January 4

8 Overhead Press Variations for Stronger Shoulders

By fitness

January 4, 2023

Everyone talks about “International bench day,” however there’s nothing fairly like urgent one thing heavy overhead. It’s just about essentially the most innate show of energy. When little children need to impress their mother and father with how robust they’re getting, they carry one thing overhead.  

Most lifters ought to be capable to press one thing comparatively heavy overhead. If you'll be able to’t, it usually means you’re lacking the complete use of your shoulders. Maybe you'll be able to’t transfer your shoulder by its full vary of movement or possibly the stabilizing muscle tissues of your shoulder blades and trunk can’t create stability to securely produce drive.

Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

The strict standing barbell press entails the shoulders, higher again, triceps, and even higher chest. It trains the complete physique to create a steady base to push from, however it may be tough to steadily enhance and progress tends to stall a lot sooner relative to different barbell lifts. That’s why it’s essential to know and use many alternative variations to assist proceed constructing muscle and energy. Here are eight overhead variations that may aid you impress mother, once more.

Best Overhead Press Variations

Landmine Press 

Sometimes, pushing weight immediately overhead could cause extra hurt than good. It could also be due to an harm or only a lack of flexibility within the shoulder, triceps, lats, or wrists. The landmine press is exclusive as a result of the sample of motion is between a straight vertical and horizontal path.

This hybrid sort of movement provides lots of the advantages of direct overhead urgent whereas lowering the joint angle that could be placing a harmful demand in your shoulder.  

When to Use It

The landmine press is nice to make use of when recovering from harm and constructing again energy and performance from day off coaching. It means that you can nonetheless develop energy and muscle whilst you work to revive full operate of the shoulders to press immediately overhead. 

It’s additionally a superb variation to make use of when doing an intense part of bench press coaching, because it received’t fatigue your shoulders excessively or have an effect on restoration fairly like straight overhead barbell urgent. 

How to Do it 

If you don’t have a landmine holder, you'll be able to wedge an everyday barbell in any nook the place it received’t trigger injury. Load the bar and choose it up by the pinnacle (the tip of the sleeve the place you load the plates).

The landmine press will be carried out with only one arm or each collectively. If you’re utilizing two arms, cup the tip of the barbell sleeve with each of your arms. Place the pinnacle of the bar close to your sternum together with your torso leaning barely ahead. Set your ft between hip and shoulder-width aside. Keep your elbows shut and pulled in as you press. As your elbows lock with the bar nearly on the crown of your head, shrug your shoulders up earlier than returning the bar again to the beginning place. 

If you’re utilizing the one-arm variation, seize the tip of the sleeve with one hand and place the bar on the entrance of your shoulder. Stand and press the identical means, driving the bar ahead and as much as lockout, adopted by a shoulder shrug. Make positive you retain your elbow in, so the bar stays consistent with your shoulder all through the complete motion. Flaring your elbow will alter the urgent angle, scale back energy, and shift stress to the joint.

Landmine Push Press 

The push press is a good way to extend overhead stability with weights you couldn’t in any other case strict press. You use your legs to assist to drive the load up in a push press, permitting you to make use of heavier weights. 

But an ordinary barbell push press will be tough to be taught and to do effectively. The landmine push press is simpler for folks to understand due to each the trail you drive the bar and the place of your shoulders relative to the bar.  

When to Use It

The landmine push press is a superb train so as to add at any time when your urgent progress slows or hits a plateau. The train will be included on both bench or overhead press days as a approach to overload the urgent muscle tissues with extra quantity whereas nonetheless shifting comparatively massive weights. 

How to Do it 

Just just like the landmine strict press, for those who don’t have a holder you'll be able to wedge the bar in a nook and cargo it the identical means. Because utilizing heavier weights is a selected good thing about the landmine push press, it’s greatest carried out with each arms on the bar. Cup your arms and place  the pinnacle of the bar nearly immediately in your sternum. Set your ft between hip and shoulder-width aside and flare your toes out very barely. 

Brace your core and dip your knees as for those who have been making ready to leap as excessive as potential. Drive your ft into the bottom and explosively prolong your knees and hips as for those who have been making an attempt to leap. Your heels will carry from the ground from this aggressive ankle extension, however maintain the balls of your ft involved with the bottom — don’t truly bounce into the air.

As your ankles prolong, shrug your shoulders towards the bar. Try to make the bar fly off your chest out of your leg drive and shoulder shrug. Then, push together with your arms to increase your elbows. Let your heels contact again to the ground proper as your elbows prolong with the bar over the crown of your head. Control the bar as you bend your arms and take up the momentum together with your legs and trunk as you decrease it.

Bottoms-Up Press

This is likely one of the greatest, however most difficult, urgent workouts for shoulder and scapular operate and stability. It’s usually used as a rehab or “prehab” drill as a result of it engages a lot of the postural muscle tissues like these of the rotator cuff that stabilize and transfer the shoulder blade. 

Balancing the bell the wrong way up trains you to search out essentially the most steady path of movement and forces you to regulate the motion. Sometimes, the dominant muscle tissues accountable for urgent overhead are restricted by how nicely your shoulders are stabilized. Improve these muscle tissues and you'll enhance how a lot drive you'll be able to create.  

When to Use It

These are nice to do on deload weeks or on the very starting of a brand new part of coaching. You can consider them as a developmental train to arrange the shoulders for heavier, extra intense coaching forward. 

How to Do it

The bottoms-up press will be finished standing or sitting, however a half-kneeling place truly places you in an amazing mechanical place to do the train. Kneel down with the kettlebell in a single hand and that facet leg kneeling on the bottom, with the other leg ahead. Squeeze the deal with and switch the load the wrong way up so the underside of the bell is going through the ceiling. Crush your grip to keep up the load on this vertical place.

Move your elbow towards your middle so your thumb is in entrance of your face and your elbow is at a proper angle with the ground. Slowly prolong your elbow as much as the ceiling and transfer your higher arm barely again to place it in line (or protecting) your ear as you lock out overhead. Stabilize the load overhead briefly earlier than slowly returning again right down to your face. 

Kettlebell Z Press 

The Z press is a superb alternative for growing the stress and demand in your shoulders and higher again with out essentially growing the load used. Often you’ll see a lifter arch their backbone or lean again throughout a standing overhead press as a result of they lack the postural management and trunk or higher again energy wanted to maintain their backbone impartial whereas urgent.

Sitting upright on the ground with no potential leg drive or again assist helps you're feeling any change in your spinal place, so you'll be able to give attention to stopping the issue. Pressing from the ground with the offset weight of kettlebells challenges your trunk and shoulder stabilizers in a means different workouts can’t.

When to Use It

Use the kettlebell Z press initially of a exercise to heat up your total shoulder advanced. One or two units with mild to reasonable weight is sufficient to get your shoulders shifting freely with out inflicting fatigue that would have an effect on your fundamental coaching. 

Adding it to the tip of a tough urgent exercise can be a good way so as to add extra quantity, since you don’t want to make use of a lot weight or too many reps for the motion to be efficient.  

How to Do it 

Sit on the ground together with your legs straight whereas conserving an upright torso. Hold a pair of kettlebells together with your palms going through one another at shoulder-level. Exhale onerous by your mouth making an attempt to drive the air out of your torso to make it as slender as potential. You ought to really feel your ribcage drop down and the muscle tissues within the entrance and sides of your torso, round your core, contracting.

Keep these muscle tissues engaged to stop your again from arching or your ribs flaring up as you press overhead. Keep your higher arms consistent with your ears and rotate your arms palms-forward as you lock your elbows. Shrug your shoulders as your elbows lock earlier than returning to the beginning place. 

Earthquake Bar Overhead Press 

The earthquake bar is a bridge between coaching stability and growing urgent energy. The bar is designed to shake and swing, which engages the deepest and smallest shoulder stabilizers. Because it’s one straight bar, you should use comparatively heavier weights than you would with dumbbells or kettlebells.

If you don’t have entry to an earthquake bar, hanging resistance bands from the ends of each sleeves of an ordinary barbell and attaching weight plates is an efficient various.

When to Use It

You can consider this like a secondary carry which will be finished proper after a heavy overhead barbell press or bench press. Though you'll use a lot much less weight, you should use the same weekly development of set and reps that you simply’d use in your fundamental urgent carry. The instability would be the key difficult aspect to this train.

How to Do it

Set the bar on a rack simply as you’d do for a standing overhead press. Start with comparatively mild weight and regularly slowly add extra as you're feeling snug and be taught to regulate the motion. Grab the bar together with your thumbs simply outdoors your shoulders. Angle your elbows simply barely in entrance of the bar. Shrug your shoulders ahead and as much as create a assist for the bar, whether or not you've gotten the mobility to relaxation the bar on prime of your shoulders or not. 

Step again from the rack and set your ft hip-width aside together with your knees simply barely unlocked. Wait till the preliminary swinging stops and pull your chin again (consider giving your self a “double-chin”). Press the load up slowly, conserving the bar as near your face as potential. 

Once the bar passes the crown of your head, very barely push your head and sternum ahead so your elbows lock overhead because the bar is immediately over the bottom of your neck. Shrug your shoulders upward and stabilize the bar on the prime. Lower the load by pulling your chin again and returning the bar to the beginning place.  

Snatch-Grip Behind-the-Neck Press 

Usually you’d solely see Olympic weightlifters use this as an adjunct train, however it may be very useful to anybody trying to enhance overhead energy or construct their higher again and traps. 

The ultra-wide grip challenges your rear delts and higher again in a really distinctive means. If you begin with comparatively mild weight and progress slowly, the snatch-grip behind-the-neck press can truly enhance your shoulders’ working vary of movement and strengthen the muscle tissues and connective tissue that assist good shoulder operate.

When to Use It 

These will be fairly tough, so as a substitute of including them as an adjunct train after heavy commonplace overhead urgent, take just a few weeks to prioritize the train by progressively working heavier as a substitute of performing the usual barbell overhead press. Do them as the primary fundamental carry on a urgent or upper-body targeted day. 

How to Do it 

Place a bar on a rack at your again squat-height (roughly upper-chest stage). Walk underneath the bar and place it in your again as for those who would for a excessive bar squat. Unrack the load and step again. Slide each arms out till your index fingers are typically outdoors of the knurl marks on the barbell (clean rings).

Angle your elbows immediately underneath the bar, maintain your neck straight, and brace your trunk whereas conserving your ribs from flaring up. Press the bar whereas conserving it consistent with the bottom of your neck till your elbows lockout overhead. Don’t let the bar sway ahead or behind your neckline. Shrug your shoulders on the prime earlier than returning the bar all the way in which again to the highest of your traps.

Swiss Bar Overhead Press 

The Swiss bar is likely one of the greatest instruments to make use of for those who’ve had any shoulder or elbow ache, or pre-existing accidents. Its key profit is a number of handles that allow you to place your arms shut or huge whereas conserving a neutral-grip (palms going through one another) place.

This impartial place provides even these rotator cuff dysfunction a approach to press with out inflicting extra pressure in problematic areas within the shoulder or higher again.

When to Use It

The Swiss bar press is nice to do when your shoulders, elbows, or wrists get cranky from different kinds of urgent. You can use the train rather than different overhead urgent choices till you totally rehab an harm or get well from no matter nagging ache is inflicting points.

How to Do it

Decide which grip-width feels most snug use and set the bar on a rack, the identical you'll for any overhead barbell press. Grab the handles and rotate the bar so your thumbs face towards your head. Unrack the load and step again to your commonplace press foot place, roughly hip-width aside. Start with the bar about chin top.

Pull your neck in, as for those who have been giving your self a double-chin, and maintain the bar near your face as you press overhead. Push your head barely ahead as you lock your elbows overhead. Shrug on the prime as your elbows lock earlier than reducing to the beginning place. 

Overhead Pin Press

Part of the rationale overhead urgent will be so onerous to enhance is since you push from a static place, significantly on the primary rep. In many different lifts, just like the bench press, you've gotten the eccentric (reducing portion) of the carry which helps retailer drive that you simply use to press the load again up.

Because you don’t decrease the bar first in an overhead press, you've gotten to have the ability to muster a considerable amount of drive immediately with out momentum. This known as “starting strength” and a pin press is likely one of the best methods to particularly practice this high quality.

When to Use It

If you'll be able to’t create a stiff and steady base of pressure, you'll be able to’t immediately create this drive. And for those who’re shifting your torso backwards and forwards as you press, you undoubtedly don’t have a superb base of assist. 

Consider swapping all barbell overhead urgent for pin urgent till you enhance this stability. Because the bar is supported on the safeties, you'll be able to higher give attention to setting your trunk and conserving it stiff and stuck in place as you push onerous towards the bar to carry it from the beginning place.

How to Do it 

Set the bar on robust security bars on the top you'll begin your press from, typically round neck-height. Set your ft hip- to shoulder-width aside and seize the barbell together with your commonplace overhead grip. Get in place underneath the bar and brace your total trunk and again so your ribs received’t flare up and your backbone is locked in place.

Keep this static place as you press as onerous and quick as potential, brining the bar to lockout overhead. Return again to the pins and let the load settle there earlier than re-bracing and repeating for an additional repetition.

Muscles Worked by the Overhead Press

The overhead press is primarily a “shoulder exercise,” but it surely can't be accomplished with out help from a number of key physique elements. Each of those physique elements will probably be put underneath coaching stress through the train.


Your shoulders (deltoids or “delts”) are the first movers through the overhead press. These muscle tissues are accountable for flexing your arms overhead. The shoulder muscle tissues encompass three heads — the entrance, facet, and rear — that are concerned in shifting the arm in these respective planes of movement relative to your physique.

All three muscle heads are used to press the load overhead, however will be emphasised with varied kinds of lateral raises.


The triceps work to increase your arms, which is the latter portion of any shoulder press. The lockout portion of any overhead press, particularly, strongly prompts your triceps. (1) The triceps are labored by an extended vary of movement throughout any overhead press variation, with the muscle recruited maximally within the prime half of the motion.


Your abs and decrease again work collectively to type a powerful, stabilizing core which helps overhead urgent. Any diploma of sideways or backward lean is prevented by robust core stabilization. (2) It’s commonplace to really feel sore abs after an intense overhead urgent session, which is one indicator of how considerably the core muscle tissues work through the motion.

Overhead Press Form Tips

A number of key method cues can flip your fundamental overhead press from ache into progress. If you’re performing the carry from an influence rack, set the safeties close to shoulder or neck-level, not close to your chest. Beginning the press from a place that’s too low leaves you with poor leverage that shifts extra pressure to the shoulder joint than the shoulder musculature.

long-haired person in gym pressing barbell overhead.
Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

During any press train, grip the bar as onerous as potential. This will begin a series response of energy out of your wrist and forearm muscle tissues, by your higher arms, into your shoulders and higher again. (3) It’s a surprisingly efficient approach to keep tight whereas producing extra energy and minimizing joint pressure.

Similarly, don’t rise up “passively.” Before every repetition, flex your core, glutes, legs, and calves. Imagine gripping the bottom together with your ft. This will assist to ascertain total-body stability to drive a powerful upward press.

Press More Over Your Head 

Bench press variations are pretty commonplace. Without giving it a lot thought, lifters are likely to do rather more horizontal urgent than vertical, however an excessive amount of horizontal work and never sufficient vertical urgent can lead you to develop deficiencies within the muscular growth and management of the complete shoulder girdle.

Learning and making an attempt new overhead variations not solely will increase the potential weights you should use in your barbell overhead press, but additionally reduces the hole between these two urgent patterns making you a lot stronger and extra balanced. Diversify your overhead coaching and reap the energy, stability, and muscle-building outcomes.


  1. Kholinne, E., Zulkarnain, R. F., Sun, Y. C., Lim, S., Chun, J. M., & Jeon, I. H. (2018). The totally different function of every head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta orthopaedica et traumatologica turcica52(3), 201–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aott.2018.02.005
  2. Shinkle, J., Nesser, T. W., Demchak, T. J., & McMannus, D. M. (2012). Effect of core energy on the measure of energy within the extremities. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis26(2), 373–380. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822600e5
  3. Gontijo, L. B., Pereira, P. D., Neves, C. D., Santos, A. P., Machado, D.deC., & Bastos, V. H. (2012). Evaluation of energy and irradiated motion sample ensuing from trunk motions of the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Rehabilitation analysis and apply2012, 281937. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/281937

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