The overhead press, be it dumbbell or barbell, can be one of those movements that many struggle with. Once you eliminate mechanical dysfunction caused by muscular Imbalances and faulty movement patterns, the leading cause for a poor overhead press is an inability to dissipate the load effectively.

 Whether the issue lies in the wrists, lower back or feet, it all results in the same outcome, decreased performance due to an inability to optimally transfer force from A to B. Proponents of the Alexander technique will be all too familiar with the methods used to rectify this issue.  In an aid to help you improve your loads in this all important movement pattern, here are some simple techniques to help you effectively align your body to optimise overhead pressing.

  1. Think with your feet: now it may seem counter intuitive, but the key to this move whether standing or seated is to use your feet. It’s very simple, when you recruit your legs you use the accumulative weight of the earth to base your press instead of your delicate shoulders.
  2. Squeeze the bar with the little finger: In the OH press grip is key as it ensures the load is dissipated from the bar down the forearms and into the skeletal system. When the bar is gripped with a weak grip the weight bends the wrists and a sub optimum vector angle is created. To keep the wrists strong grip the bar hard with the little finger, this is key as bio mechanically the little and fore fingers, due to the shorter origins and insertions exert the most force on the hand.
  3. Straighten the spine: Unlike its horizontal counterpart, to be proficient at this lift you must not arch the spine. For the same reasons as above, the spine is the critical link in distributing the weight in your hands to the safety of the floor. If you have set the feet up right this should not occur, however, monitor yourself and if you feel a bit of back bending squeeze your glutes, hamstrings and abs to bring everything into order!


Written by David Lewis