips to make the weight fly overhead.
Feet – You should be driving your heels into the ground, and feeling the weight in them. This give you an idea as to how much of your body you should be using.
Chin – The best advice for how to place your head in the movement is by imagining you are making a double chin. By pushing your head downwards slightly, you will be able to lift more. The mechanics of the lift show this to be the optimal head position.
Deep Breath – Take a deep breath before the lift, inflate your stomach with air, tense, and push.
Be Explosive – You want to be pushing the weight with as much force as you can muster. A fast start will help you grind out the top of the movement.
Elbow Flair – at the top of the movement, make sure you aren’t causing your elbows to flair. Your elbows should remain under the bar. If they are flailing all over the place, you wont’ lift as much. If it keeps happening, lower the weight, get the technique right and build up. It’s not a race.
The top of the movement is important to get right. It is simple, but often taught incorrectly.
Engage Traps – at the top of the movement, instead of focusing on pushing your head through your arms, focus on squeezing your traps.
Where the bar should be – To further the above point, the bar should finish in line with your ears. This means that pushing your head through your arms isn’t the strongest way to finish the movement. The bar should be in line with your center of gravity, not in front, not behind.
Maximizing Your Lift
So you now know how to overhead press. But often times this is the lift that people stall with the most. It can be hard to make progress as you would with the squat, deadlift and bench for many people. So are there some good accessory movements to help?
1. FacePulls. This exercise is a must for all lifters, as it will make your shoulders much more balanced. Having well developed rear delts is a great idea for safe, healthy shoulders. This will help you press more in the long term.
2. Hand stand push ups. These are great for your shoulders to develop mobility, and strength needed for the big overhead presses you are aiming for.
3. Ab Roller. This movement will help to create a bulletproof midsection for you. You may have noticed that when you are overhead pressing a heavy amount, sometimes you will feel your core wobble. This can be fixed by strengthening your abs and low back with this killer move.
4. Seated overhead Presses. For people who may have some lagging strength in their shoulders, making the shoulders work overtime by sitting down is a good idea. This can take the advantage of your body working when pressing overhead, and will focus on just getting your shoulders to work. A barbell can be good, but to get an even greater Range of motion, try this with dumbbells.
So we’ve had a look at how to do the overhead press, and what to do around it to maximize your numbers. Remember, this primal movement is always going to be one of the most valuable in your training arsenal.