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Home » Exercises

How To Perform The Overhead Press With Proper Technique

Submitted by on September 24, 2008 – 1:18 pmNo Comment

Performing the Overhead Press / Image credit: Elite Fitness

The overhead press is the most useful upper body workout you can do at the gym.

The overhead press is much more practical for sport training then even the bench press. When an athlete pushes against an opponent, throws an object, swings a club or racquet, or transmits force to an object, that force starts at the ground. Just like in sports, the force used to perform the overhead press starts at the ground and ends at the bar. The overhead press is very effective for training because it uses the same muscles and the same type of neurological activation pattern as most sports.

Performing the overhead press will also limit your chances of shoulder problems due to the focus on not only your anterior shoulder but also the posterior shoulder muscles

If you only bench press, your anterior shoulder muscles are used but not your posterior, which includes your rotator cuff. Your rotator cuffs are used in almost all sports and activities. That is why it is important to incorporate the overhead press into your workout to help correctly balance and strengthen your shoulder muscles.

The Overhead Press Setup:

  1. Start with the bar on a rack, middle of your chest.
  2. Grip the bar with both hands, no further apart then a few inches wider then your shoulders.
  3. Thumbs should be wrapped around the bar.
  4. Bar positioned as close to the heel of the hand as possible.
  5. Feet shoulder width apart or where ever feels comfortable – to far apart feels awkward, to close together is unstable.
  6. Head and eyes should be level, looking straight ahead
  7. Lift up the bar and rest it under your chin, high on your chest, and across both anterior deltoids.
  8. Raise your chest up while pushing your shoulders back (contract your back) – this provides a larger, more stable base for the barbell and makes it easier to push straight upwards when you press.
  9. Position your elbows out in front of the bar. Your triceps should be almost parallel to the ground.

Elbow Position for Performing the Overhead Press > Image credit: Robby

How to Press the Barbell over your head:

  1. Take a deep breath and hold it
  2. Press the bar over your head – It’s ok lean back a bit to avoid the bar as you press. The bar should just graze your face. The bar should follow the straightest line as possible.
  3. When the bar clears your head, shift your torso and head forward and get under the bar. Don’t move the bar back over your head but bring your body under and forward of the bar.
  4. When the bar reaches a position over your ears lock out your elbows

How to lock out properly:

  1. While locking your elbows, shrug your shoulders upwards. These two movements create a very stable position for the weight.
  2. Squeeze your shoulders and back together.
  3. Return the bar to the starting position and repeat.

Common mistakes with the overhead press:

  • Head and Eye Position – Keep your head in the neutral position while your eyes are level and focused on a point on the wall/mirror.
  • Leaning back excessively – Your torso should be slightly behind vertical when you are in your starting position and when pressing the barbell overhead. If you find yourself leaning back to much it’s probably because your elbows are to low and are not in front of the bar.
  • Chest Caving In – Tell yourself during each rep to Get Your Chest Up!
  • Bar to far away from face – Keep your elbows up and aim the bar for your nose.
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