One of the Most Effective and Nearly Forgotten Compound Exercise!


how to shoulder press

“How much can you press?”


Did you know at one time people would ask this question rather than the very popular question “how much can you bench?” (I hear that all the time!).


The earlier question ‘how much can you press’, refers to the excellent exercise; the overhead press (O.H.P). The O.H.P used to be a part of the Olympics but unfortunately was dropped in 1972 after much debate. It used to be a mark of strength and power.


The standing overhead press is also known as the military press. The O.H.P builds just about every muscle from the waist upwards, although it primarily focuses on the shoulder muscles.


  • Performing the overhead press in the standing position recruits more muscle groups in order to maintain balance and support the lift.
  • The standing overhead press forces you to use your stabilizer muscles and core which leads to a great strength increase in the core (this important for good striking ability).



So, it is not only beneficial for muscle building but it’s a great exercise to implement for strength in mixed martial arts training.


The O.H.P needs to be done correctly like all other exercises for maximum results. When done correctly you will be able to lift more weight, keep increasing the weight, whilst building muscle and getting stronger. A lot of people avoid it because they have little to no idea of how to maximise its effects and get excellent results from it.


When I first started training, I never really applied this exercise in my routine. Instead, I would do numerous different arm raising exercises for shoulders and sometimes the sitting down version (which doesn’t use as many muscles).


Once I added in the shoulder press I noticed my strength increase and a big difference in size and shape of my shoulder muscles and core strength. As a result, my bench press increased as well as other pushing exercises!


Adding the shoulder press to my routine was probably one of the smartest things I did when it came to training. A lot of the time people avoid this exercise because they have no idea of the proper form.


The standing overhead shoulder press has many great benefits and should not be overlooked. Here are a few;


  • Increased core strength.
  • Increase strength on pushing exercises.
  • Build strength and mass to the upper body.
  • Improve athletic performance.
  • Increases the strength of stabilizer muscles in the back.
  • Works nearly all the muscles in the upper body, resulting in a full upper-body workout.


It would definitely be a wise choice to add the overhead press to your workout.


How to do it properly for best results;


To get the maximum benefit from the exercise keep your knees locked and legs straight. Don’t do the variation where you bend your knees and use them to thrust the weight up. Using the leg muscles takes a lot of work away from the other muscles in the body and is not as effective.


Warm up/Stretches;



It is imperative to warm the body up before attempting shoulder press or any other exercises (as you should know by now if you’ve been following Modest Posts!). This reduces the risk of injuries. Do not skip this step like I used to; I learned the hard way by damaging my hamstring from squatting ‘cold’. I couldn’t train for 6 weeks! It was a bitch, to say the least.



Think of your muscles like elastic bands; when they are new and not used they are susceptible to snapping. Your muscles need to be warmed up (jogging, heavy bag work, jumping rope, whatever you feel like) and stretched lightly first to reduce any chances of tears or strains.


Below I explain a few static and dynamic stretches you can use after the initial warm up. You can read the difference between static and dynamic stretches in the post How to lift more weight- Squats for beginners.


Dynamic stretch;


  • Stand with feet, hip width apart.
  • Take a deep breath and lift your shoulders up and back.
  • Exhale, bring them down.
  • Repeat 4-5 times


Static stretch;


  • Stand upright with the back straight.
  • Clasp your hands behind your back.
  • Slowly lift your hands away from the back and up towards the ceiling.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.


How to do The Standing O.H.P Properly For Maximum Results;


1) Place feet hip-width apart with toes pointing slightly outwards.


2) Grip the bar with a full grip (thumbs locked around the bar). The width of the grip should be just outside shoulder width.


Notes: The bar should be held close to the wrist and resting on the lower end of your palm. This will give you maximum power transfer. It will also enable you to push a heavier weight than holding the bar in the middle of your palms. Squeeze the bar tight. Do not let the wrists bend back too much (this can cause a strain/injury).


3) Keep your knees locked out and legs straight throughout the entire movement (do not bend).


One of the most effective compound movements


4) Forearms should be vertical. In a straight line from the floor to the bar. As shown in the picture above.


5) Keep your lower back neutral; do not over-arch your lower back.


6) Arch your upper back by puffing your chest out.



7) Take a deep breath and hold it. Tense your abs and brace your core, then press the bar in a straight vertical line upwards.


Notes: Move your torso slightly backwards to make way for the bar when it passes your head (you don’t wanna be knocking yourself out by pushing the bar into your head!) Shrug your shoulders as you press the bar upwards.


8) As the bar passes your forehead move your torso forward and lock your elbows out so your arms are straight. Hold your breath.


9) Bring the bar back down to the shoulders and exhale (remember to move your head back as it passes in front of your face!)


10) Set your forearms vertical and puff your chest out again ready for the next rep.


Notes: The bar should be above your shoulders and over the midfoot for balance in the top position.


That is how you perform the standing overhead press properly. Applying the correct form will enable you to lift more weight and keep on increasing the weight.


Be sure to add this into your workout routine if you do not already. It is an excellent exercise. Many of the old school bodybuilders applied it into their routine for a reason; it’s very effective!


Do you use the overhead press in your workout? Do you notice the great strength increases because of it? Drop a comment below and let me know. If you need any further advice you can email me.



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