The Overhead Press

The Overhead Press is one of the most popular exercises among bodybuilders. However, it’s not easy to perform correctly. A good coach can make it easier for you to do. You need to understand some basic movements before you start training with them regularly. If you don’t have any experience in overhead pressing, then I suggest that you read this article first before starting your own training program with these exercises.

What Is The Overhead Press?

The overhead press is a compound exercise that involves using both the arms and the back. It works the shoulders, triceps, bicep, deltoids and traps. The main purpose of performing this exercise is to develop strength in all those areas of your body.

How To Do The Overhead Press Properly?

Before you begin training with these exercises, you need to learn how to properly perform them. Here are the key points:

Holding The Bar With Your Shoulders

When holding the bar, hold it tightly with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Keep your hands close together and squeeze them hard. Hold the weight for 30 seconds or until you feel like you can no longer keep up with it.

You will be able to lift heavier weights if you train with a heavy weight first.

Stabilize Your Body

Keep your core tight as you stabilize your body. Don’t sway or move excessively during the exercise as this may cause pain or injury.

Lifting The Bar Upward

Start raising the bar slowly and then lift it up in a controlled manner. Go until your arm is fully extended upwards. It should not be bent at any angle, but instead stand straight up and down.

If you have shoulder issues, then bend your elbow at 90-degrees or less. However, if you don’t have any shoulder issues then it’s best that you extend your arm completely.

Don’t Jerk The Weight Upward

Never jerk the weight upward because this may cause injury to your muscles and tendons. Always lift the weight in a smooth and controlled manner.

Breathing in Overhead Pressing

As you push the bar upward, make sure to take a deep breath. Take a short breath when you lower the bar back to its starting position.

Holding The Bar At The Top

When the bar is at the top, your shoulders should be in a fully locked position. Do not shrug your shoulders before you begin lowering the weight back to its starting position. This will only cause unnecessary wear and tear on your body.

Lifting The Bar Downward

When lowering the bar, bend your elbows first and then allow your shoulders to follow. Continue doing it this way until the bar is back in its initial position. Then, put the weight back on the floor.

After that, you can start raising the bar again.

Do this exercise several more times before stopping. Always take a rest for 1-2 minutes between each set to give yourself enough time to recover.

Common Issues with Overhead Pressing

Many people fail to realize the importance of proper technique when lifting the bar. This can lead to various issues in the future, so you need to fix them right away. Here are a few examples of common issues:

Rushing Through The Exercise

Never rush through this exercise. Take the bar off the rack and perform each movement slowly and deliberately. Take a deep breath at the top and another at the bottom of each repetition.

Also, hold the bar at the top position for a few seconds before starting your next repetition.

Do not do this exercise quickly as that can lead to various issues, such as poor form, using wrong muscles, and not being able to lift as much weight. Always take your time and do not rush through this exercise, even if you are in a rush to finish your workout.

Using The Wrong Muscles

Your arms should act as levers when you perform this exercise. They simply hold the bar so that you can use your larger muscles to lift more weight. Don’t try to curl the weight, instead focus on using your larger muscles like your chest, shoulders, and back.

Check here for a complete guide on which muscle does what in the human body.

Holding Your Breath

Never hold your breath while doing this exercise. It is dangerous to restrict oxygen flow to your brain for a long period of time. It may also cause a stroke, which can be life-threatening.

Instead, take a deep breath before you begin the exercise and then another one when you reach the top position. Then, hold that position for a few seconds before starting your next repetition.

Wrong Way to Stand

Never plant your feet too wide when doing this exercise. This will cause rotation in your body and you may fall over. Instead, stand with your feet much closer than shoulder width apart so that they are almost parallel to each other.

Make sure that your knees are slightly bent at all times.

Final Thoughts

This exercise is a great compound movement for your upper body. It will work the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms. You can also safely add more weight than you can with other isolation exercises like the bicep curl, as long as you are performing the exercise correctly.

Just make sure to take your time when doing this exercise, always use proper form, and don’t rush through it.

If you want more information on how to do a proper overhead press, check this video out:

And if you’re interested in reading more on weight lifting, check out the wikiHow weight lifting category.

This article was written by Isaiah Cash, a Strength and Conditioning coach from Scranton, PA. Here is his LinkedIn profile and also his website if you are interested in more of his work.

Sources & references used in this article:

Weight training economy as a function of intensity of the squat and overhead press exercise. by JS Kalb, GR Hunter – The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical …, 1991 –

Exploring the standing barbell overhead press by J Kroell, J Mike – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2017 –

Stability of resistance training implement alters EMG activity during the overhead press by JR Dicus, ME Holmstrup, KT SHULER… – … journal of exercise …, 2018 –