You want a shock? I think the overhead press is the best upper-body exercise. Disregarding the categories of push and pull, the overhead press delivers more for your effort than any other upper-body movement.
It is, however, an intimidating lift. The thought of pressing a loaded barbell over one’s cranium can be nerve wracking. It’s ok if you wanto shy away, just realize that you’ll never be as strong as you could be. Those with extreme shoulder issues and are at risk for issues like impingement are excused. But the rest of us need to be pressing! To press effectively, however, you need supreme confidence in what you are doing. Here are some tips to give you the confidence you need to press without fear.
1) Push Your Head Through: This is the number one thing that people miss when they overhead press. Many a folk just lean back and treat the movement as an incline press. That dog just won’t hunt!
In order to get a full range of motion, protect your shoulders and keep your low-back from screaming uncle you need to push your head through as you lock out your press.
Check the videos below. The first one is a No No, but the second shows the head through finish.
2) Take Care of Your Tissue: I’m not talking Charmin. Pressing beats up our soft-tissue (muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons), as do the repetitive postures we hold throughout our days–making recovery techniques like self-myofascial release necessary. Foam rolling a gross application) isn’t enough.
Keeping your shoulder girdle myofascia (combination of muscle and fascia) healthy requires focused and aggressive attention to key areas and muscles. Included are:
-Traps (upper, middle, lower)
The best tools for improving tissue quality in these areas are a lacrosse ball, a squat rack, a hard floor and your body weight. Get the lacrosse ball centered on these muscles or areas and move around. But be warned, it gets real in a hurry and the pain train might pull into the station.
My favorite resource for learning new soft-tissue techniques is mobilitywod.com. The site is owned and operated by Kelly Starrett. He is the man.
3) Train for Thoracic Mobility: The health of your low-back while pressing is directly dependent on the mobility of your thoracic spine (t-spine). If your T-spine isn’t extending the way it should be then a disproportionate amount of stress will go to your lumbar spine–causing instability during the movement. As a result, your pelvis will rotate anteriorly and you’ll lose glute function. This is the definition of core istability, and it isn’t caused by weak muscles.
Training T-spine mobility encompasses both extension and rotation. The videos below have great examples of how to train for both. Pick an extension exercise and a rotation exercise and do them everyday.
4) Combine Reverse Crunches and Hip Extension Movements: We want stability. Stability equals more strength. Most sets of hips, however, are plagued with instability.
Super-setting reverse crunches with hip extension movements (such as a Romanian deadlifts) builds hip stability. Reverse crunches activate the external obliques and correct anterior pelvic tilt. Hip extension movements activate and strengthen the glutes. Hip, and core, stability is dependent on these muscles firing in good sequence and proportion (hence the super-set). A strong overhead press is dependent on good hip stability because you’ll be able to brace harder.
Did you notice that there was only one performance cue included in our discussion? Sometimes getting the little things right makes the exercise cues easier to follow. Take care of the little things and get to pressing!