The following tutorial will explain how to overhead press. The overhead press is a lift in which the lifter presses a barbell above their head using their arms and shoulders. It begins with the barbell on the floor, and ends with the barbell above the lifter’s head with arms fully extended. This movement is very beneficial for development of the shoulders, and as it is a compound movement it also incorporates other muscles such as the arms and core.
These instructions are intended for people who are new to weightlifting, or those who have been lifting but not the overhead press. It will begin with some safety tips and a description of what is needed, then go into step by step instructions with the actual lift. Make sure to thoroughly read and understand all of the following instructions before attempting the lift.
Step 1: Be Safe
Before beginning any exercise regime, you should contact your physician to ensure you are healthy and injury free. Now that you are ready to step in the gym, you must consider some safety tips to ensure you remain injury free.
At no point should your back ever be arched forward, even when picking up or setting down the weight. This puts stress on your spine, and may result in injury.
Similarly, refrain from arching your back backward too far when actually pressing the weight. This is particularly evident in step 4 when you will be lifting above your head. Squeezing you glutes together during steps 4 and 5 will help you keep your back straight and take some pressure off your back.
Do not allow your wrists to bend backwards too far when pressing the weight, as this may cause chronic or sharp wrist pain.
Always use clips when adding weight to the barbell to prevent the weights from falling off the barbell.
Step 2: Set Up for the Lift
- Acquire a barbell for now as you will start by lifting just the barbell, then adding weight if desired.
Find a suitable place in the gym to lift. You will need an area roughly 8 feet by 4 feet, and one that has no obstructions above as you will be lifting the weight above your head.
Step 3: Warm Up
- Stretch and warm up your shoulders by first doing arm circles. Do 20 per arm in a backwards motion, then 20 per arm in a forwards motion.
- Mimic the motion of the lift by pushing your arms up and above your head, as if lifting up the barbell, 15 times.
- Check for any pain or stiffness in your shoulders when doing this, and stretch more or consult a doctor if the pain persists.
Step 4: Lift the Barbell Into Position
- Start by placing the barbell one foot in front of you on the floor.
- Squat down to be able to reach the barbell, while avoiding arching your back forwards as much as possible. Bend at the knees and hips. Reach down and grip the barbell in an overhand fashion, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Stand up while still griping the barbell, almost as if deadlifting, again making sure to avoid arching the back forwards.
- Once standing straight up, the barbell should be resting against your thighs. Now you need to get the barbell up against your chest so you can press it over your head. Shrug your shoulders back and tense your back.
- Lift the barbell off your thigh by using your shoulders to raise it upwards. Again do not arch your back forwards at all.
- Raise the bar until it is at the same height as your chest.
- Push your elbows forward so they are in front of your body while rotating your wrists slightly backwards. Slowly lower the barbell until it is resting on your chest. This is the starting point of the lift.
- Ensure that your feet are slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with toes pointing slightly outwards.
Step 5: Press the Barbell Above Your Head
- Now that the barbell is resting on your chest, you will be able to press it above your head.
- Start by ensuring your back is straight and not arched forwards or backwards. Squeezing your glutes together at this point will help keep your back straight while lifting.
- Push upwards slowly, while maintaining a straight back.
- Keep the barbell as close to your body as possible, not out in front of you. Once you have reached your chin, tilt your head upwards to avoid hitting your face.
- Continue pressing upwards and slightly backwards to ensure the weight remains in line with your body. Once you have lifted it over your head, continue pressing higher while now backwards with more force to again keep the weight over your body.
- Continue pressing until your arms are fully extended. The barbell should be directly above your head.
Step 6: Lower the Barbell Back to the Starting Position
- Now you will lower the barbell back to your chest.
- Slowly and controllably lower the barbell down until you reach your head.
- Tilt your head back to avoid hitting it, then continue to lower it until it reaches your chest.
Step 7: Perform More Repetitions
In order to receive the most benefits from this excise, you will need to perform multiple repetitions of steps four and five, preferably 8 to 12 repetitions. One process of lifting up and then lowering the barbell is referred to as a rep, and a series of reps then a rest period is referred to as a set.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 8 to 12 times.
- Take a rest for no more than two minutes, drink some water during this time.
- At this point you will have completed one set, complete two or three more.
Step 8: Add Weight to the Barbell If Necessary
If you are able to complete 3 sets of 10 reps easily, you should consider adding more weight to the bar to promote more strength and size gains. Clip in the weight to ensure it does not fall off while lifting. Make sure to not add so much weight that your form is compromised, or you are bending you back. If you cannot perform more than 5 reps with a certain weight, it is too heavy and you need to use a lighter weight.