Expert Advice: How to Do an Overhead Press and 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Expert Advice: How to Do an Overhead Press and 5 Mistakes to Avoid
Expert Advice: How to Do an Overhead Press and 5 Mistakes to Avoid

In the following video, the BUFF DUDES explain 5 common overhead mistakes to avoid in order to maximize results and minimize injury.

5 Overhead Press Mistakes to Avoid!

Don’t be intimidated by the weight room at the gym. Weightlifting is fun and can be done by adults at any age. Whether you are lifting under 10 pounds or over 100, each lift is a step towards better health.

Today we will discuss how and why to do a very popular lift: the overhead press. The standing overhead press (can be done seated as well) works most of the large muscle groups in your upper body including your pectorals, deltoids, triceps, and trapezius. That’s fancy talk for your chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back.

To get expert opinions, we turned to B.U.F.F. Dudes, Hudson and Brandon White. These two brothers have a YouTube channel and online store where they help people get fit and healthy through exercise and good nutrition. We are also happy to have fitness experts Kathleen Trotter, personal trainer and Pilates specialist, and Igor Klibanov, CEO, Fitness Solutions Plus, give us their best advice.

Here’s what the B.U.F.F. Dudes had to say about Overhead Press Excersises

  1. Not pushing the bar vertically. When you push the bar in front of you or behind you, it destroys your balance and you’re either going to go crashing forwards or fall backwards. This, of course, can cause injury.
  2. Overarching your lower back. For one, this is simply bad form. When you overarch your back, you are working a lot more of the upper chest and not using the shoulders as much as you should be. This also creates a lot of pressure in the lower back, which can lead to injury.
  3. Using your legs. When performing an overhead press, keep your legs straight and your core tight. This will ensure you are focusing on your shoulders (which is what the overhead press is all about) as opposed to your lower body.
  4. Too much weight.If lifting too much weight, you are utilizing other parts of your body, such as your legs, to aid you in getting the weight up. Because of this, you are not getting the full range of motion. In terms of injury, it is pretty straightforward – if you are not strong enough to hold the weight, gravity will act and the weight will come crashing down on you. Ouch!
  5. Not performing the full range of motion. When you don’t perform the full range of motion, you aren’t getting the maximum benefits of the workout and you are not working the shoulders as much as you could be.

Here’s what Igor Klibanov had to say

The overhead press may be good if you’re trying to build and strengthen your shoulders and triceps but may not be the best thing for you if you have high blood pressure or some kind of shoulder injury.
I agree with B.U.F.F’s set of advice and would like to add:

  1. The bar should travel in an arch and end up above the head, so that if you were to draw a line from the bar to the person’s ankles, it would be a straight line.
  2. The right weight depends on the goal. Is someone trying to develop strength? Endurance? Size? Although this advice is generic, it’ll work for the majority of people: if the goal is to develop strength, pick a weight you can do 3-7 reps with. If you can’t do 3, it’s too heavy. If you can do more than about 9, it’s too light. For endurance, the range is over 15. For size, the range is 6-12 (yes, there’s some overlap with strength).

To diversify the overhead press use dumbbells. You can have various different grips, and many more variations than with a barbell. With dumbbells you can do one hand at a time, you can do alternating hands, you can use a neutral grip, etc.
To avoid wrist pain, try different grips and try keeping the wrist in neutral, as opposed to having it go back.

Here’s what the Kathleen Trotter had to say

Trotter is a fitness expert, media personality, personal trainer, writer, life coach, and overall health enthusiast. She is the author of Finding Your Fit. A Compassionate Trainer’s Guide to Making Fitness a Lifelong Habit. She notes:

  1. Keep your core engaged and back neutral as you press the weight overhead. The tendency is to arch the back/swing as you press. Think of it like holding a plank as you press — no arching allowed!
  2. Make sure to balance overhead motions with moves to strengthen your rotator muscles, posterior deltoids, and upper back muscles. For every overhead motion you do aim for at least one upper back exercise, one postural/external rotation motion, and one move for the posterior deltoids. Think bent-over rows, band external rotations, and bent-over reverse flys.

Different variations are appropriate for different situations. A fun way to make overhead motions more interesting is to combine them with a squat or lunge motion. Think squat thrusters or a kettlebell lunge. Try the kettlebell lunge and press with the bell up for extra fun.
Remember to breathe. Holding your breath is never good, but it is especially problematic if you are pressing weights overhead.

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