The Definitive How To Overhead Press Guide

Introduction To The Overhead Press

Overhead press is one of the best compound movements for upper body strength, especially for shoulder and triceps development. Youll learn how to overhead press with correct form.

This exercise is also known as the Military press. It used to be the main indicator to test someone’s strength in the Military.

Nothing beats picking up a bar and lifting it overhead. However you will rarely see people do this exercise in the gym. And most just do seated dumbbell shoulder press.

The standing overhead is superior in many ways, in the past it used to be one of the primary movements in weight lifting competitions. However because some people had more flexibility, they were able to arch their back which allows you to press more. So it was removed from competitions.

However the effectiveness of the exercise has remained and should be an integral part of your strength training routine.

The movement is pretty simple and straight forward, but with wrong technique you won’t be able to improve and advance into heavy weights.

The overhead press engages your entire body. The core, back and legs stabilize your body and prevent you from falling off. While the shoulders and arms press the weight overhead.

The proper form for overhead press

Many times I hear the words ‘seated military press’, however there is no such thing. The word ‘Military’ makes reference to strict feet position – standing at attention.

The proper form to do overhead / Military press:

  • Standing position – when you stand it becomes a compound movement that engages entire body.
  • Drive bar in-front of head – driving bar behind the neck is prone to shoulder injuries.
Behind The Neck Overhead Press Increases Risk of Shoulder Injury Leave It To Professional Olympic Lifters

Muscles Involved In the Overhead Press

Deltoids (shoulders)



Gear and Support Accessories

  • Chalk – use it if your palms get sweaty, this gets you a better feel of the weights. I use liquid chalk in all of my workouts because it always comes in handy on at least one of the exercises. And it lasts throughout the workout.
  • Belt try to avoid it at lower weights and learn proper technique first of driving hips forward, instead of hyper-extending your back. Use the belt on heavy sets, however avoid chronic usage as it will lead to imbalances.
  • Footwear – a flat non squeeshy sole is needed. Something like Chuck Taylor’s Converse (which are also useful on squats and deadlifts). The more squeeshy the sole, the less balance and strength you will have.
Overhead Press Gear Proper Footwear Is Necessary

How to Perform the Overhead Press

#1 – Setup:

  • Unrack the bar on chest – your chest will be used as the platform where you will be lifting the bar from between each rep, to achieve maximal efficiency and range of motion. Therefore you will have to point your chest up.
  • Slightly wider than shoulder width grip – too narrow will reduce your strength leverage. Too wide will put too much unnecessary pressure on shoulders and rotator cuff.
  • Elbows in front of bar – they point to the ground, but when the bar is laying on chest, the elbows should be a further than the bar.
  • Raise your chest – first of all the bar will be resting on your chest, secondly this minimizes the travel distance and allows lifting more weights and lastly it will tighten your upper-body which gives you better strength leverage. (Never press with upper body relaxed)
  • Tighten abs – your core will be working the entire movement as stabilizing force to prevent your back from hyper extending.

#2 – Press

  • Straight hand motion – people try to avoid hitting chin/nose by J-curving the bar from themselves. This results in poor form and strength leverage and will prevent you from advancing to heavier weights. Slightly bend backwards with hips and everything will be fine.
  • Accelerate the bar – lifting fast trains your fast-twitch muscle fibers which have most potential for growth and strength. This is not an isolation exercise where you lift slow and steady, this is more of an explosive move. You will notice this is true especially on heavier weights.
  • Tilt head backwards– to avoid hitting your chin or nose you need to tilt your head back slightly. Don’t look up at ceiling as it can throw you off balance. You tilt your head backwards slightly by moving your hips forward slightly. Never hyperextend back, use your hips. (This is the #1 mistake in overhead press)
  • Keep knees locked – people tend to cheat on reps by bouncing with their knees slightly, especially closer to the end of the rep. This is just poor form and loss of muscle development. If you can’t lift the bar without cheating, then lower the weights.
  • Get under the bar – once you’ve pressed the bar, you should move slightly backwards to be a little behind the ears.
  • Finish rep with shoulders shrugged – Your arms need to be extended as far as they can get, by shrugging your shoulders and lats upwards. This is your final resting position.
Master Your Overhead Press Technique

#3 – Descend & repeat:

  • Steady descend – don’t release tension and drop the weight on your chest
  • Place bar on chest – just as you started from chest, lower your bar down to chest to achieve maximal range of motion and muscle efficiency.
  • Touch ‘n’ go – don’t rest the bar on your chest, touch it and immediately drive the bar back up. Your rest should be done at the press position. This will train your stretch reflex muscles. And you won’t get weak at starting position because you always start your sets from bottom position.
  • Rack – if you finished your set, or failed a rep, put the bar on chest, then walk and place bar in the rack.
Tightening Abs Is Necessary To Maintain Balance

Most Common Overhead Press Mistakes

  • Hyper extending – most common mistake, make sure you bend backwards slightly with hips and not lower back. Also make sure you flex the abs throughout the entire movement, this is very important on heavier weights or you will lose balance.
  • Knee bending/bouncing – many people use knees because it gives a strength boost. Especially at the end of the rep, you add this little knee bounce to finish the rep. However it’s just cheating. A good way to prevent this is is to squeeze your entire body from the ground up, and stay solid strong through the entire movement. If you can’t lift the weight with proper solid form, then lower the weights obviously.
  • Relaxed upper body – this will result in losing lots of strength, by rasining your chest you also tighten your upper back which gives you a solid foundation to lift from.
  • Not tightening abs this is neccessary, especially on heavier weights. You will easily lose balance and hyper-exted your back because you didn’t engage abs. They need to be tight when overhead pressing.
  • Resting bar on chest – between reps, everyone needs a few second rest. The rest should occur when you hold the bar up. Not on your chest. You descend to your chest, touch ‘n’ go back up, rest a few seconds and repeat until finish your set (5 reps max)
  • Bad shoes – squeeshy soles are good for running, not for lifting. It’s like shoulder pressing on a bed, no balance…

Overhead Press Checklist


  • Unrack on chest
  • Slightly wider than shoulder width grip
  • Elbows in front of bar
  • Raise your chest
  • Tighten abs


  • Straight hand motion
  • Accelerate the bar
  • Tilt head backwards
  • Keep knees locked
  • Get under the bar
  • Finish rep with shoulders shrugged

Descend & repeat:

  • Steady descend
  • Place bar on chest
  • Touch ‘n’ go

A Final Note

The journey to achieving a ripped Hollywood body is fairly fun and pretty much straight forward when combining the protocols intermittent fasting and strength training.
I was able to recharge every weekend with my favorite cheat foods, and now after reaching my goal the maintenance is much more simple. You just can’t ignore the benefits of having a lean and ripped physique.Intermittent fasting is a fantastic diet protocol that allows you to enter a prolonged calorie deficit without any hungers, mental challenges or strict rules.

Great energy, feel comfortable in clothes, look great, better skin, more confidence, more sex appeal, more attention, more respect and the list goes on…

This road is worth taking, we only live once after all, do you want to look back and regret for not making the progress? You will not get a feeling of self-accomplishment from being an average couch potato that spends time watching various TV series all day long, believe me, I’ve done that.

I really hope youve got something out of my experience.

Best of luck for getting lean ripped — I really hope it goes without a glitch

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