The Overhead Press

Dr. Chelsea Schuman, PT | | Category:

This article will help you understand the mechanics behind a barbell overhead press, give you cues to perform the movement correctly, and provide you with a few drills to help prime your body for this moderately advanced movement.

The overhead press is a movement that can be incorporated into many different types of programs, whether you are looking to loose weight, gain muscle mass, or just live an overall healthier lifestyle. This lift works on building the muscles around your shoulders and chest while improving shoulder girdle and core stability.

How perform the overhead press correctly

Top 3 cues:

  • Before even starting the movement pull your shoulder blades down and back and be sure to maintain this position throughout the movement. We will be working on this motion in the drills below
  • Keep your pelvis tucked underneath you and your ribs down, do not let your back over arch backward.
  • Do not let your elbows flare out to the sides. Focus on keeping your elbows under your hands. To do this think about driving your pinkies together.

Listed below are some symptoms you may be experiencing if you are not performing this movement correctly

  • Low back pain
  • Sharp pain at the front of your shoulder
  • Neck pain
  • Elbow pain

To avoid these symptoms try the drills listed below to ensure that your body is ready to perform the overhead press.

It is essential that during this movement the barbell follows the correct path to ensure shoulder safety. For this to be possible one must have proper external rotation at the shoulder and neuromuscular control of the movement. The following drills will help accomplish these goals.

Myofascial release of pectorals

Lat Stretch + Lift

Waiters Carry

After completing the above exercises be sure to perform a few warm up sets of this lift before adding any significant amount of weight to the bar. To gauge these type of warm up sets aim to be between a 9 and 11 on the RPE scale or use about 50-65% of your 1RM if this is known. Aim to complete at least 2-3 warm up sets before getting into the working sets of this lift. This will ensure that your body is properly warmed up and primed to be able to perform this lift correctly.

In summary, the overhead press is beneficial movement for everyone to incorporate into their fitness routine. However we need to be careful not to perform unsafe movement patterns. Try these drills and use the videos to help guide you to help improve your overhead movement patterns. Performing these drills a few times a week should help improve your mechanics and decrease pain.

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