5 Overhead Press Variations for Strength and Size
- DAN NORTH
- Muscle Build Strength Training
The overhead press is essential to any strength or hypertrophy program and comes with plenty of variations.
Major muscles used in overhead pressing:
- DELTOIDS (ANTERIOR, MEDIAL, AND POSTERIOR)
- UPPER TRAPS
- PEC MINOR
- CORE/ABDOMINAL WALL
Here are five overhead press variations for STRENGTH and SIZE.
1. SEATED OVERHEAD BARBELL PRESS
The strict overhead press is the foundation of upper body strength. In a seated position, your legs don’t provide as much support, with the primary focus being the shoulders. Push through the floor with your feet for better stability and focus on a straight bar path. If your mobility allows it, go through the full range of motion by locking out the arms and bringing the bar back down to the collar bone.
2. KNEELING OVERHEAD PIN PRESS WITH HANGING KETTLEBELLS
As with chains, adding bands and kettlebells to the barbell increases lockout tension and strengthens the stabilizers. Focus on a straight overhead path with a slow, controlled eccentric return for best results. Starting at a full stop is optimal for strength gains. Go relatively heavy with this exercise for 3-5 sets of 5 reps. Also, be sure to switch the leg you’re kneeling on every other set to avoid imbalances.
3. Z PRESS WITH CHAINS
I personally find the z press to be one of the more difficult overhead variations because of the set up. Sit with your legs spread at about 45 degrees each and push your heel through the floor, maintaining an upright torso. If you have limited shoulder or upper back mobility, you will find this movement challenging (try pressing from a bench until you improve your upper back and shoulder mobility before progressing to this variation). Again, this press is performed from a full stop and is optimal for strength gains. Adding chains increases lockout tension which also gets you stronger, while the tension during the eccentric phase helps with hypertrophy.
4. KNEELING OVERHEAD LANDMINE PRESS
The landmine is one of the most versatile tools you can find in the gym because of the variety it provides to training. The kneeling one arm overhead press challenges your core stabilizers and is an effective exercise for your shoulder health due to the linear bar path and controlled motion. Avoid hyperextending the lower back during the press by pushing the hips back slightly and hinging forward until full extension.
5. BEHIND THE NECK PUSH PRESS
Push presses allow you press more weight than the strict press which is good for a couple of reasons. First, it gives you a better sense of lines and optimal bar path. This translates over extremely well to weightlifting and even powerlifting. Second, it trains your body to handle and stabilize heavier loads overhead. Incorporating push presses from the front or back rack will get you more comfortable with heavier weights so when its time to press from a strict position or bench, you will lockout and stabilize more effectively.