Tricks of the Trade: The Overhead Press
One of the most incorrectly performed lift is the overhead press. This is a shame because it is one of the classic Big 5 Lifts - Squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press and row. These lift are the benchmarks movements of weightlifting and an essential part of any good programming. Most modern programming tend to divert from training specifically just these lift and focuses more on training six major movement patterns. But either philosophy you choose, you will be performing the overhead press.
This is one of my favorite lifts. It uses far more muscles than just your arms and shoulders. It is also one of my most corrected movements. Most people have been performing the OHP incorrectly, blunting their rage of motion and using only half of the musculature required for pressing some big weight.
Lets go over my most used corrections and cues
Elbows should be in front of the bar as much as possible in the front rack position - Most people perform this lift with their elbow pointing down. This almost doubles the work and movement of your shoulders. Think about the movement of the humerus (upper arm bone): when the elbows are behind the bar, you have to hold the bar up and move the humerus 180 degrees. When the elbows are pointed forward, the bar rests on the shoulders and you move the humerus about 90 degrees. So elbows up!
Root heels into the ground, squeeze butt and pull ribcage down - This is the base of support for the lift. Energy goes up though the heel, along the posterior chain and shoots out upward though the movement of the arms and barbell. Use your WHOLE body to move the weight. You should be a strong and stiff column from the rib cage down.
Bar should be over the crown of your head, bicep touching the ear or just behind it - too many people stop the overhead press when the bar is above their forehead. This keeps the weight in the anterior portion of the body - meaning the only muscles moving the weight is the chest and anterior delts. We want to use our whole rotator cuff to move the weight. The strongest muscles are in the back of the body. Also, or natural our range of motion for overhead shoulder extension goes much farther than your arm in front of your forehead (if it doesn't we have some issues and goals to look at). It is so important that we use our full range of motion so we don't lose it over time. Press the barbell all the way up using the back of your shoulder to assist. The bar should be over the top of the crown of your head at the end of the lift.
Punch through the end of the lift - Always be aggressive with this particular lift. I often say “Don’t yield to the weight!” or “Punch through!” This does two things: fist, it ensure you do not lose velocity toward the end rage of the lift. Second, it ensure you do not have a ‘break’ in your wrist as you hold the weight. You always want o keep your wrist straight as possible when there is weight in it. Allowing your wrist to bend and let the weight just rest is a great way to injure your wrist. Yes, at heavy weights your wrists will bend but you need to be actively fighting it anyway.