In the same vein that the Back Squat has overshadowed the Front Squat, the standing Barbell Overhead Press has long been overshadowed by the Bench Press. The Bench Press has been the gold standard in athletic testing to assess upper body strength. Yet it is generally agreed upon in the strength & conditioning community that the Overhead Press is a far superior exercise. In addition to being a prime display of shoulder mobility and stability, the Overhead Press showcases great midline stability and boasts a far greater strength transfer into other lifts. Perhaps the Overhead Press is under utilized due to the technicality and mobility that it requires. Here are a few tips to help you master this great lift.

THE CHALLENGES. One of the first things I look at before even considering the overhead press for one of my clients, is adequate shoulder mobility and stability. Until you have the mobility to fully extend your arms overhead, adding additional resistance to that movement is a big no no. Furthermore, until you have sufficient recruitment of shoulder and scapular stabilizers, this lift is an injury waiting to happen. Here are a couple of shoulder mobility and stability exercises to help build a better foundation for overhead pressing. In order of appearance 1) Dowel Dislocates 2) Wall Slides 3) Trap-3 Raises  4) Knee-on-elbow External Rotation



The second biggest issue I see with the execution of this lift is a lack of Midline Stability as the client presses the weight overhead. Without properly bracing your trunk by recruiting your glutes and abdominals, the spine will hyperextend as the bar is being pressed overhead. As the weight gets heavier this becomes a very easy way to throw out your back. Here is a great exercise called the Paloff Press that I use to improve Midline Stability:



The third thing I see people struggle with in the OHP is the bar path. When it comes to barbell work, always remember to work around the bar, versus forcing the bar to work around your body. The key to this with the overhead press is to pull your head back as you’re about to start the lift. Press the bar straight up. As the bar crosses the forehead allow the head to come back through. Repeat this in reverse order as the bar comes back down.


MOST IMPORTANT CUES: The key points to remember when performing a standing overhead press are the following: 1) Brace your midline by squeezing your Glutes and Abdominals 2) keep the elbows stacked directly under the wrists at all times 3) Press the bar straight up through full range of motion   4) Get your face out of the way of the bar.


If you are interested in being coached through this lift or would like more guidance on how to improve mobility and stability, feel free to contact one of our Toronto based Personal Trainers: