Just like the deadlift, the barbell overhead press is very simple yet it is often overly complicated during execution. Mistakes on setup and bar path in this foundational and prerequisite movement can lead to faulty mechanics and excessive tissue damage in not only this movement but the many other upper extremity press variants.
THERE ARE 2 THINGS THAT WILL HELP ERADICATE MANY OF THE ERRORS IN THE OHP
- Bottom & Top Position – Okay that’s two in one, but “position” is the important thing. And it is not just getting to these positions but “feeling” them. The bottom position should be loaded with tension throughout the entire lower extremity and core into the upper extremity to create a solid platform on which to press (quads, glutes, gut, shoulders, head). The top position should be fully open and fully stacked. This means a STRAIGHT line could be drawn from the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, to the ankle, as opposed to a staggered line that is often seen. The “feeling” in the bottom should be of massive tension that is ready to recoil the bar upward, while the top position should feel stable enough to hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Bar Path – The bar path should be straight up but appear to move slightly backward. This is true because the bar needs to start over the middle of the foot; however, it is positioned on the front of the chest. Many people will be loose in the bottom position with elbows high in order to make up for this through the shoulder and rotator cuff (recipe for disaster). This position will immediately throw the bar path into an outward arc, creating unnecessary torque on the shoulder rotator cuff. On the contrary, the entire system should be “slightly” in global extension and controlled through the hip and thoracic spine (recipe for stability, success, and progression). This position clears the head from the bar path and allows for a straight upward pattern that reduces unnecessary torque and maximizes tension all the way through the body and into the ground.
Unfortunately many people will resist this position because it is awkward due to chronically forward rolled, “technological” posture. Helping patients and athletes see and feel this new position is critical for their progression in the gym, but also an absolute necessity to fight against the chronic forward pull of life that creates so much premature degeneration and vulnerable tissue.
A great ohp will not only allow you to progress in the gym with longevity, but it will also help you look your age in terms of posture and capabilities in every day life.
Good Luck and Keep Moving.