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Fix Common Overhead Press Mistakes for Maximum Shoulder Growth

Author: Jeremy EthierTime: 2024-01-26 22:25:00

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Overhead Press for Shoulder Development

The overhead press is one of the best exercises for building bigger, stronger shoulders. When performed correctly, it targets all three heads of the deltoids as well as other muscles like the triceps, traps, and upper back. However, poor form during the overhead press can limit your results and increase the risk of injury.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll go over the 5 most common mistakes people make when overhead pressing and provide simple fixes to improve your form right away.

Overview of the Overhead Press

The overhead press (also known as the shoulder press or military press) involves pressing a weight straight overhead until your arms are fully extended. You can perform it either seated or standing with a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or other implements. When done properly, the overhead press enables you to lift heavy loads directly over your head which maximally overloads the shoulders and surrounding muscles.

Benefits for Shoulder Development

Overhead pressing is highly effective for building bigger, stronger deltoids. It directly targets all three deltoid heads:

  • Front delts are activated to lift the weight overhead
  • Lateral delts stabilize the shoulder joint as you press
  • Rear delts contract to keep the shoulder blades retracted

Mistake #1 - Flaring Elbows Outward

Flaring the elbows out to the sides is a common form mistake people make when overhead pressing. This places extra stress on the shoulder joint and reduces pressing strength.

To fix this, grip the bar just outside shoulder-width with thumbs lined up with the edges of your shoulders. Keep elbows tucked in at a 30 degree angle at the start and finish of the press.

Mistake #2 - Curved Bar Path

For maximal strength and shoulder activation, you want the bar to travel in a straight vertical path from start to finish. Avoid arching around your head.

To achieve this, slightly lean back before initiating the press. Also chin tuck as the bar passes your head, then return to neutral at the top.

Mistake #3 - Arching Lower Back

Activate Core Muscles

To maintain a neutral spine, brace your core by contracting your glutes, quads and abs before and during the press. This provides stability through your torso.

Improve Lats and Thoracic Mobility

Lack of lat and upper back mobility encourages arching as compensation. Foam roll lats and extend over a foam roller to improve overhead mobility before pressing.

Mistake #4 - Bending Wrists

Excessive wrist bending places strain on this sensitive joint. Keep wrists neutral by using a 'bulldog grip' with the bar across the base of your palms.

Mistake #5 - Bending Legs to Push More Weight

Lower Weight or Fix Form First

Bending legs to push up more weight or reps turns the exercise into more of a push press variation. Stick to strict form with lighter loads until overhead press form is mastered.

Push Press Uses More Legs, Less Shoulders

The push press is a separate movement involving more legs and less shoulders compared to a strict overhead press. Don't use it as a 'cheat' rep for poor form.

Conclusion and Summary

Performing the overhead press with proper form is crucial for building bigger, stronger shoulders safely and effectively. By avoiding these 5 common mistakes, you can get the most out of this excellent exercise.

Implement these simple form fixes right away to enhance your shoulder training and take your overhead press to the next level!


Q: What is the overhead press?
A: The overhead press is a weightlifting exercise that works multiple muscle groups, especially the shoulders, by pressing a barbell directly overhead.

Q: Why is the overhead press important?
A: The overhead press is important for developing rounded, powerful-looking shoulders and building upper body strength.

Q: What muscles does the overhead press work?
A: The overhead press works the shoulders, triceps, traps, core, and other stabilizer muscles.