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The overhead press may sound like a foreign language if you’re new to weight training. However, the benefits of overhead press have a huge impact on your strength training regimen whether you’re a beginner or a veteran lifter.
The overhead press is a strength training exercise in which a barbell or dumbbell is pressed overhead from a standing position.
What Is The Overhead Press?
An overhead press is a compound movement. It aims to work many upper body muscles simultaneously, including the posterior deltoid, anterior deltoid, upper chest, pectorals, upper trap, and triceps.
Compared to an overhead bench press which you perform lying down, you need to perform the overhead press while standing up or in an upright position.
The overhead press is similar to a military press, but the difference is in the stance.
- Recommended Reading – Military Dumbbell Press: Why, How & Tips For Great Form
How to Do an Overhead Press
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell in front of you.
- Place your feet at an angle that allows you to keep the barbell directly over your center of mass. This will prevent it from rolling away as you press it overhead.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs. This helps stabilize your back and spine. Focus on your core and keep your back straight.
- Press the weight over your head until your arms are fully extended. Lift until you can feel a stretch in your shoulders; this means you’re doing it right.
- Slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
- Repeat the motions as directed by your workout.
Overhead Press Variations
Generally, several variations of the overhead press are available. Moreover, you can use them to target various muscle groups or change your routine. Here are some of the common ones:
Barbell Overhead Press
This classic version of the overhead press involves pressing a barbell overhead while standing. You can use a narrow or wide grip depending on your preference and which muscles you want to target.
Dumbbell Overhead Press
This variation involves pressing a pair of dumbbells overhead while standing or seated. Dumbbells allow a good range of motion and help to eliminate any strength imbalances between your left and right sides.
Kettlebell Overhead Press
This variation involves pressing a kettlebell overhead while standing. Kettlebells are typically more challenging to press overhead due to their unconventional shape and weight distribution.
Seated Dumbbell Press
This variation involves pressing a pair of dumbbells overhead while sitting on a bench. This version can be easier on the lower back than standing versions, allowing for a more stable support base.
The push press involves pressing a weight overhead while using a leg drive to help generate additional power. For a better workout, you can perform this with a kettlebell, dumbbell, or barbell.
The jerk is a more advanced variation of the overhead press. It involves pressing the weight overhead and then quickly dipping under it to catch it in a fully extended position. This variation is often used in weightlifting competitions.
7 Amazing Benefits Of Overhead Press
As with all compound exercises, there are many benefits to performing the overhead press. Here are some of its many benefits:
Improved Shoulder Strength and Mobility
This exercise will improve your shoulder strength by challenging your core stabilizers and upper body muscles to work together while performing a compound movement.
The overhead press also improves shoulder mobility through its biomechanics: it requires full extension at the top of each rep, which decompresses the joint capsule of your shoulder. Hence, it opens up the front side of your chest cavity.
This allows for a greater range of motion during other movements like pull-ups or chin-ups that challenge your shoulder flexibility.
Increased Upper Body Strength
The overhead press is great for building upper body strength because it works almost every muscle group in your shoulders, chest, and arms.
The shoulder muscles (deltoids) stabilize your shoulder joint during this exercise. On the other hand, your triceps are responsible for extending your elbows and helping you keep your elbows tight to your body during each rep.
Your chest muscles also get involved as they help rotate your arms forward as you push up on each rep.
The overhead press works the muscles that stabilize your shoulder joints, which helps improve your posture. When you lift weights over your head, you strengthen the muscles around your spine that pull it upright and support it from beneath.
This movement activates the rhomboid and trapezius muscles, which run along the spine and connect to your shoulder blades. These muscles pull down on the shoulder blades and elongate them as they move up toward your neck.
Builds Better Bones
One of the overhead press’s most important functions is strengthening bones. Bone density declines as we age, so the bones become more susceptible to fracture as they become brittle. This can be especially true if osteoporosis or other conditions affect your bone health.
The overhead press exercise strengthens bones by increasing bone density. It makes them less likely to break in injury situations like falling or twisting while lifting something heavy.
If you want to prevent fractures later in life, this exercise is one you should include in your workout routine.
It Helps Strengthen Your Core Muscles
The overhead press targets your core muscles, including the abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and groin muscles. These muscles play a vital role in stabilizing your spine when you lift weights overhead during this exercise.
The abdominal muscles support your back while lifting weights overhead and protect against injury to your lower back while performing this exercise.
Hip flexors help stabilize your knees during heavy weightlifting by contracting to stabilize them during each exercise repetition.
Groin muscles help prevent hyperextension of the spine during this exercise by contracting forcefully during each repetition of this exercise.
Helps Improve Arm Strength
An overhead press exercise is a compound movement involving multiple joints in your arms. Thus, they produce a force against weight. This is why it’s such an effective exercise for building strength in your arms. This is especially true compared to biceps single-joint movements like curls or triceps extensions..
Raise Your Fat Burning Potential
An overhead press workout works just about every muscle in your upper body at once, including those located in your upper back region. These muscles provide stability for your spine during all movements, whether large or small. So they need to be strong enough to do their job properly.
By performing an overhead press with weights, you’ll increase your overall fat burning rate and strengthen the muscles around your back which in turn will offer spinal support, a balanced muscular appearance and improved posture.
Mistakes To Avoid During Overhead Press
Rounding Your Lower Back
Rounding the back is a common mistake you can avoid. It is a rookie mistake that can lead to injury. If you round your lower back, you will lose the ability to transfer force through your body and will be lifting with your arms. This is dangerous because it puts a lot of pressure on the spine. The continuous strain on the back can cause injury over time.
To avoid rounding, think about keeping an arch in your lower back at all times. Besides, ensure the arching is not too much. Doing so will improve your form and lessen your risk of injury.
- Recommended Reading – 5 Ways To Overcome Lower Back Pain While Squatting During Workouts
If you’re using momentum to press a weight overhead, then that’s a problem. You need to get strong enough to move the weight from where it starts into lockout. Meaning you can do it without any assistance from your hips or legs. This is especially true for heavier weights. Doing so allows you to keep your form tight and stable. Moreover, it prevents accidents, strains, and injuries.
Locking Out Your Elbows
Your elbows should never lock out when performing an overhead press. This will cause your shoulders and lower back to take on more load than they should. Thus, it can lead to injury and poor form.
Do not straighten your arms; keep the elbows slightly bent as you focus on the movement. Try bending your knees slightly if you have trouble keeping them in this position. So, you will require less work from your lower back muscles.
Pressing Too Quickly
It would help if you always tried to control the eccentric portion of an exercise as much as possible, and overhead pressing is no different. Don’t just drop down under a barbell and push it back up as fast as possible.
It would be best to lower yourself slowly and then take 2-3 seconds or more on each rep before pressing back up again with control. Hence, you won’t lose positioning or form under heavy loads.
- Recommended Reading – Eccentric Exercise: What Is It, Benefits And Examples
Pressing Too Much Weight
You can avoid this obvious mistake by following the proper procedures, but many people still mess this one up. It would be best to never press more weight than what feels natural on any given lift.
If you can’t maintain proper form at a certain weight level, then it’s too heavy for you, and you should decrease it until it feels comfortable again. Ensure you don’t push yourself beyond what’s comfortable just because someone else can do it.
Not Using a Full Range of Motion
You want to be sure that you’re getting a good stretch at the bottom of your overhead movements. This will help get those muscles firing, so they work harder during the lift.
When performing an overhead press, it’s important to use a full range of motion. It would help to lower the bar until your arms are fully extended. You can raise it until your arms are fully locked.
If your shoulder mobility limits you from fully extending or locking out at either end, you should adjust with barbells or dumbbells. Or modify them so that you can perform them in good form.
Not Engaging Your Core
Engaging your core muscles as much as possible throughout the exercise is important when doing any overhead movement. Even if it seems like an easy enough move without any added weight, one wrong move can lead to an injury.
Make sure you’re squeezing those abs and glutes throughout each rep so that nothing goes wrong with your form.
Overhead Press Safety Tips
Use a Full Range of Motion
Make sure to lower the barbell down to your shoulders before pressing it up again. This helps to engage all the muscles in your shoulders and upper body and also helps to prevent injury.
Use Proper Form
The overhead press is a two-part movement. First, you lift the weight with your arms until they are straight out in front of you at shoulder level. Slowly lower your weight back to the starting position.
It would be best to keep your chest up with your feet at least shoulder-width apart. As you do overhead presses, focus and engage your core. Don’t let the knees cave in or the lower back arch.
Use a Spotter
If you’re new to lifting and aren’t sure how much weight should be on each side, use a spotter when performing this exercise. They can help catch the weight if something goes wrong while lifting or lowering it. Once you can do several reps easily with good form without assistance, you can go solo.
- Recommended Reading – Your Bench Press Spotter: The Key to a Safe and Successful Workout
Warm Up Properly
Take time to warm up and do light cardio or dynamic stretches to prepare your muscles and joints for overhead presses. Just like with any other workout routine, the warm-up will prevent injuries from happening.
The muscles are less likely to tear when they’re warmed up than when they’re stiff from sitting all day at work or school.
- Recommended Reading – Static vs Dynamic Stretching
The overhead press should be performed slowly with a full range of motion. Once you begin the movement, don’t attempt to accelerate or rush through it just because you feel like your arms are getting tired. This can cause injury and even lead to muscle imbalances.
Listen to Your Body
If you feel pain during this exercise, stop immediately and take a break before continuing your workout routine. If the pain continues after resting for several days or goes away with ice or heat treatment but returns when you resume working out, see a doctor. It could indicate a more serious problem, such as tendonitis or bursitis.
As you can see, the overhead press is not an overly complicated exercise routine. It’s a simple upper-body exercise with tremendous benefits and should be a staple in any training routine. You can start with lighter weights and progress to heavier weights as you build up your core stability and muscles.