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Overhead Push Press 2023

The Overhead Push Press is a strength and conditioning exercise that combines overhead press and squat elements. 

This compound movement targets several muscle groups:

  • Deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Triceps
  • Lower body muscles
  • Core engagement for stability

The overhead push press should not be confused with the overhead press because we often see people trying to do the overhead press, which starts to morph into the push press.

Some people get a little too heavy and start pushing with their legs and hips.

To give you some backstory, the overhead press involves keeping your legs locked out, maintaining a really rigid upper body and lower body, pushing purely with the shoulders, and then back down to the bottom position.

However, with the push press, you’re actually involving the lower legs. So, if you want some help with a heavier weight, you will be incorporating the push press.

With this exercise, you want to get that stance about hip-width apart, and we will start in the locked-out position with the legs. You’ve got to remember it’s dip, drive, press.

You’re dipping down to begin, then you’ll be driving with the lower body — a little bit with the legs and hips — and driving up.

As you do that, you will press straight up, and then as you bring it down, you can give a little cushion with heavier weights.

Benefits of the Overhead Push Press:

More weight onto the shoulder

  • The overhead push press is a great exercise to force more weight onto the shoulders. 
  • Let’s say you’re just about hitting that 135 in the overhead press, but you’re not quite getting there. 
  • You feel like your form is starting to break down a little; that’s when you start introducing the push press, where you’re actually forcing the shoulders to lift a little bit more than they can.
  • A good tip to remember is once you get in that top position, with the leg locked out, try to focus on the eccentric contraction down and then catch it as your shoulders start to give out. 
  • Focusing on the eccentric contraction is a great tool to have, because that, in the long run, will build a lot of strength. 
  • Then, once you start practicing the overhead push press with heavier weight and the eccentric contraction, you suddenly come back to the overhead press maybe a week or two later, depending on your program, and you’re hitting that overhead press with a strict form with 135.

Increased Power and Strength

  • The overhead push press is an effective exercise for boosting your overall strength by targeting multiple muscle groups. 
  • By utilizing proper form to initiate forceful upward movement with both your lower body and upper body muscles – including your legs, core, shoulders, and triceps – you can increase power output and recruit muscle fibers for optimal gains in physical performance over time.

Enhanced Athletic Performance

  • The overhead push press is an explosive exercise with broad applications in various sports and activities demanding quick and forceful movements. 
  • This exercise enhances the bodily capacity to generate power from the ground up, which supports performances in activities like jumping, throwing, and striking.

Muscle Development 

  • The overhead push press is excellent for getting more gains with fewer exercises.
  •  It is a compound move that hits multiple areas of your body, including the deltoids, triceps, upper back, and core, all within one movement. 
  • This type of workout stimulates greater muscular endurance and well-rounded development across your whole upper body.

Increased Shoulder Stability

  • When performing an overhead push press, it is important to maintain stability and control in the shoulder joint.
  • Consistently practicing this exercise can help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles, which are crucial in reducing the likelihood of shoulder injuries and increasing overall stability in the shoulder region.

How to do the Overhead Push Press Exercise

  1. Start by assuming a position with feet spaced evenly apart. 

  2. Grasp either dumbbells or a barbell, holding them up to your shoulders, ensuring that your palms face you.

  3. Bend slightly at your knees while activating the muscles in your torso and maintaining an upright posture.

  4. Begin the motion by powerfully using both hips and legs to launch upwards explosively. 

  5. Concurrently, press the weight overhead until the full extension of both arms is reached.

  6. Lock out your elbows once the weight has been lifted over the top of each shoulder.

  7. To return to the initial position, bend both ankles and knees while maintaining a measure of control over the momentum as you lower back down.

  8. Continue this process until the required number of repetitions has been accomplished.

Tips for Doing the Overhead Push Press with a Barbell/Dumbbell

I will give you four tips to help you be more efficient with heavy weights overhead push press. 

Be smooth in your dip.

  • The very first thing I do is to be smooth in my dip. That’s tip number one because all too often, we see athletes getting ready to put heavy weight overhead, and their dip is quick, causing the bar to leave their shoulders. 
  • Now the bar is floating off their shoulders, and they go to extend their hips and crash into it, losing some of the energy from their hips. 
  • The smooth dip lets us get every ounce of energy from our hips into our shoulders to press that bar up overhead. So number one: smooth dip.

Push your knees out during dips and drives.

  • Step two: I will push my knees out during the dip and drive. It’s very common for athletes to shoot their knees forward, putting all the emphasis on their quads and nothing on their glutes and hamstrings. 
  • The strongest muscles will be on the back half of our bodies. While doing the overhead push press, we need to push our knees out to get our glutes and hamstrings involved so we can get a violent hip extension. So again, knees out, not knees forward.

Ensure the midline stays tight.

  • Step three is making sure the midline stays tight. If I extend and then arch my back, not only am I in a dangerous position for my back, but I also lose some of the energy from my hips into that overextended rib cage, which makes for a very awkward press. 
  • While doing the overhead push press, I will keep the ribcage down and tight through two reps. 
  • Again, we want to make sure that we can transfer every ounce of energy from our hips into our upper body. The overhead push press should be a lot heavier than our shoulder press, and we’ve got to use our hips.

Don’t hang out on your toes through extension. 

  • The last step to having a better overhead push press is ensuring I don’t hang out on my toes through extension. 
  • We see athletes go up overhead, hang on their toes, and really fight with their balance and fight with a sub-optimal bar position. 
  • It’s okay to see the heel come off the floor through hip extension, but we don’t want it to hang out there. 
  • If I am hanging out on my toes and pressing, I’m not only fighting the weight of the barbell; I’m also fighting balance. 
  • So it’s the extension to finish that press right up onto the heels.
  • If you guys can put those four tips into place, not only are you going to move more weight overhead, but you’re also going to be more efficient doing it. 

Overhead Push Press as part of Army Physical Readiness Exercise

Starting Position: Straddle stance holding the kettlebells at the collar bones using a neutral grip (palms inward).

Cadence: SLOW


  1. From the starting position slightly flex the hips and knees (slight squat) with feet flat on the floor, keeping the upper body and upper arms parallel to the ground. Forcefully extend the hips, knees, and ankles while simultaneously extending the elbows to raise the kettlebells overhead.
  2. Return to the starting position by flexing the elbows, controlling the descent to the collar bones and shoulders while simultaneously flexing the hips and knees to reduce the impact of the kettlebells on the shoulders.
  3. Repeat count 1.
  4. Repeat count 2, returning to the starting position.
Overhead Push Press
Overhead Push Press
Overhead Push Press
Overhead Push Press Side View

Check Points:

  • Hold the head and neck in a neutral position, looking straight ahead or slightly upward.
  • Perform counts 1 and 3 in a fast, continuous motion.
  • Always control the descent of the kettlebells during counts 2 and 4 to avoid injury to the trunk and back.
  • On counts 1 and 3, straighten the elbows but do not lock them.
  • Tighten the abdominal muscles while in the starting position and hold this contraction throughout the exercise to ensure trunk stability.

Precaution: N/A

Movement to Station 9: Verticals. Refer to Chapter 10, Endurance and Mobility Activities, Figure 10-4.

Pros of the Overhead Push Press:

Time efficiency

  • Finding time for fitness can be tough. But the Ovehead push press offers serious benefits that make it worth incorporating into any routine.
  • This exercise activates many muscle groups simultaneously.

Functional Strength

  • The overhead push press builds functional strength by replicating everyday movements like lifting heavy objects or applying force against resistance. These skills will serve you well both in and out of the gym.

Metabolic Conditioning

  • The overhead push-press movements deliver impressive results through metabolic conditioning by challenging big muscles like those in your legs and core while simultaneously elevating your heart rate. 
  • The overhead push press burns fat while building muscular endurance over time.

Cons of the Overhead Push Press

  • While many fitness gurus might swear by overhead push presses as a vital exercise routine component, it is not ideal for people new to weightlifting or experiencing issues with their shoulders. 
  • Repeatedly lifting of heavy weights over your head can put considerable pressure on joints and muscles- including rotator cuffs- leading to strains. 
  • Moreover, executing improper form during an exercise holds risks of causing discomfort or even serious injury, no matter how advanced you consider yourself skilled at it.
George N.