Overhead Press Basics

Other basics write-ups: Squat | Deadlift | Bench Press | Barbell Row


With the three main power lifts – barbell back squat, barbell deadlift and barbell bench press – covered, I’ll be moving on to covering the basics of other important barbell compound movements. In this article, I’ll cover the Overhead Press, which you may have seen abbreviated as OHP or referred to as the Military Press. It is a movement where you stand up straight and press a barbell over your head without momentum generated by your legs (which is a Push Press). It seems like a straightforward shoulder movement, but it’s actually much more than that when performed correctly.

The OHP is my favorite upper body pressing movement. My current one repetition maximum with the Barbell Overhead Press is 100kg/220lbs at a body weight of 85kg/187lbs (as of 7/9/2013). I prefer the OHP over the bench press because (when performed properly) the overhead press challenges the entire shoulder girdle as a complete unit without limiting movement of the scapula. It also puts a lot of demand on your entire body to stay stable as your press a heavy weight above your head.

I’ll link a few tutorial videos for the Overhead Press first and then go into some details about it. Shoulder health is of extreme importance with the OHP, especially if you’re planning to go heavy. Make sure your shoulders are in good shape, learn proper technique and gradually increase weight over time.


OHP Technique

I’ll start you off with some videos you could call OHP 101. They will teach you the basics of the Overhead Press movement. I know I mention this in just about every article I write about lifts, but for a very good explanation of the OHP, read Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. I’m not saying you have to run the program, but it’s a great book just to learn about the basic barbell lifts.


First off, it’s probably a great idea to watch the Overhead Press YouTube Playlist from Mark Rippetoe.


The following video is a good OHP tutorial:


Here is another good one from Omar Isuf:

Note: The Military Press is actually a very strict version of the Overhead Press without hip drive and with the feet together like you’re standing at attention.


OHP tutorial from Strength Camp eCoach:

Note: The first ever eCoach episode is about the OHP. Pressing weight over your head is that awesome.


Grip Width, Wrist Position and Elbow Position

These three things are often done wrong when overhead pressing. Here is a great video on how to get them right.


Assistance Exercises for the OHP

Some exercises similar to the strict OHP, that you may want to utilize in your training program as well: Barbell Push Press | Klokov Press (Behind the Neck Snatch Grip Barbell Overhead Press) | DB Shoulder Press: Seated or Standing | Arnold Press | Bradford Press | DB Cuban Press | Seated Barbell Overhead Press


That about sums up what you need to know about the Overhead Press. Hope that helps. As always, it’s just my opinion.