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The Standing Overhead Press – The Ultimate Shoulder Exercise

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The standing overhead press is a measure of true upper body strength!

In the old school strength training days, the standing press was known as the king of all exercises.

If someone wanted to know how strong you were, they’d ask you how much you could press overhead. The standing overhead press requires extremely powerful shoulders and triceps and a rock solid core.

Not to mention, your legs have to provide a ton of support and your upper back and traps have to fire hard for proper stabilization.

Furthermore, this movement requires balance and coordination to keep yourself in position and centered while pressing a heavy weight overhead.

If you have any weak points, this exercise will expose them. For all these reasons and more, the standing press is one of the most effective exercises you can do for strength, muscle development and athleticism.

The ultimate goal should be to work up to pressing your bodyweight for 5 reps. When you can accomplish this you will have some serious upperbody muscle and core strength and some suspiciously well developed shoulders.

Bringing the Standing Press back into Style 

Unfortunately, in the modern era of weight lifting and bodybuilding, the standing press has been all but forgotten. We have become obsessed with working our upperbody from convenient and comfy positions.

Instead of doing chin ups we do lat pull downs, instead of heavy barbell curls we do preacher curls and instead of standing presses we perform seated shoulder presses.

The downside of this is that we’re teaching our body to work in isolation. And consequently we never build the total body strength and muscular coordination that only movements like chin ups and standing lifts can provide.

What’s more, with these old school exercises, there is much more muscle fiber recruitment taking place and because of this, there is much greater potential for strength gains.

Therefore people will always get better results doing chin ups, standing presses and standing curls over the seated/machine variants.

Once you get strong and add lots of weight to these lifts, your physique will transform.

(Note: When doing weighted chin-ups, it’s crucial that you use a high-quality weight belt that won’t cause discomfort or distract you from your training)

How to Perform the Standing Overhead Press 

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This movement requires that you lift a barbell overhead with strict form. Ideally you should set the barbell in the rack slightly below shoulder height, this will allow you to easily get into position without having to pick the barbell up from off the ground and clean it to your shoulders.

I like to keep my hands about shoulder width apart or slightly wider. You want to start with the barbell right on the top of your upper chest and from there you want to press the barbell up overhead.

Once it passes your head you should push your head through the bar so that the barbell is directly over your head. During this movement you want to look up instead of directly forward, this tip alone makes a big difference.

As well, I recommend keeping your feet close together with your heals almost touching and feet angled out. This gives you a more stable and rigid core and it ensures you avoid cheating by dipping your legs.

Lastly, you want to focus on squeezing your butt and core as hard as possible. By doing so, you will create a solid base to push off of.

If your glutes and core aren’t contracting hard then a lot of the upwards force your produce will be lost.

Final Comments

Standing overhead press’s are one of the few exercises you should definitely incorporate into your workout routine.

This is a movement that has an incredibly strong carryover and will improve all of your other lifts. Just be getting strong at this exercise, I can seated dumbbell shoulder press 100 lbs for 6 reps and I can do full range handstand push ups with a weighted vest.

With consistent standing pressing my shoulders have become very big and prominent. The shoulders are one of the most important muscle groups that can make or break your physique.

You can have an incredible chest, arms, back, abs and legs… but without full rounded masculine shoulders, your physique will look sloppy.

Greg O'Gallagher

Greg O'Gallagher is the founder of Kinobody, a site dedicated to helping men and women achieve the lean, muscular, and aesthetic "Hollywood" physique. His fitness programs have helped hundreds of thousands of people transform their bodies and change their lives in the process.

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