The Overhead Press, also called the shoulder press, has been a go to exercise for building upper body strength. Although the lift has fallen out of favor in some fitness circles, it is still worth adding to your repertoire with strict attention to form. As with all weight training it is important to monitor form for best results and less likelihood of injury. Form can deteriorate as reps pile up and muscles become tired. Use a friend or a mirror to monitor the quality of your overhead press and build the bulk or muscle tone you want without getting sidelined by shoulder or back trouble. Here are some other things you need to know about the overhead press.
Benefits of the Overhead Press
The overhead press provides a valuable workout for the front, middle and back of your shoulders, your upper chest and arms. This lift is also good for developing the trapezius muscle, which runs between your neck and the middle of your back. Whether you are trying to get buff or look great in a tank top the overhead press is the move for you.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
One of the best ways to do an overhead press well is to check your form with each lift. Start with lighter weights until you are confident that you can lift more while maintaining correct form. It is better to go for more reps in good form than fewer reps with more weight and poor form. Remember you can’t fast forward to fitness. You have to allow the body to build muscle and endurance over time. For beginners to the overhead press it is true that less (weight) is actually more (benefit). Be patient or be injured.
Form Boosts Fitness
Remember, precision is the most important part of the overhead press. You can improve precision by strengthening your core. A stronger core will help you avoid tilting your pelvis as you lift. If the pelvis tilts in compensation for a weaker core you risk injury to the hips and back. Planks are good for strengthening the core.
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold the bar on the heel of your palms with palms facing forward. Avoid arching your back. Instead, tilt back from your hips as you move the bar past your chin. This will protect your lower back and help the bar clear your head with incident. Your form should permit the bar to move in a straight line. Monitor your breath so that you are inhaling as you lift. Lock your knees and avoid using your legs with this lift. Your forearms should be vertical, again check with the mirror or a friend. Contract glutes and abs as you lift. Maintain a straight spine at the top and bottom of the lift and as you extend your arms above your head lock out your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades as you complete the motion. That is a lot to remember so give yourself time to get the mechanics right before you add a lot of weight.
Pay attention to where the press feels most challenging. If the lift feels especially difficult at the top you may need to work on strengthening your triceps. Exercises like tricep extensions can help with this. If the bottom is where you feel more challenged, try strengthening your lats (latissimus dorsi – the muscles in your middle back). Swimming provides a good cardio workout and as a bonus, it builds your lats too.
The overhead press provides a good upper body workout. Why not give it a try? Weight training is as important for women as it is for men, especially to stave off the decline of bone density that comes with aging. Reap the most benefits by approaching the lift with care. A final tip – Don’t forget to build recovery time in your training.