How To Overhead Press: Variations, benefits & Type

The overhead press is one of the best compound exercises that everyone performs. Whether you’re a powerlifter, weightlifter, cross-fitter or just a fitness enthusiast, the overhead press will help you build strength, power, endurance and muscles all at once. In this article, I’ve shared some important information about the types, variations and benefits of the overhead press.

We’ll also see a complete list of overhead press workout along with how-to instructions.

The overhead press is also called shoulder press and it is basically used to train deltoids. I’ll use both these terms throughout the article.

Doing the overhead press with perfect form and technique produce a greater result and reduce the risk of injuries.

There are multiple ways you can do the overhead press. For example, you can do sitting overhead press on the bench, standing overhead press, front overhead press, behind the head press, barbell, dumbbell and smith machine overhead press etc. The selection of the overhead press workout depends on one’s objective.

We’ll also learn about the overhand and the neutral grip overhead press as well as which variations works on which muscles. So keep reading this because all this information will help you achieve your fitness goal faster and may protect you from injuries caused by poor form and technique.

CONTENT

  • List Of Overhead Press Variations
  • Benefits Of The Overhead Press
  • Types Of Overhead Press: Behind The Head and In-Front Of The Head

How to Perform The Different Overhead Press Variations

Before moving onto the main topic, some important points you need to know before executing the overhead press.

1. Your elbows position

According to an article published on the Healthline website; keeping the elbows just underneath your wrist or slightly inward generate more force and help you press the bar comfortably. If the elbows flare out to sides you may find difficulty while pushing.

So, keep your elbows in throughout the exercise for better range of motion and form.

2. Engage your Core and Glutes

Keeping the core and glutes tight throughout the workout help you push the weight without losing balance and form during the movement.

If you don’t do engage your core and glutes at the time of press, then you lose stability and the chance of getting injured can be high.

3. How Heavy

How heavy should I lift? It’s a saying that the heavy you lift the more you get. And this is true in most cases. But, you should lift as much weight as you can handle with right form without losing balance. Because doing 5 reps with proper form is always better than doing 20 reps with poor form.


Also Read: The Best Shoulder Workout With Dumbbells


Shoulder Press Variation


1. Smith Machine Overhead Press

How to do the Smith Machine Overhead Press

  • Place the bar in the rack at your shoulder height along with the weight plate.
  • Now grab the bar with an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight, chest up and brace your core and glutes muscles.
  • Now press the bar upwards over your head until your arms being fully straight.
  • Hold for about 2 seconds at the top and then slowly lower the bar back to the beginning position. That’s one rep!
  • Complete three to four sets, 10 reps each, with 1 to 2 minutes rest between the sets.

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

How to do the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart with holding one dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip, palms facing upward.
  • Keep your elbows bend at your sides and hold your arms at shoulder height, and make sure the dumbbells are not far from your shoulder.
  • Keep your back straight, chest up and core tight. That’s the starting position.
  • Now, press the dumbbells up towards the ceiling until your arms are straight.
  • Hold for a second and then slowly lower the dumbbells back into the starting position. That’s one rep!
  • Do as many reps as you like, but at least 6 would be good to start. Complete three to four sets with 1 to 2 minutes rest between each.
  • Inhale before pressing the bar and exhale after completing one rep.

3. Barbell Overhead Press

How to do the Barbell Shoulder Press

  • Take out the bar and step back and stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the bar at shoulder height with an overhand grip, palms facing up. Your hands should be at least shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight, chest up and brace your core and glutes. That’s the starting position.
  • Now, press the bar up towards the ceiling until your arms are straight.
  • Hold for a second and then slowly lower the bar back into the starting position. That’s one rep!
  • Complete three to four sets, 10 reps each, with 1 to 2 minutes rest between each set.
  • Inhale before pressing the bar and exhale after completing one rep.

Benefits of the overhead press

There are multiple benefits of the overhead press that no one can deny. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced, the overhead press provides benefits to all.

He we take a look at the some of the undeniable benefits of the Overhead Press.

1. Build Strong Delts

The overhead press is one of the best shoulder workouts that must be included in your overall exercise routine. It works mostly on the front and middle deltoids but to some extent, it also works on the upper traps.

This is great for building bigger and rounded delts. At the time of press up, your deltoids are engaged enough to stimulate muscle growth.

It is true that one exercise isn’t enough to build stronger and broader shoulder but the overhead press is almost 50 per cent of all shoulder workouts. Your shoulder can never be developed without doing the overhead press.

Doesn’t matter how bigger your bicep and tricep are if you have poor delts then your arms will look underdeveloped.

2. Strengthen The Core

In a study, it was revealed that the standing variation of the shoulder press activates core muscles during the movement. Doing the shoulder press with proper form and technique increase core strength and help you build strong upper body structure.

Having a strong core has numerous benefits such as it helps you push, pull and lift heavier weights; increase push-ups and pull-ups, and improve overall performance.

3. Improve Grip Strength

The overhead press also increase the strength of your grip. Having strong grip help you lift heavy weights (such as deadlift) without losing balance.  

4. Promote Muscle Growth

In a finding, it is shown that after the deadlift, the shoulder press is one of the most effective compound workouts which works on several muscles at once. The different variations of the overhead press work on the different muscles like delts, traps, triceps and the core.

If you notice your traps at the time of overhead press, you can feel how your traps activate and expand throughout the workout. Doing shoulder press on a regular basis will surely develop your traps.

The shoulder press may also great for stimulating the triceps muscles. The major tricep muscle engaged during the workout is the long head. But it may require some modification to see the full growth, like overhead extension and pullover.

In some cases it also works on the upper chest but only when you already did some chest workout like bench press or the dumbbell press.

Overall the shoulder press is the must-do exercises for the muscles growth and you must include in your overall workout routine.

5. Other Benefits of the Overhead Press includes:

  • Improve the strength and size of the other muscles like chest, triceps, traps, obliques, transverse abdominal muscles, lower back, erector spine, glutes and thigh.
  • The overhead press may also improve posture.
  • Doing shoulder press on a regular basis may also improve bench press.
  • In some cases, the standing shoulder press may also enhance arms swing power which increases the jumping abilities of a person.

Also read: 7 Bodyweight Exercises For Shoulders


Behind the head vs in-front of the Head Overhead Press

A study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science in 2013, Behind The Head shoulder press put more stress on the Thoracic Spine as compared to the front overhead press.

However, in terms of effectiveness both are good and they increase strength and promote muscle growth. Both variations are also safe for shoulders and spine.

You can include both of the variations in your workout routine or you can do each variation in different time period just to check which one is more effective for your shoulder.


The overhead press or the shoulder press is one of the best workouts for the upper body strength, power and muscle growth. In my opinion, you must include this press workout in your overall exercise routine.

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