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Home » Exercises

Improve Overhead Press Technique

Submitted by on December 4, 2008 – 11:01 pmNo Comment

The overhead press one of the hardest lifts you can do at the gym. It takes a lot of strength to properly press a barbell over your head. There are 4 main points to focus on during the overhead press, your legs, torso, arms, and head. Each aspect transfers to the next to fully extend the weight above your head in one powerful movement.

Leg Positioning for the Overhead Press

  • Feet- Keep your feet a little wider then shoulder width and at a 30-45 degree angle, this will give you a steady base to perform the lift. You should feel stable with your stance.
  • Knees- Your knees shouldn’t bend at all during the lift. The overhead press is performed differently then the push press. In a push press your knees and hips will generate most of your power for the lift but this takes away from the shoulders which is the targeted muscle group. If you find yourself throwing the weight up by generating power in your legs, deload the weight and check your form.
  • Hips- Your hips should be stable throughout the whole lift. Its ok if you use your hips a bit while your bringing the weight over your head. Watch this video to see how to use your hips properly when performing the overhead press.
YouTube Preview Image

Torso Positioning for the Overhead Press

  • Chest- You want to have your chest pushed out, this will allow you push the weight with more force and in a straighter line up. With your chest down you will have to push the bar out and up to avoid hitting you head. This creates more distance for the bar to travel making the lift harder. When your chest is up during the lift you will have an easier time to lock out your elbows and finish the rep nice and high.
  • A great exercise to demonstrate this feeling is to press an empty bar bell up as high as you can, then have someone press the bar up further while pushing in the middle of your shoulder blades. This will cause you to shrug your shoulder up and buff your chest out giving you the feeling that you want at the top of your reps.
  • Back- During the beginning of the lift you want to lean back slightly by bringing your shoulder blades together. From here you will be able to begin the overhead press a little easier. Be sure not to over do it as you can hyper extend you back by leaning to far back, don’t go more then 10 degrees past vertical. When you’ve lifted the bar above your head shift your torso forward under the bar. This allows you to finish the rep high above your head with out moving the bar back, rather you are moving under the bar.
  • Practice this technique with no weight on the bar to get the feeling of moving your body forward instead of the bar back. The feeling is a little weird at first but is the safest and easiest way to perform the lift.

Arm Positioning for the Overhead Press

  • Grip- Gripping the bar properly requires good flexibility in your wrists and elbows. Place the bar in the heel of your hands and wrap your thumbs around the bar. From here you will not be stretching the tendons in your wrists. Grip the bar about an inch outside of your shoulders with your elbows pointing straight out and running parallel with the ground. This may be an uncomfortable position at first but that will change with time and practice.
  • Elbows- At the top of the rep you need to lock out your elbows to finish the rep. to practice this skill press an empty bar bell and lock your elbows, then have someone press up on your elbows to exaggerate the feeling and it will become more natural to you.
  • Shoulder- Your shoulders will be doing mostly all of the work along with a little help from your triceps. Push up with your shoulders to lift the weight, at the top of the lift you will shrug your shoulders to help lock out your elbows. This will create a sturdy safe platform above your head where the weight will rest. Take your breath at this position so you can “bounce” the weight at the bottom and avoid the static friction you get at the bottom each rep.

Head Positioning for the Overhead Press

  • At the start of the rep your head will be leaning back slightly to emphasize pushing your chest out, and bringing your shoulder blades together.
  • During the lift as the weight passes your head you will begin to bring your chin down into your chest. All while looking forward, this will naturally bring your body under the bar as the body always follows the head.
  • Finish the rep with your chin down in your chest but continue to look forward. If your having trouble keeping your chin down try holding a stress ball under your chin and imitate the motion of the lift.

Other then improving these 4 aspects the overhead press technique the only other way to improve is with practice.

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