Articles Beginner Guides General

Wed 16 Mar, 2016

Getting Started with Strength Training: Overhead Press


“Strength” is a familiar term in the world of fitness. Just like cardiovascular exercise, strength exercises are something that most people have tried at the gym, even if it means lifting some small dumbbells. As with any kind of training, strength training has its benefits.

Strength training: Why is it important?

If you missed our last post on strength training then you should know that strength exercises are great for building muscle, enhancing athleticism and even losing weight. They are also particularly good for increasing bone strength, which is crucial for good health in the later years of our lives.

Why overhead press?

The overhead press is an important exercise for building strength and muscle for the upper body and core. Although it uses the main muscles of the shoulders, upper back and triceps, it also works the whole of your core and the lower part of the body as it requires stamina and balance.

How to overhead press:

1. Starting with a barbell held just above your upper chest, your hand grip should be slightly wider than your shoulder width apart.

2. Press the bar up towards the ceiling, extending your elbows and taking the same path back down to the starting position.

3. Keep your back straight as you move the bar upwards, and avoid swaying your body. If you are struggling, and this is your first attempt, then think about bringing the weights down to a more manageable size to avoid unnecessary injury.

4. You can also overhead press whilst being seated on a bench, using dumbbells or kettlebells instead of a barbell (which is also more manageable for beginners).

5. To focus more on one side you can also lift one side of the bar slightly faster than the other to create an asymmetric effect. You can also do this with weights by lifting one dumbbell slightly forward and the other one slightly back.


What to consider when performing the overhead press:

When performing this exercise it’s hugely important to get your alignment right, and keep your body in tight form when lifting. This is so you get the most out of the lift and don’t risk injury.

It’s common for beginners to either lift the bar too far forward at an incline, or too far back, both of which could cause some damage to your muscles or back area, especially if you are lifting too much weight. Keeping your body in a straight line is crucial, so if you need the assistance of a personal trainer, they will be more than happy to help, or use a space by the mirror so you can check yourself.

Make sure you are also starting with a manageable weight. Sometimes it’s easier to start with less weight so that you can perfect your form before moving on to the more challenging weight! If you would rather practise in a seated position with dumbbells or kettlebells, this is just as useful for getting your form right, but it won’t require the same amount of bodily strength needed for the traditional overhead press as your weight is distributed by the bench.