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What is an overhead press? Advantages of the overhead press

It’s critical to keep the muscles in your upper body in good shape, whether you’re working on a weightlifting programme or simply wish to regain mobility.

What is an overhead press
What is an overhead press

These muscles assist you in performing common chores such as storing dishes high in a cupboard or placing objects on a shelf above your head.

Including the overhead press, also known as a shoulder press, in your total training programme is one approach to maintain your upper body in shape.

During the overhead press, muscles are at work.

During the overhead press, muscles are at work.

Overhead press while standing

You’ll work most of the main muscles in your upper body if you execute the overhead press from a standing position, including:

  • pectoral muscles (chest)
  • deltoid muscles (shoulders)
  • triceps brachii (arms)
  • trapezius is a muscle in the trapezius muscle (upper back)

Because standing upright necessitates balance, your core muscles, such as your abdominals and lower back, are activated. When you push a weighted bar overhead, your lower body assists in addition to the strength from your upper body.

Overhead press while seated

The core activation will disappear if you perform the overhead press in a seated position with your back pressed against the back of a pad, according to strength and mobility coach Matt Pippin, CSCS. All of the work will be done by the shoulders and triceps.

Perfecting the overhead press

Perfecting the overhead press

Take a shoulder-width hold with your hands.

“The broader your hands are on the bar, the weaker you will be and the less weight you can lift.” To keep yourself in the strongest mechanical posture possible for the lift, aim for a grip with hands no wider than shoulder width apart and elbows directly underneath your wrists.”

Wrists that can move are essential.

“You need dynamic wrists so they can extend back towards your body for the strongest press possible,” McKenzie adds. “The better your wrists’ beginning position, the easier it will be to initiate the exercise with a forceful push.” As you thrust forwards, better mobility will allow your elbows to flare out somewhat to the sides.”

Grasp your shoulder blades and squeeze them together.

“At the beginning of each rep, squeeze your shoulder blades together, then use your shoulders to initiate the lift and get the bar moving.” Lower the bar slowly and steadily, keeping your shoulders completely engaged and maintaining proper form.”

Make any necessary adjustments to your head posture.

“To avoid striking your chin and nose, the bar starts across your upper chest below your chin, so lean your head backwards slightly as you push the bar up in the straightest line possible.” Tilt your head backwards as you press the bar up, such that the bar just misses your nose on the way up.”

Maintain a high chest position.

“Keep your chest up during each rep to maintain a strong and stable upper back, which allows for better and smoother movement patterns of all the muscles and joints involved in the lift, particularly the shoulders, which are one of the most often damaged joints in the body.”

Useful weights for the overhead press

Useful weights for the overhead press

It’s time to choose the type of weight or resistance to utilise once you’ve mastered the overhead press with proper form.

“When compared to a standard barbell, free weights like dumbbells allow for multiple angles to be stimulated,” Pippin explains. Also, if you have wrist or shoulder constraints, dumbbells can provide a route of less resistance, allowing you to do the movement more safely, according to Pippins.

Furthermore, Pippin claims that using kettlebells upside down or bottom’s up allows you to train the shoulder in a more stable manner with far less load. “Because the bell will tremble uncontrollably if the bottom is up, it produces a massive stability component.” He continues, “This is a terrific shoulder training tool and a great method to start overhead pressing while working on shoulder mobility.”

Advantages of the overhead press

Advantages of the overhead press

Including the overhead press in your training programme has various advantages. The following are some of the benefits of overhead pressing:

  • The shoulder muscles’ strength and size
  • The triceps muscles’ strength and size
  • The trapezius muscle’s strength and size
  • When executing the exercise while standing, focus on your core muscles, such as your obliques, transverse abdominal muscles, lower back, and spinal stabilisers.
  • Other exercises, such as the bench press, are also performed.

Other Dumbbell Overhead Press Variations

Other Dumbbell Overhead Press Variations

Depending on your fitness level and goals, you can execute this exercise in a variety of ways.

Overhead Dumbbell Press with a Seated Dumbbell

The standing overhead press is a classic exercise, but it can also be done seated. A seated dumbbell overhead press is a better option for people who are just starting out in strength training or who have back problems or injuries. Sitting helps to keep the back in a more stable position.

Sit on a bench and follow the same procedures to perform the overhead press in a seated position. Sitting on a chair, you can also perform a seated overhead press (this option also offers more back support). Sitting on an exercise ball will provide a greater test to the core muscles.

Arms that alternate

Alternating your arms is another option. Instead of training both arms at once, start with one and then the other. This alternative, according to research, is more effective in activating the core muscles, especially when performed in a standing position.

Grip with a Hammer

This dumbbell overhead variation, also known as a hammer shoulder press, includes switching to a hammer grip (palms facing each other) similar to a hammer curl. A neutral grip is sometimes known as a hammer grip. Different muscles in the shoulders are activated as the grip is changed.

Overhead Press with a Barbell

You can use a barbell instead of dumbbells if you have access to one. If you have a limited range of motion in your shoulder, you should lower the bar in front of your head to avoid damage; otherwise, you can lower the bar either in front of or behind your head.

Squat to Overhead Press with Dumbbells

Add a squat to the overhead press to make the exercise more difficult. To do so, descend into a squat stance each time you lower the dumbbells to your shoulders, and then return to a standing position when you raise them back up. The dumbbell shoulder squat engages both the upper and lower body.

Common Errors

Common Errors

Avoid these frequent blunders to get the most out of this activity.

Elbows with a Flare

Your rotator cuff muscles will be strained if you point your elbows straight out from your sides.

Elbows that are locked

When you lock your elbows at the top of the lift, the tension is transferred from your deltoids to your triceps, which aren’t the target muscles.

Shoulders hunched

During the press, keep the shoulder blades down and back for extra stability.

Excessive Pressing

Don’t force yourself to push up; instead, slowly and steadily. During the press, keep the weights under control and don’t let them travel too far front or back. Attempt to keep them in a straight line above your head.

Back with an Arc

When lifting the dumbbells overhead, avoid arching your lower back too much. Excessive arching may indicate that you are carrying too much weight. Switch to a lesser weight to become used to supporting your back in a safe position while you work your way up to the heavier weight.

Dumbbells are being lowered too far.

Lower the dumbbells only to your shoulders during the exercise before pressing them again. You run the danger of straining your shoulders if you drop them farther.

F.A.Q what is an overhead press:

What is overhead press good for?

The shoulder muscles’ strength and size. The triceps muscles’ strength and size. The trapezius muscle’s strength and size. When executing the exercise while standing, focus on your core muscles, such as your obliques, transverse abdominal muscles, lower back, and spinal stabilisers.

Is overhead press the same as shoulder press?

The overhead press is commonly referred to as the shoulder press, but while all three heads of your shoulders are engaged in the lift, they are far from the only ones.

Is the overhead press effective?

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.


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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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