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How to properly do overhead press? Why is the overhead press so difficult?

Dumbbell overhead presses can be performed while sitting or standing, with dumbbells held horizontally at the shoulders or rotated in a hammer grip.

How to properly do overhead press
How to properly do overhead press

This exercise can be used in any upper-body strength workout.

How do you do an overhead press correctly?

How do you do an overhead press correctly?

If your Power Rack is tall enough, you can do an overhead press inside it. Set the bar in the outside uprights of your Power Rack and unrack it if it’s too low, as mine is.

Pull the bar from the floor on your shoulders if your Power Rack does not have outside uprights or if you do not have a Power Rack (Power Clean it). Follow these five basic steps to Overhead Press with good form once the bar is on your front shoulders:

  1. Setup. Place the bar on your front shoulders and stand. Vertical forearms, narrow grip, straight wrists Knees and hips should be locked.
  2. Raise your sternum. By arching your upper back, raise your chest towards the ceiling. With your upper-chest, try to touch your chin.
  3. Press. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then press the bar in a vertical line. It should not be pressed in front of or behind your head. Place it on top of your head.
  4. Make a move. While pressing the weight up, keep your hands tight to the bar. Once the bar has passed your forehead, shift your torso forwards.
  5. Lockout. For appropriate balance, keep the bar over your shoulders and mid-foot. Your elbows should be locked. Raise your shoulders to the ceiling and shrug.

After each rep, return the bar to your shoulders. Exhale, elevate your chest, and straighten your forearms. Take a deep breath and begin the next rep. Do not stoop or bend your legs. By utilising your stronger leg muscles, you can relieve stress on your shoulder muscles.

Variations in overhead pressure

Variations in overhead pressure

Overhead dumbbell press

You can work each side of your body unilaterally with dumbbells, ensuring that you don’t have any strength imbalances. Even if you’re an expert at the overhead press, you should use dumbbells now and again to ensure that both sides of the body are working equally when lifting the bar, rather than one side doing the majority of the effort.

Because it uses smaller stabilising muscles to control the weight, the dumbbell press is also good for joint health.

Press coverage of the military

The military press varies from the regular overhead press in that you pull your feet close together, as if you were a soldier standing at attention. It’s commonly misunderstood with merely doing an overhead press with precise form.

This means your glutes and core will have to work extra hard during the workout to keep the lift’s sturdy platform. Because you’re losing some lower-body stability with this variation, you should use less weight on the barbell than you would for a traditional overhead press.

Press the button.

The push press allows you to use your lower body to assist you in lifting the weight overhead, making it an excellent option for those who struggle with the complete overhead press. It’s also fine to switch to it midway through a round of overhead presses if you get tired of them. Begin with the bar on your upper chest, then descend into a quarter squat and drive back up, allowing the momentum to assist you in thrusting the bar above your head.


The thruster is similar to a push press, except that you descend into a complete squat before pushing the barbell overhead. It’s a brilliant combination of the front squat and the overhead press, resulting in a workout that works all of your muscles.

Because the thruster engages so many key muscle groups, it also gets your heart racing, making it an excellent addition to an HIIT workout. If you’re doing it as part of a circuit, though, pay attention to your form. It’s pointless to lose shape only to go through the reps faster — you’ll risk injury and limit the move’s advantages.

Pressing with kettlebells

Because the kettlebell lies on the back of your wrists, it pushes you to lift it straight overhead rather than to the side or behind you, putting excessive strain on your shoulders, this variation is a fantastic technique to ensure that your movement patterns are on point when you press.

Hold a kettlebell at shoulder height with your elbow below your hand, then push it straight above while twisting your arm 90 degrees so your palm faces forwards at the peak of the action.

Common Errors

Common Errors

When practising barbell shoulder lifts, keep these typical mistakes in mind. By avoiding them, the movement becomes safer and more effective.

Inadequate Lock-Out

On all overhead exercises, an incomplete lock-out is a common mistake. This means that instead of fully extending your elbows in the overhead position, you return to the starting position before the lift is finished.

You’ll only get the full benefit of barbell shoulder presses if you fully lock out your arms, unless you have an injury that prevents you from doing so.

Core Engagement Is Missing

In the barbell shoulder press, there is a clear lack of core activation. Looking at the lower back is the best method to identify if someone isn’t activating their core. The core isn’t engaged if the lower back is arching excessively during barbell shoulder lifts.

This might result in pain and injury, so make sure your core muscles are tight. Consider forming your entire abdomen into a sturdy, stable cylinder that protects your spine and keeps it from shifting too much in one way.

Extending Yourself

The barbell should go in a straight line overhead. Many people make the error of extending it in front of their body in an arc to the overhead position.

This not only puts your body in an injury-prone position, but it also makes the lift more difficult. When doing barbell shoulder presses, this can affect the amount of weight you can lift.

Instead of strict pressing, use push pressing.

You’re executing a push press instead of a strict press if you’re pushing the barbell up with your legs. Although using your legs can help you press more weight overhead, the rigors, or classic, barbell shoulder press isn’t designed to do so.

Why is the overhead press so difficult?

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.

Should novices engage in overhead press?

Should novices engage in overhead press?

The overhead press is a difficult exercise that should be included in any upper-body workout. Most beginners—and a surprising number of seasoned lifters—don’t know how to properly and successfully approach this multijoint movement.

Precautions and Safety

Precautions and Safety

Warm up thoroughly before beginning any exercise. Warming up increases blood flow to your muscles, lubricates and loosens your joints, raises your core temperature and heart rate, and dilates your blood vessels, all of which serve to prepare your body for exercise. 6

Do some dynamic shoulder stretches and practise pressing with light to moderate weights to warm up your shoulders. Before getting beneath the barbell, practise activating your core in addition to your shoulder warm-up.

Before doing the barbell shoulder press, consult your doctor or physical therapist if you have a shoulder, neck, or back injury. And if you experience any pain while doing this workout, stop immediately. Attempt to complete eight to ten reps of the overhead barbell press. Place the barbell back on the rack and repeat the procedures if you need to make any adjustments to your form.

F.A.Q how to properly do overhead press:

Is the overhead press a good exercise?

In general, the overhead press is one of the best exercises for building overall upper body strength. The overhead press, when compared to other pressing activities, will target the most muscles, resulting in complete body pressing strength.

How often should you do overhead presses each week?

A daily overhead pressing regimen will incorporate technique work on 1-2 days per week. You’ll have more opportunities to polish your technique, allowing you to develop stronger and avoid injuries.

What’s the deal with my OHP being so low?

Your overhead press may be weak because you haven’t trained it as regularly as other exercises, or because your technique and mechanics are inefficient and need to be adjusted. In normal life, pressing and holding a burden above your head is not a typical occurrence.


The overhead press aids in the development of powerful, muscular shoulders and arms.

To perform the exercise properly, start by holding the bar on top of your clavicle and lifting it straight up into the air. You’ll be on your road to bigger muscles in no time if you position your arms, legs, and head correctly.

And this article will help you answer the following questions about how to properly do 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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