Tag Archives: ohp

Omar Isuf Explains How to Overhead Press More Weight

In the video that follows, YouTube fitness expert Omar Isuf explains how to overhead press more weight, and asks the question, “You down with OHP?” The plan he lays out to grow your OHP to a body weight overhead press (and beyond) is actually quite simple. Essentially, he says to overhead press more often and treat the OHP like a main movement to get it to make progress. I 100% agree with this approach, so I wanted to share this valuable video footage with you. If you want a movement to make progress in the gym, when it isn’t, you have to make it a priority.

You can go check out Omar Isuf’s channel on the YouTubes here. The information he provides is generally on point.

Should You Overhead Press?

The overhead press is often praised as the best overall shoulder exercise and also just as often blamed for shoulder injuries – such as impingement, tendinitis or tendinosis of the supraspinatus tendon… or even rotator cuff tears.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a personal trainer. I am a guy who lifts weights regularly and has strict overhead pressed 100kg/220lbs @ 85kg/187lbs. And I’m also working through a mild shoulder injury (tendinosis) right now.

I’m going to outline some opinions from what I believe are reputable sources and allow you to make your own decision about the overhead press based on those. I’m also going to give you my opinion on the matter based on the research I’ve done. I will also share my current training approach to work through my shoulder tendinosis and my plans for the future.


The Case Against the OHP

I’m going to link a very well-written article called ‘The Case Against Overhead Presses‘ posted by bodybuilder (among other things) Doug Brignole. I think his competition history in bodybuilding speaks for itself and he certainly knows how to develop a well-rounded, muscular physique. I doubt anyone is going to argue that.

Because you might not have the time to read the whole article, here are some relatively long cliffs (but shorter than the article to be fair):

– The OHP is not the most efficient way to target the lateral deltoid – or the center section of the shoulder – because this part of your shoulder is responsible for raising the arm to the side… as you would do in a side raise. I’ve included a video below where Doug Brignole discusses how to do a side raise, which he basically crowns the ‘king’ of shoulder exercises in his article. He believes you should do straight arm side raises (in various body positions with dumbbells or cables).

– The overhead press is also not the most efficient way to target the anterior (or front) deltoid either, which brings your arm up in front of you like you would in a front raise.

– The OHP requires ‘excessive external rotation’.

– OHP strains small external rotator cuff muscles (I assume he’s talking about the infraspinatus and teres minor) that should not be utilized to keep a heavy weight from falling foward.

– Raising the humerus (upper arm bone) into an overhead position, which is obviously required to overhead press, pinches the supraspinatus tendon and can cause pain, inflammation, tendinitis and tendinosis. Potentially even tears.

– The muscles are not properly aligned in the OHP to place significant stress on the lateral deltoid. Most of the stress is placed on the anterior deltoid and the rotator cuff muscles (to stabilize the movement) as mentioned.

– The OHP is traditionally (and in Doug’s opinion falsely) seen as a primary shoulder builder. He believes people may build impressive, strong shoulders in spite of using the OHP, rather than because of using the OHP.

– The overhead press is an ego (because you can use more weight) and illusion (because the lateral deltoid isn’t contributing significantly) strength movement for the shoulder.

His conclusion: Do lateral raises instead of OHP for shoulder development.


Get Your Press Up!

Moving on to Mark Rippetoe’s perspective. I assume most of you know him as the author of the popular full body strength program for beginners called Starting Strength. He is an ex-powerlifter and strength coach.

The article he wrote about the importance of the overhead press is called ‘Get Your Press Up‘. My cliffs are below:

– The overhead press should be a staple in any strength program, especially one designed for sports.

– People aren’t strong enough with overhead pressing today, because it isn’t emphasized enough.

– Mark believes the overhead press is superior to the bench press for shoulder health, because it targets the shoulder as a whole unit.

– Overhead pressing works most of your body. The shoulders, traps, triceps and your ‘core’ all get worked by overhead pressing.

On the Safety and Efficacy of Overhead Lifting

This one is also written by Mark Rippetoe  in collaboration with Kelly Starrett (MWOD and Supple Leopard guy) and Lon Kilgore.

Some cliffs are below again:

– The idea that overhead pressing is bad for the shoulders is not based on facts.

– Overhead pressing balances anterior (front) and posterior (back) shoulder muscle involvement. The bench press is anterior-dominant, but the OHP locks the weight out overhead and thus involves the back of the shoulder as well.

– Stabilizing muscles throughout the shoulder girdle are also worked to bring a weight overhead.

– Not preparing for ordinary overhead movement can cause shoulder dysfunction.

– The authors then describe how the overhead press should be performed in a safe manner. I won’t add cliffs for this part, because it’s fairly in depth and you should probably read it entirely.

– Another part of the article describes some things that cause shoulder impingement. The general idea is that it maybe be aggravated by overhead pressing, but this usually results from poor technique, bad posture, previous injuries and/or genetic abnormalities in the shoulder girdle (or elsewhere in the body).

Conclusion: Overhead lifts done with proper technique and healthy shoulders are safe.


More Worthwhile Overhead Press Reading Material

The Truth About Overhead Pressing: While the previous three articles were more theoretical, this one by Tony Gentilcore is more of a way to actively assess your shoulders (to a certain extent) and figure out a way to work around not being able to overhead press, if you can’t pass some of the tests.

Cracking the Rotator Cuff Conundrum by Eric Cressey: A really great article about the rotator cuff, how the individual muscles function and also a nice training program to target them properly. This can make overhead pressing feasible and also safer (and stronger).

Shoulder Shocker by Joe DeFranco: If you’re unable to overhead press safely due to injury or other factors, this quick circuit might be a nice way to hit your shoulders.


My Approach and Opinion

In my humble opinion, I think Doug Brignole went a little far to conclude that overhead pressing is so dangerous and useless that it should be replaced in everyone’s training program with the lateral raise exercise. While some of his concerns are valid, others were shown to be without factual basis when it comes to an overhead press done with proper technique and healthy shoulders (as described in this article).

On another note, not everyone should be overhead pressing (in my opinion). Whether or not it can be done should be decided on an individual basis. You have to assess the current state of your deltoid and rotator cuff muscles, your overall posture, muscular imbalances, etc. and make sure the movement can be performed safely. Barring some severe injuries or genetic predisposition, most people should be able to work towards a situation where they are able to safely overhead press with proper lifting technique.

I’m currently experiencing pain in my shoulder due to postural deficits, muscular imbalances and previous technique errors. I trained for years without good balance in my training program, poor technique in some critical movements and general ignorance about mobility work, corrective stretching and ways to properly assess my posture and muscular balance.

Going forward, my approach is to train around the injury and utilize shoulder movements that I can perform pain free. This means avoiding exercises that aggravate the tendinosis I am experiencing, correcting my posture and muscular imbalances, and gradually working toward getting my body to a state where I am able to safely overhead press again. When I do go back to doing OHP, I will make sure to maintain my good posture and muscular balance with a well thought out assistance routine to my primary lifts. This will include rotator cuff specific exercises, foam rolling with a PVC pipe and self myofascial release with a lacrosse ball, corrective stretching (both dynamic and static), proper warmups, and a balanced workout plan.


I hope this write up helps some of you, who may be experiencing shoulder problems of your own. Or maybe you’ve just wondered about how safe the overhead press really is. I hope this article answered some or all of your questions.

Overhead Press Assistance Work

In this article, I’m going to cover assistance work for the barbell overhead press (often just called OHP). I covered the movement extensively in this article, so this is just going to cover some exercises which can help you build a stronger press (aside from doing other pressing movements). This approach has helped me get my OHP one repetition maximum to 100kg/220lbs at a body weight of 85kg/187lbs.


Vertical Pressing vs Vertical Pulling

Vertical pressing in this case would be the OHP. Take the amount of volume you do for this and multiply it by 2 (or even 3). That’s the amount of volume I recommend you do for your vertical pulling. This helps to improve muscular imbalances and overall posture. It also strengthens a lot of the muscles that stabilize the overhead press movement. A couple options for vertical pulling movements are below. These are just my personal favorites.

Chin Ups and Pull Ups

Any variation is fine. I usually match my pressing volume with chin up and pull up volume. If you can’t do 10 body weight chin ups, use bands to assist the movement as shown in the following video.

The chin up variation shown above by Jordan Syatt uses a neutral (or hammer) grip. This is the easiest variation of chin ups. I would recommend starting with band-assisted neutral grip chin ups, then doing regular neutral grip chin ups, and then doing underhand chin ups as shown below.

Once you’re able to do 10 underhand chin ups, you can move on to pull ups. A regular pull up is done with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you). A pull up tutorial video is below.

Ring pull ups are also fantastic, but you need access to gymnastic rings to do them.

If you can’t do a single chin up, watch this video and this video.

All you need to perform chin ups and/or pull ups is a pull up bar. If your gym doesn’t have one or you work out at home, the cheapest option is a doorway pull up bar. If you have the room and would also like to be able to do dips at home, a pull up and dip station might be for you (but at that point I’d just buy a power rack). Yet another option would be a mounted pull up bar (or one without rings). You can also add weight to pull ups with a weighted vest, chains or a dip belt.

Lat Pulldown

These are generally easier than pull ups and less taxing overall, so I get the rest of my vertical pulling volume from them. If you don’t have access to a lat pulldown station, another option would be to just do more chin ups or pull ups (possibly assisted with a band).


Band Pull Aparts

These are an excellent option to get more pulling volume in as well. They will hit your rear delts and upper back as a whole. Joe DeFranco explains more about this approach in the video below.

You’d need some jumpstretch bands for this movement.



You obviously need strong arms to be able to press heavy weight. The exercises for this are basic.

Dumbbell Curl (Biceps)

Hammer Curl (Biceps and Brachialis)

Dips (Triceps)

Tricep Pressdown (Triceps)

Skull Crusher (Triceps)


Other Things to Consider

Exercises for shoulder health and thoracic mobility will help a lot with your OHP technique and ability to develop strength in that particular movement. You can either do these things after your primary workout or as a separate workout in the context of active recovery. I do a combination of both.


As always, this is just my personal approach. I’m not a doctor or personal trainer, just a guy who lifts.

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.