(Writer’s note: This is the third in a series of articles that will cover the bench press, overhead press, squat, and deadlift. To become a beast in the gym, one must perform these movements like a beast)
The overhead press is a beast of a movement; not only will it improve your bench press, and build up your chest and delts, but it also improves shoulder stability, and if there’s enough weight on the bar can make you look like a total badass in the gym.
A select few multi-joint movements like the overhead press, squat, and deadlift seem to get a bad rep for “causing injuries” from a lot of casual gym goers. In reality that could not be further from the truth. In fact, the multi-joint movement of choice for your average Joe – the bench press – is far more likely to result in injury.
To be sure, the overhead press or “military press” as it is oft referred to (it technically becomes a ‘military press’ when performed with heels together and toes angled out) can cause back or shoulder injuries when performed incorrectly, but that’s true for pretty much every exercise (actually it’s true for pretty much anything and everything we do in day-to-day life, if you don’t believe me try crossing a busy street ‘the wrong way’ and see what happens).
The biggest potential injury point for the overhead press comes from excessive arching of the lower back. It’s important to maintain a neutral back while performing the lift as excessive arching can create a great deal of pressure on the spinal discs. Anyone with super internally rotated shoulders should also ensure that their scapula is properly retracted while setting up for this exercise.
For a simple breakdown on how to perform the lift I headed over to StrongLifts.
“Your shoulders and arms press the weight over your head while your legs, lower back and abs balance you.
To avoid shoulder pain, Overhead Press with a narrow grip so you don’t flare your elbows. Then shrug your shoulders at the top.
Press the bar over your head, lock your elbows and shrug your shoulders towards the ceiling. This engages your traps and prevents shoulder impingement”
For visual learning look no further than Mark Rippeto. He did this video for The Art of Manliness (which by the way is a pretty cool website).
The push press is similar to the overhead press, but involves a little bit of leg drive before moving the weight.
And of course the military press.
When possible I like to use the overhead press (or one of the aforementioned variations) as a main movement in my training program.
In other words, I like to make it the first thing that I do after warming up and I like to use heavier weight for lower reps. But training programs change and sometimes we have to prioritize other things. In the event that overhead pressing doesn’t fit into your training program as a main movement I would recommend adding it somewhere right before or after your horizontal pulling (dumbbell, barbell, or cable rows) on an upper body day. If that’s going to be your approach then use it as more of a muscle builder than a strength builder and aim for higher reps with a slightly lighter weight.
For those experience shoulder problems who want to achieve a similar training effect, I have found the landmine press to be a more than adequate substitute.
As always here are some sweet links to help boost your knowledge of this badass movement: