8 Overhead Press Variations for Stronger Shoulders

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 youngsters need to impress their dad and mom with how robust they’re getting, they carry one thing overhead.  

Most lifters ought to be capable of press one thing comparatively heavy overhead. If you possibly can’t, it typically means you’re lacking the complete use of your shoulders. Maybe you possibly can’t transfer your shoulder via its full vary of movement or perhaps the stabilizing muscle groups of your shoulder blades and trunk can’t create stability to soundly produce power.

Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

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

Best Overhead Press Variations

Landmine Press 

Sometimes, pushing weight straight overhead may cause extra hurt than good. It could also be due to an damage 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 kind of movement offers lots of the advantages of direct overhead urgent whereas decreasing 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 damage and constructing again energy and performance from break day coaching. It lets you nonetheless develop energy and muscle whilst you work to revive full operate of the shoulders to press straight overhead. 

It’s additionally a great variation to make use of when doing an intense section 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 possibly can wedge a daily barbell in any nook the place it received’t trigger injury. Load the bar and decide it up by the pinnacle (the tip of the sleeve the place you load the plates).

The landmine press could 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 along 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 virtually 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 approach, driving the bar ahead and as much as lockout, adopted by a shoulder shrug. Make certain you retain your elbow in, so the bar stays in keeping with your shoulder all through all the 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 burden up in a push press, permitting you to make use of heavier weights. 

But a normal barbell push press could be troublesome 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 could be included on both bench or overhead press days as a approach to overload the urgent muscle groups with extra quantity whereas nonetheless transferring comparatively large weights. 

How to Do it 

Just just like the landmine strict press, in case you don’t have a holder you possibly can wedge the bar in a nook and cargo it the identical approach. Because utilizing heavier weights is a selected advantage of the landmine push press, it’s finest carried out with each arms on the bar. Cup your arms and place  the pinnacle of the bar virtually straight 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 in case you had been making ready to leap as excessive as potential. Drive your ft into the bottom and explosively prolong your knees and hips as in case you had been attempting to leap. Your heels will carry from the ground from this aggressive ankle extension, however preserve the balls of your ft involved with the bottom — don’t really leap 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 along 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 in the momentum along with your legs and trunk as you decrease it.

Bottoms-Up Press

This is among the finest, however most difficult, urgent workout routines for shoulder and scapular operate and stability. It’s typically used as a rehab or “prehab” drill as a result of it engages a lot of the postural muscle groups like these of the rotator cuff that stabilize and transfer the shoulder blade. 

Balancing the bell the other way up trains you to seek out essentially the most steady path of movement and forces you to regulate the motion. Sometimes, the dominant muscle groups accountable for urgent overhead are restricted by how properly your shoulders are stabilized. Improve these muscle groups and you may enhance how a lot power you possibly can create.  

When to Use It

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

How to Do it

The bottoms-up press could be completed standing or sitting, however a half-kneeling place really places you in an important 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 alternative leg ahead. Squeeze the deal with and switch the burden the other way up so the underside of the bell is dealing with the ceiling. Crush your grip to take care of the burden 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 burden overhead briefly earlier than slowly returning again all the way down to your face. 

Kettlebell Z Press 

The Z press is a wonderful alternative for rising the stress and demand in your shoulders and higher again with out essentially rising 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 possibly can concentrate on stopping the issue. Pressing from the ground with the offset weight of kettlebells challenges your trunk and shoulder stabilizers in a approach different workout routines can’t.

When to Use It

Use the kettlebell Z press at the start of a exercise to heat up your whole shoulder complicated. One or two units with gentle to average weight is sufficient to get your shoulders transferring freely with out inflicting fatigue that might have an effect on your fundamental coaching. 

Adding it to the tip of a tough urgent exercise can also 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 along with your legs straight whereas retaining an upright torso. Hold a pair of kettlebells along with your palms dealing with one another at shoulder-level. Exhale onerous via your mouth attempting to power the air out of your torso to make it as slim as potential. You ought to really feel your ribcage drop down and the muscle groups within the entrance and sides of your torso, round your core, contracting.

Keep these muscle groups engaged to stop your again from arching or your ribs flaring up as you press overhead. Keep your higher arms in keeping 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 rising 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 a normal barbell and attaching weight plates is an efficient different.

When to Use It

You can consider this like a secondary carry which could be completed proper after a heavy overhead barbell press or bench press. Though you’ll use a lot much less weight, you should use an identical weekly development of set and reps that you just’d use for your fundamental urgent carry. The instability would be the key difficult factor 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 gentle weight and regularly slowly add extra as you’re feeling comfy and be taught to regulate the motion. Grab the bar along 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 got 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 along 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 burden up slowly, retaining 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 straight over the bottom of your neck. Shrug your shoulders upward and stabilize the bar on the prime. Lower the burden 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 helpful to anybody seeking 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 approach. If you begin with comparatively gentle weight and progress slowly, the snatch-grip behind-the-neck press can really enhance your shoulders’ working vary of movement and strengthen the muscle groups and connective tissue that assist good shoulder operate.

When to Use It 

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

How to Do it 

Place a bar on a rack at your again squat-height (roughly upper-chest degree). Walk below the bar and place it in your again as in case you would for a excessive bar squat. Unrack the burden and step again. Slide each arms out till your index fingers are typically outdoors of the knurl marks on the barbell (easy rings).

Angle your elbows straight below the bar, preserve your neck straight, and brace your trunk whereas retaining your ribs from flaring up. Press the bar whereas retaining it in keeping 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 among the finest instruments to make use of in case you’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 vast whereas retaining a neutral-grip (palms dealing with one another) place.

This impartial place offers 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 varieties of urgent. You can use the train rather than different overhead urgent choices till you absolutely rehab an damage or recuperate from no matter nagging ache is inflicting points.

How to Do it

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

Pull your neck in, as in case you had been giving your self a double-chin, and preserve 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 decreasing to the beginning place. 

Overhead Pin Press

Part of the explanation overhead urgent could 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 got the eccentric (decreasing portion) of the carry which helps retailer power that you just use to press the burden again up.

Because you don’t decrease the bar first in an overhead press, you’ve got to have the ability to muster a considerable amount of power out of the blue with out momentum. This known as “starting strength” and a pin press is among the best methods to particularly prepare this high quality.

When to Use It

If you possibly can’t create a stiff and steady base of rigidity, you possibly can’t out of the blue create this power. And in case you’re shifting your torso backwards and forwards as you press, you positively don’t have a great 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 possibly can higher concentrate on setting your trunk and retaining it stiff and stuck in place as you push onerous in opposition to the bar to carry it from the beginning place.

How to Do it 

Set the bar on robust security bars on the top you’d begin your press from, typically round neck-height. Set your ft hip- to shoulder-width aside and seize the barbell along with your customary overhead grip. Get in place below the bar and brace your whole 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 burden settle there earlier than re-bracing and repeating for one other repetition.

Muscles Worked by the Overhead Press

The overhead press is primarily a “shoulder exercise,” nevertheless it can’t be accomplished with out help from a number of key physique elements. Each of those physique elements might be put below coaching stress in the course of the train.


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

All three muscle heads are used to press the burden overhead, however could be emphasised with numerous varieties 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 via a protracted 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 via 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 groups work in the course of the motion.

Overhead Press Form Tips

A number of key approach 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 groups, via 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 along with your ft. This will assist to determine 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 way 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 all the shoulder girdle.

Learning and attempting new overhead variations not solely will increase the potential weights you should use for 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.


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