Why Your Overhead Press Sucks: Common Mistakes And How To Fix Them

The overhead press doesn’t get the attention that the other “Big 3” lifts do (bench, squat, deadlift), yet, it offers just as much potential for building slabs of lean, hard muscle.

One of the reasons that the overhead press is neglected is that many individuals simply don’t know how to perform it properly. This in turn leads to plateaus, frustration, and ultimately ditching the exercise for other shoulder movements, such as the machine overhead press and smith machine press.


Here are some of the most common overhead press mistakes and how to fix them.

#1 Not Bracing Properly

Like the other Big 3 lifts, the overhead press is a total body movement. Sure it emphasizes the deltoids, but everything from your toes to upper back is involved in this movement.


Getting “loose in the cage” (torso) can lead to energy leaks while also increasing your risk of injury.


As such, when pressing overhead, engage your core and “lock your ribs down.” Also, remember to screw your feet into the floor and tighten the muscles in your legs. This creates the rock solid foundation from which to press heavier weights.

#2 Poor Bar Bath

The most efficient way to move the most weight is to press in a straight line. Too many lifters arc the barbell up and around instead of pressing straight up. In addition to reducing how much weight you can lift, you’re also shifting tension onto other muscle groups (i.e. away from the delts).


Practice slow and controlled reps to lock in your form. Record yourself with a camera (like the one on your phone instead of dicking around on social media in between sets) and/or have a trainer watch your exercise form and identify where you are struggling with the lift.

#3 Grip Placement

Grabbing the bar too wide or too narrow limits the amount of force you can transfer and may increase the strain on your joints.


Ideally, you want to grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. This optimizes your pressing pattern while reducing potential stress on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders.


The Overhead Press is an intense compound movement that requires technique, stability and control, but also raw power and explosivity. To best prepare yourself for a heavy overhead press session use a pre workout that will give you the intense energy needed to perform this classic barbell exercise. 


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