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How to improve overhead press? What Are the Reasons Your Overhead Press Is So Weak?

Many beginners and even expert lifters struggle with moving a load from the shoulders to the overhead, and we’re here to explain why that might be the case, and, if it is, how to fix it so you can create a stronger overhead press.

How to improve overhead press
How to improve overhead press

So, what’s the best way to enhance your overhead press?

What Are the Reasons Your Overhead Press Is So Weak?

What Are the Reasons Your Overhead Press Is So Weak?

The first reason is that the overhead press form is incorrect.

Rather than lowering the load on the chest, the load should begin on the front deltoid.
The shoulder is stressed when the load is started too low on the body, and the lifter will find it difficult to get the burden off the body. Position the load higher up on the front of the shoulders and above the clavicle to correct this.

If the elbows start behind the load in the press or fall behind the weight at any point during the range of motion (from the side view), a forwards force will be created that will not be efficient in moving the load overhead. At all times, try to keep your elbows under the load, or even slightly in front in the start position.

The load should be above the head and slightly back over the traps at the end of the press so that the shoulder blades and upper back muscles can help with stabilisation. Excessive strain on the shoulder joint can occur if you leave the weight in front of you (over the crown of your head or in front of your torso).

Inadequate General Upper Body Pressing Strength It takes longer to build strength than it does to fix form.

Many of you can improve your overhead strength by performing them more frequently (from 1X/week to 2-3X/week), but you can also improve your overall upper body strength and muscle growth by doing other types of pressing (triceps and chest).

Insufficiency in Overhead Mobility

Lack of shoulder mobility, which is commonly caused by tight lats and triceps, inadequate shoulder joint range of motion, and/or poor thoracic mobility are all issues that must be addressed before performing heavy overhead presses.

You won’t be able to lock out your arms overhead without leaning back too much if you have inadequate overhead mobility, and you’ll be compensating the movement with your upper chest rather than your front and side delts. If you don’t have good mobility, your joints and connective tissues will be overworked, which could lead to injury.

Instability of the shoulder joint and connective tissue

Although being stronger often leads to more stability, there are instances when you are mobile but highly unsteady overhead. Because the shoulder joint is unstable and cannot be exercised with appropriate volume and intensity, this often limits your capacity to try to gain strength.

To counteract this, slow down your movements, incorporate shoulder stability workouts, and take a more hybrid approach to improving overhead strength and mobility.

Make Scapular Stabilizers That Are More Powerful

Make Scapular Stabilizers That Are More Powerful

Scapular stabilisers and posterior shoulder muscles work together to keep the shoulders stable (rotator cuff muscles). Many lifters who frequently perform the overhead press would benefit greatly from increasing the strength and stability of their rotator cuff and scapular muscles.

Failure Without sufficient shoulder stability in the upper back and posterior shoulder, the smaller muscles in the shoulder may be subjected to undue tension and strain, resulting in general instability while carrying higher loads overhead (both of which can result in injury)

Crawling, arm bars, Turkish get-ups, and band pull aparts are all wonderful ways to incorporate specific movement patterns to assist stabilise the scapula and shoulder during overhead pressing.

Lats and Triceps stretches

Lats and Triceps stretches

Lifters who are strong in the press but struggle with the overhead press frequently have a lack of shoulder mobility.

The triceps and lats are frequently tight, preventing the lifter from safely placing a load above. Do some simple triceps and lat stretches if you’re having trouble getting the weight up and behind your head (without arching your back too much).

Stretching the lats and triceps allows you to place a load overhead in a stable position, which can increase your ability to press loads overhead without putting too much strain on the anterior shoulder.

Also, keeping the lats and triceps free will allow you to have better shoulder stability overhead and avoid injury, which will be required if you want to train the overhead press, shoulders, and triceps more often.

Develop Your Sticking Point Skills

Develop Your Sticking Point Skills

Sticking spots, like most strength actions, occur where we are most prone to muscle weakness or mobility difficulties that prevent us from expressing enough strength to maintain the weight moving upwards for whatever reason.

Train the bottom end of your range of motion more if it’s weak. If your top end range of motion is weak, focus on the lockout.

Using pauses, partial range of motion repetitions, and overhead press variations such as pin presses to address your sticking point and teach your body how to accelerate through it to become stronger are all ways to address your sticking point and teach your body how to accelerate through it to become stronger.

To increase the resistance as you press the load overhead, you can use resistance bands or chains. This type of training is known as accommodating resistance, and it has been demonstrated to be quite successful in boosting force production and strength.

Triceps Muscle Development

Triceps Muscle Development

The triceps assist in the last phases of the overhead press and can be strengthened by doing additional triceps isolation work afterwards.

The triceps are in charge of elbow extension and, like the bench press, play a big role in the back part of the rep.

Lifters who fail or get stuck halfway through locking anything out overhead are usually sending a sign that their triceps need to be strengthened, which can be addressed with partial presses and additional triceps isolation training.

Straighten Your Back

Straighten Your Back

Poor posture is not only unattractive, but it can also contribute to faulty overhead pressing mechanics and accidents.

You will have difficulty keeping an erect position during the press if your posture is poor, and you will have restricted overhead mobility if your posture is poor (without flaring your ribcage upwards). Two major training modifications that can be made are strengthening the upper back and enhancing schedule mobility.

Keep the Eccentric under control.

Keep the Eccentric under control.

When attempting to establish a stronger lift, begin by learning to regulate the whole range of motion and teaching the muscles to contract and provide force output throughout the range of motion.

Controlling the lowering phase of the overhead press can also aid in increasing duration under stress and training the posterior shoulder and back muscles in the complementary patterning required for a successful and strong overhead press.

Simply decrease the loads carefully, making sure the back muscles and posterior shoulder muscles are engaged and working to eccentrically sustain the load as it is brought back down to the body.

Increase the frequency of overhead presses

Increase the frequency of overhead presses

Overhead pressing is a skill, and in order to enhance it, you must train the movement pattern more frequently in order for your body to fine-tune technique.

When people want to improve their lifts, they often do so by doing them more regularly and putting in more variations such as half reps, bands and chains, tempo, and so on.

When you exercise a movement more regularly, you provide your nervous system and motor units more opportunities to optimise movement, become more efficient with overhead loads, and give your mind more opportunities to fine tune the movements.

F.A.Q how to improve overhead press:

Why is the overhead press so difficult?

However, a few muscles, particularly the upper and lower trapezius, as well as the muscles around your upper ribs, are responsible for your shoulder blades (aka serratus anterior). These muscles will fail to rotate your scapula up if they are weak, making your overhead press difficult.

How much time does it take to get better at overhead press?

The purpose of this four-week programme is to increase your overhead pressing strength. You’ll do two sessions every week, each lasting about 30-45 minutes. Try to keep at least two days between sessions; for example, you may do the programme Monday and Thursday. This application does not use percentages.

What is the best way to make an overhead shoulder press easier?

Look straight ahead while standing with your torso upright and core muscles tensed. Hold the bar with your hands just wider than shoulder width apart on your upper chest. Directly overhead, press the bar. During the exercise, don’t lean forwards with your hips.


So now that we’ve established that the overhead press is a worthwhile exercise and that I’ve had some success with it, here are my top seven ideas for increasing your overhead press.

This is top-secret, black-box information that I’ve kept under my sleeve for years. So don’t make the claim that I never provided you anything.

And this article will help you answer the following questions about how to improve overhead press:

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Field John

If you are an avid believer in health and fitness and want to do something for your team, I can help. As the founder of Field Goals Fitness, I lead a collective of health and fitness professionals dedicated to helping Australians lead a more active and healthier lifestyle. With a warm, friendly, and supportive approach that gets results, I enjoy helping individuals & organisations achieve sustainable success with their health and fitness goals. Certifying as a Personal Trainer in 2009, was a turning point in my life. I had spent 14 years in the corporate world in Business Development roles and decided to take all that I had learnt in sales and marketing and start my own business.

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