Looking to add some serious shoulder strength to your workout routine? Try the overhead press, also called the overhead shoulder press. For a total upper-body workout, the overhead press engages multiple muscle groups, whether you prefer the standing overhead press exercise or the seated overhead press exercise.
Here, we’ll examine the benefits of the overhead press, proper technique, and tips for getting the most out of this effective exercise.
Overhead shoulder presses: what are they?
Standing or sitting while lifting a weight above your head is the overhead press exercise, also called the overhead shoulder press. The overhead press exercise targets the muscles of the shoulders and upper arms, including the deltoids, triceps, and upper back. Equipment can be used, including dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells.
In the standing overhead press, the weight is lifted from a standing position, whereas in the seated overhead press, the weight is lifted while sitting. Overhead presses are compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups, making them a powerful and effective way to strengthen upper body muscles and improve shoulder mobility.
Overhead press muscles at work
Although the overhead shoulder press is commonly known as an upper body exercise, many people are unaware of the specific muscles that are targeted during this workout. A number of muscles and body parts are worked during the overhead press exercise, depending on the variations you try:
The standing overhead press
Standing overhead presses primarily work the deltoids (specifically, the anterior or front deltoids), the triceps brachii, and the upper trapezius muscles.
Lifting weight overhead is the responsibility of the deltoids.
Elbow extension is assisted by the triceps.
During movement, the upper trapezius muscles stabilize the shoulder blades.
To maintain proper posture and balance, the standing overhead press also engages the core muscles.
The seated overhead press
In the seated overhead press, the same muscle groups are worked, but with a slight different emphasis. As the triceps are required to extend the elbows to lift the weight, they are more involved in lifting the weight in the seated position than in the overhead position. Stability and support are still provided by the upper trapezius muscles and core muscles while performing this exercise.
Standing and seated overhead presses are both effective exercises for building upper body strength and developing strong, stable shoulders.
Exercises for Overhead Shoulder Press
Overhead shoulder press exercises have the following benefits:
Strengthening of the shoulders
The overhead shoulder press targets the deltoids, which are the primary muscles responsible for lifting your arms overhead. By strengthening these muscles consistently, you can lift heavier weights and perform other movements that require shoulder strength.
2. Muscle mass is increased
Increased muscle mass in the shoulders and upper body can improve your overall physique and make daily tasks easier.
Stability of the shoulders has been improved
By engaging the rotator cuff muscles and other stabilising muscles of the shoulder, the overhead shoulder press can improve shoulder stability and reduce injury risk.
4. Maintain a better posture
Maintaining good posture with strong shoulder muscles can help prevent back pain and improve your posture overall.
The ability to perform better in sports
Exercises like these can help improve performance in sports that require upper body strength and stability, such as basketball, volleyball, and swimming.
Bone density is increased
Exercises such as the overhead shoulder press can help increase bone density, which is important for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.
Step-by-Step Overhead Press Exercise
The following is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the standing overhead press with a barbell:
Place your hands on the barbell with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes pointing forward.
Lift the barbell to shoulder level by bending your knees and bringing it to your chest with your palms facing forward and your elbows pointing downward.
During the exercise, take a deep breath and brace your core muscles to help stabilize your body.
During the press, straighten your arms and lift the barbell overhead, keeping your elbows close to your body and your wrists straight. Exhale as you lift the weight.
Inhale as you lower the barbell back down to your shoulders at the top of the lift.
Repeat step 6 as many times as you like.
For the seated overhead press, all steps are the same except you must sit on a bench or chair with your feet flat on the ground and hold the barbell with both hands.
Overhead Press Exercise Variations
You can also try these variations of the overhead press:
Dumbbell Standing Overhead Press
Rather than using a barbell, this variation utilizes dumbbells for the overhead press exercise. It can help improve balance and stability, as well as target different muscles.
This variation can help you lift more weight and improve your power and explosiveness by using a slight leg drive.
Overhead press with a single arm
The overhead press exercise can be performed with one arm at a time to improve balance and stability, as well as target each side of the body independently.
The Behind-the-Neck Press
Performing this variation involves lowering the weight behind the head and neck before pressing it overhead. It can help target different muscles than the traditional overhead press, but should be performed with caution to prevent shoulder injuries.
The Z Press
This variation of the overhead press involves sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. It can improve core stability and balance, as well as target different muscles than a traditional standing or seated overhead press.
Thrusters are a combination of front squats and overhead presses. They involve lifting a barbell or dumbbell from a squat position and pressing them overhead in one fluid motion.
The Military Press
In the military press, the barbell or dumbbells are lifted overhead in a straight line from the shoulders. It targets the shoulders, triceps, and upper chest.
How to Improve Your Overhead Shoulder Press Form
In order to avoid injury and maximize the benefits of overhead shoulder press exercises, it is important to use proper form. Below are some tips for improving your form:
- Set up correctly: Stand shoulder-width apart, grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and position the barbell at the level of your collarbone.
- Breathe in before lifting the weight and exhale as you lift it overhead.
- Prevent injury and prepare your muscles for the workout by warming up before lifting.
- Incorporate exercises that improve shoulder mobility, such as shoulder dislocations, to prevent injury and improve your range of motion.
- To avoid overuse injuries, vary your grip width and hand placement.
- Engage your core muscles to maintain a stable base and avoid arching your lower back.
- Avoid straining your shoulders by keeping your elbows under the bar as you press the bar overhead.
- To prevent joint stress, do not lock out your elbows at the top of the movement.
- Lift the weight slowly and controllably instead of using momentum.
- Before starting the movement, inhale and exhale as you push the weight overhead.
- Try using a neutral grip if you experience shoulder pain or discomfort.
- To avoid injury, lower the weight slowly and under control as you lower it back down.
- During exercise, don’t neglect your lower body: Strengthen your legs and glutes to improve overall stability.
As a result, overhead shoulder presses are effective exercises for strengthening shoulders, increasing muscle mass, improving shoulder stability, enhancing sports performance, and promoting better postures. Besides increasing bone density, it can also reduce injury risk. Including the overhead shoulder press in a strength-training routine can benefit individuals of all fitness levels and ages with proper form and technique.