Find out how to Do the Overhead Press: Muscular tissues Labored, Kind, and Alternate options


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The overhead press is the grubby cousin of weightlifting workout routines. 

Most individuals realize it exists, however not often give it consideration or pay it a lot respect. For years, it was thought-about the purest take a look at of upper-body power, very like the bench press is at present, so why has it pale into obscurity? 

A number of causes.

Across the Nineteen Fifties, bodybuilders started to prize chest improvement over shoulder dimension, so many weightlifters deserted the overhead press for its supine counterpart. 

Then, in 1972, the Worldwide Olympic Committee minimize the overhead press from the Olympics, additional lowering its recognition.

Lastly, bench press type is less complicated to study than correct overhead press type and allows you to transfer heavier weights, making it particularly interesting to new lifters.

In case you’re keen to go towards the grain, although, and commit time, power, and a focus to the overhead press, you’ll be richly rewarded in methods the bench press can’t match.

The actual fact is if you wish to construct large, robust, well-rounded shoulders and muscular, outlined arms as shortly and successfully as potential, you need to get robust on the overhead press.

And that’s what you’ll study on this article.

What Is the Overhead Press?

The overhead press (also called the “OHP,” “barbell overhead press,” or just “the press”) is an upper-body train that includes urgent a barbell vertically over your head from a standing place.

Whereas the overhead press isn’t thought-about one of many “Large 3” workout routines in powerlifting, it options closely in different power sports activities corresponding to Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit, and strongman as a result of few workout routines are a greater indicator of upper-body power.

As such, it’s additionally a wonderful train for gaining muscle and power, which is why it’s one of many major workout routines that I advocate in my coaching applications for women and men, Larger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger.

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Army Press vs. Overhead Press: What’s the Distinction?

There’s no official definition of the army or overhead press.

Some specialists (together with power coach and creator of Beginning Energy, Mark Rippetoe) distinguish the 2 primarily based on how a lot your decrease physique strikes in the course of the train. In line with them, in case your hips and again transfer, it’s an overhead press, and in case your physique stays immobile (aside out of your arms transferring overhead), it’s a army press. 

Not everybody agrees, although, which is why most individuals use the phrases interchangeably. For what it’s value, I favor “overhead press” as a result of it’s extra descriptive than “army press,” and I’ll persist with Mark’s definition on this article.

Overhead Press: Advantages

1. It trains a number of main muscle teams.

Most individuals consider the overhead press as a shoulder train.

Whereas it’s true that the overhead press trains the all three heads of the deltoids to a excessive diploma, it additionally successfully trains a number of different main muscle teams throughout your complete physique, together with your higher and decrease again, abs and core, glutes, pecs, and arms.

2. It’s perfect for gaining muscle and power.

If you wish to preserve getting greater, it’s important to preserve getting stronger, and the most effective methods to do that is to prepare with heavy weights.

Whereas you will get a lot robust doing overhead urgent workout routines with dumbbells, the barbell overhead press is healthier suited to serving to you acquire muscle and power as a result of it’s extra balanced, which makes it simpler to deal with heavy weights; it’s simpler to arrange, so that you don’t need to waste power or threat harm getting heavy dumbbells into place; and it means that you can add weight in smaller increments, which is vital for long-term progress.

3. It could enhance athletic efficiency.

A closed-kinetic-chain train is any train the place your palms or ft are mounted to a stationary object. The overhead press is a closed-kinetic-chain train as a result of your ft are planted on the ground.

An open-kinetic-chain train is any train the place your palms or ft are not mounted to one thing stationary. Examples of open-kinetic-chain workout routines embrace the bench press, dumbbell shoulder press, and lat pulldown. In these workout routines, a bench or machine helps your physique, which implies you may (although seemingly wouldn’t) elevate your ft off the ground and nonetheless carry out the train.

Consultants usually agree that closed-kinetic-chain workout routines, together with the overhead press, are higher at boosting sports activities efficiency than open-kinetic-chain workout routines for 3 primary causes:

  1. They allow you to develop better steadiness and stability.
  2. They extra carefully mimic the kind of actions concerned in sports activities. As an example, most sports activities require you to make use of your complete physique to supply pressure whereas your ft are rooted to the bottom and also you’re unsupported by tools corresponding to a bench or machine.
  3. They prepare extra “stabilizer” muscle mass. For instance, the overhead press additionally requires you to contract your glutes, quads, abs, and decrease again, whereas these muscle teams aren’t skilled as a lot by the bench press.

Overhead Press: Muscular tissues Labored

The primary muscle mass labored by the overhead press are the . . .

What’s extra, the stronger you get on the overhead press, the extra you’ll must contain different muscle teams like your lats, rhomboids, serratus anterior, abs, glutes, and legs to stabilize your physique, making it a full-body train when utilizing heavier weights.

Right here’s what the primary muscle mass labored within the overhead press seem like in your physique:

Shoulder Press Muscles

Overhead Press: Kind

One of the best ways to discover ways to do the overhead press is to separate the train into three components: arrange, press, and descend.

Step 1: Set Up

Modify the hooks in an influence rack or squat rack so the bar is across the top of your collarbone like this:

overhead-press-vs-military-press (2)

Face the bar and grip it along with your palms dealing with ahead and thumbs wrapped across the bar, barely wider than shoulder-width. To take a correct overhead press grip, maintain the bar low in your palms, nearer to your wrists than your fingers. Your wrists must be bent simply sufficient to permit the bar to settle into the bottom of your palms, however not folded again at a 90-degree angle.

Right here‘s how your wrists ought to look:


With the bar in your palms, bend your knees barely and lean ahead, positioning the bar on high of your shoulders and higher chest. Arise, lifting the bar off the rack, and take one step again with every foot. Right here’s the way it ought to look:


Step 2: Press

Take a deep breath into your abdomen, arch your higher again sufficient so the bar is instantly over your midfoot and your head is barely behind the bar, squeeze your glutes and the bar as exhausting as you may, and push it straight up. 

As quickly because the bar passes your eyes, push your head and chest ahead and below the bar. Maintain pushing the bar towards the ceiling till your arms are straight.

Right here’s how that sequence ought to look:


Step 3: Descend

Reverse the motion to return the barbell to its beginning place on high of your shoulders and higher chest.

Don’t let the barbell fall again to the beginning place or attempt to decrease it slowly—your entire descent must be managed however take lower than a second.

Right here’s the way it ought to look once you put all of it collectively:

Overhead Press gif

The Finest Overhead Press Exercise

Right here’s an efficient shoulder exercise that prioritizes the overhead press and in addition contains different workout routines that prepare your whole muscle mass:

(And for those who’d like much more particular recommendation about what workout routines to incorporate in your coaching program to succeed in your well being and health targets, take the Legion Energy Coaching Quiz, and in lower than a minute, you’ll know the right power coaching program for you. Click on right here to test it out.)

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The Finest Overhead Press Alternate options

1. Dumbbell Overhead Press

Dumbbell Overhead Press

The dumbbell overhead press (or “DB overhead press”) trains your shoulders, triceps, and higher chest equally to the overhead barbell press. The primary advantages of the dumbbell overhead press are that it’s good for locating and fixing muscle imbalances as a result of either side of your physique should elevate the identical quantity of weight independently, and it prompts the deltoids extra and has an extended vary of movement than the barbell variation.

The downsides are that you simply most likely received’t be capable of elevate as a lot weight on the dumbbell overhead press, limiting the quantity you may overload your muscle mass and certain negating any muscle-building profit you acquire.

2. Seated Overhead Press

Seated Overhead Press

The primary advantage of the seated overhead press over the standing overhead press is performing the train seated lets you press about 10-to-20% extra weight and progress to heavier weights sooner, which is nice for gaining muscle and power.

The draw back is that the seated overhead press is much less demanding on the core, decrease again, and glutes than the standing overhead press since you don’t need to rely as closely on these muscle mass to stabilize your physique and preserve it upright, so it’s much less of a full-body train.

3. Single-Arm Overhead Press

Single-Arm Overhead Press

The single-arm overhead press (also called the “one-arm overhead press”) trains your shoulders the identical manner because the common overhead press. The distinction is that the single-arm overhead press forces your core to work a lot more durable to stabilize your torso, making it a greater ab and core train. 

Utilizing one arm at a time additionally reduces how a lot weight you may press, so the single-arm variation isn’t as efficient at serving to you acquire muscle and power as different overhead press variations.

4. Machine Overhead Press

Machine Overhead Press

Typically talking, machines aren’t as efficient as free weights for gaining muscle and power, however the overhead press machine is a viable possibility for those who’re working round an harm, otherwise you simply need to change up your coaching.

5. Smith Machine Overhead Press

Smith Machine Overhead Press

The Smith machine overhead press is much like the seated overhead press, although it most likely isn’t as efficient at creating your upper-body muscle mass. That stated, it’s a workable overhead press variation for those who don’t have entry to a barbell, for those who’re new to weightlifting, otherwise you merely don’t need to do the barbell model.

FAQ #1: What does the overhead press work?

The overhead press works the . . .

As you get stronger, you’ll contain different muscle teams like your lats, abs, serratus anterior, glutes, and legs to stabilize your physique, too. 

FAQ #2: Are there overhead press requirements to purpose for?

Energy requirements” are goal benchmarks for gauging your progress. 

You could find many various overhead press power requirements on-line, however my two favorites come from esteemed weightlifting coaches Tim Henriques and Mark Rippetoe.

Henrique’s requirements are easy, don’t require any math, and work fairly properly for most individuals.

Listed here are his overhead press requirements for males: 

  • First rate: 105
  • Good: 165
  • Nice: 225

And listed below are his overhead press requirements for girls: 

  • First rate: 45
  • Good: 65
  • Nice: 95

One downside with Henrique’s requirements, although, is that they don’t take note of physique weight. 

That’s why I exploit Henrique’s requirements together with Rippetoe’s yardsticks, which issue within the particular person’s physique weight. Rippetoe’s additionally embrace a number of extra “ranges,” which offer you extra milestones to shoot for as you get stronger.

Listed here are his overhead press requirements for males:

Male-Overhead-Press-Standards (1)

And listed below are his overhead press requirements for girls:

Female-Overhead-Press-Standards (1)

FAQ #3: Does the overhead press work your chest?


The overhead press trains shoulder flexion (transferring your arms out of your sides to above your head by lifting them in an arc in entrance of you), and one of many primary muscle teams accountable for shoulder flexion is the pecs (significantly the sternocostal head of the pecs, or “higher chest”).

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FAQ #4: Is the behind-the-neck overhead press overhead press different?

The behind-the-neck overhead press is much like the overhead press, besides as a substitute of touching the bar to your chest, you decrease it so far as you comfortably can behind your head.

Many individuals say the behind-the-neck press is a harmful train, assured to trigger shoulder harm, however the actuality is much less dramatic. Though these with poor shoulder mobility can irritate their shoulders and neck muscle mass with this train, many can do it with out discomfort. 

That stated, the behind-the-neck press forces you to make use of considerably much less weight and doesn’t provide any benefits over the overhead press, which is why I don’t advocate it.

FAQ #5: Overhead Press vs. Shoulder Press: Which is healthier?

Neither train is healthier or worse than the opposite. 

Though each workout routines really feel fairly completely different, they prepare the identical muscle mass to the same diploma, so you should utilize them interchangeably in your exercises.  

In fact, there’s no purpose to decide on only one. One of the best answer for most individuals is to incorporate each workout routines in your program

A great way to do that is to incorporate the overhead press in your program for 8-to-10 weeks of coaching, take a deload, then substitute the overhead press with the shoulder press for the next 8-to-10 weeks of coaching.

Then, you may both proceed alternating between the workout routines each few months like this or persist with the one you favor.

That is how I personally like to prepare my coaching, and it’s much like the tactic I advocate in my health books for women and men, Larger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger.

FAQ #6: Push Press vs. Overhead Press: Which is healthier?

It relies upon.

The purpose of the push press is to generate simply sufficient momentum to assist get the bar off the shoulders and thru the primary few inches of motion, the place it’s most definitely to get caught. From there, your shoulders and arms do all of the work. 

This lets you use heavier weights than with the standing overhead press with out lowering the vary of movement a lot, which helps you acquire power that you should utilize to enhance your “strict” overhead press numbers.

Thus, the push press isn’t higher or worse than the overhead press, but it surely’s a helpful “accent” train that you should utilize to spice up your overhead press efficiency.

FAQ #7: What’s the overhead press world file?

The barbell overhead press isn’t formally tracked in the identical manner that workout routines just like the squat, deadlift, and bench press are, which implies there isn’t an official overhead press world file.

Cheick “Iron Biby” Sanou set the world file within the log press (the same train to the overhead press that includes lifting a log from the ground, balancing it in your higher chest and shoulders, then urgent it above your head) with a 229-kilo (504.8-pound) log press on the Giants Dwell World Tour Finals on September 18, 2021.

+ Scientific References


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