Improve Your Overhead Press By Fixing These 4 Mistakes
Get stronger without getting injured with these shoulder-building suggestions.
The strict barbell overhead press is the gold standard for pressing. The bench press is excellent and gets a lot of attention, but you are stronger in the horizontal plane and have the bench’s stability helping. With the overhead press, it’s two hands on the barbell and two feet on the ground, and the rest is all you.
Using only your chest, shoulders, and triceps, you press a barbell overhead with little help from your lower body. The overhead press is a terrific exercise for strength and muscle mass and requires lots of core strength and shoulder mobility to make it happen. But this move isn’t as easy as just hoisting overhead—there are plenty of movement mistakes that can lead to injury or just lessen the gains you could be making.
Not everyone can overhead press off the bat due to shoulder mobility, however, if you do have the mobility and strength to go overhead, it’s best to avoid these common mistakes that take away from the safety and effectiveness of this lift.
4 Overhead Press Benefits
Assuming you are good to go overhead, here are a few vital benefits of pressing big weights overhead.
- Rock Solid Core Strength: Part of the overhead is to have a good brace to prevent excessive back arching.
- Bigger Shoulders: Overhead pressing strengthens all three deltoids, which is rare for upper body strength exercises.
- Better Bench Press: Upper back strength plays a vital role in overhead pressing, and strengthening the upper back helps with the overhead press and with the eccentric part of the bench press.
- Improved Lockout Strength: The triceps are the prime mover in the overhead press, and improving the triceps strength and size will have a direct carryover over other lifts that require an overhead position.
What Goes Into a Good Overhead Press
There is always a little wiggle room for good technique because you’re all put together differently, but these following points are overhead press non-negotiables. Hint, it all begins with the correct setup.
- Adequate Shoulder Mobility and Wrist Strength: Not only to press the bar overhead but get the proper grip placement with hands shoulder-width apart and wrists in neutral. Setting the barbell on the heel of your palm is essential because this is where you’ll generate the most force.
- Correct Self Position: elbows and forearms should be vertical, stacked upon each other. If your elbows are pointing out or in, your grip is too narrow or too broad.
- Pressing In A Relatively Straight Line: Self-explanatory because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
- Triceps And Upper Back Strength: The final third of the overhead press is all triceps, and adequate triceps strength is needed to lock it out. Upper back strength is required to ensure a better pressing path and lockout.
- Strong Brace: Getting your ribs down, bracing your anterior core, and squeezing your glutes ensures movement from the right muscles.
4 Common Overhead Press Mistakes
Most lifters worth their salt and pushing the limits have used a fair amount of body English to get the barbell overhead. When close to your 1RM, perfect form becomes nearly impossible to perform. But compromised, nearly impossible. . We are talking about your submaximal work when working with a weight under 85% of your 1RM.
1. Your Grip
Yes, you all have different limb lengths, but where you grip the bar significantly impacts the performance of this lift. If your hands are not shoulder-width apart, elbows and forearms are not vertical, and your wrist is hyperextended, you can kiss good form goodbye.
The Fix: First, grip the barbell with your hands slightly outside shoulder-width because doing so leads to a better pressing path. And doing so will put your wrist and forearms in a better position, But if your elbows are still flaring, get tall in the chest and retract your shoulder blades. If your wrist is hyperextending, the weight might be too heavy, or wrist straps may be the order of the day.
2. Watch Your Head
It sounds obvious, but it bears repeating that you cannot press through your head, and pressing around it disrupts the pressing path. When you don’t tuck your chin while beginning the press or don’t move it forward at lockout, it will mess with your bar path and reduce your range of motion.
The Fix: Starting with your chin tucked, shoulders down, and chest up goes a long way in keeping a straight bar path. Bringing your head forward to finish the lift takes practice, and the best way to do it is to start with a lighter weight and practice till it becomes a habit.
3. Losing Your Brace
Bigger shoulders are the best benefit of the overhead press, but a close second is core strength. When the rib protrudes and the lower back arches excessively, you lose a stable base to press from and set yourself up for issues in your back, hip, or shoulder.
The Fix: You can tighten your abs like you’re about to take a punch, but that is difficult to maintain for an entire set. An easier way is to start with your breath. When setting up, breathe all the air out of your lungs to get your ribs down; breathe in, lift, and breath out, and repeat this sequence before every rep. And always keep your glutes engaged, and if you’re in any doubt, squeeze your glutes some more.
4. Narrow Stance
A narrow stance when pressing overhead may cause the lifter to lose stability and balance, which is terrible when pressing weights overhead. Anyhow, you’ll find out the hard way if it happens, and it seems simple, but it is often overlooked.
The Fix: Experiment with your stance with a lighter weight or the empty barbell to find what stance works for you. Taking the time during your set-up may save you from a major embarrassment.