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Improving Overhead Press: Mobility, Agility, and Stability

Jun 10, 2018

Improving Overhead Press - Wrist WrapsWorking on improving overhead press is something that not a lot of us do.

But, it is something we should do, because a strong overhead press is not only impressive but useful.

Whether it is optimization in the gym or at home, you will notice the benefits.

However, remember, with an exercise like the overhead press, you need to play it safe.

I’d suggest wearing our suede wrist wraps for one, but also have a spotter nearby for the heavier lifts.

You may be someone who already occasionally does the overhead press.

So, why would you want to improve it?

I mean, actively attempt to pursue a better overhead press?

Why not just do your overhead press when it’s shoulder and back day, and do it to your best ability every time?

Well, you can do that… But improving overhead press techniques, volume and consistency will really pay off.


Why You Should Consider Improving Overhead Press

A Very Important Compound Movement

Improving Overhead Press - Seated Overhead PressThough the overhead press is generally the least spoken about (along with barbell rows), it is one of the top tier movements.

You always hear about benching, squatting, and deadlifting.

And, those are taught and spoken about for good reason, but the overhead press is also very important.

When you are thinking of the most beneficial compound movements, the overhead press should definitely be in the rankings.

For upper body and stabilization, you really can’t do anything better.

Related: Overhead Press Benefits: Reasons for Raising the Bar


Top Tier Way to Build Your Shoulders

Improving Overhead Press - Hex Bar Overhead PressIf you want to build your shoulders then you need to consider doing the overhead press.

Then, when you start doing overhead pressing movements, you should focus on improving overhead press movements.

You’ll notice how magnificent your shoulders will look and feel — maybe not the first couple days after your workout, though (we all know that painful soreness).

But, seriously, if you want massive delts then you should use the overhead press as your foundation movement.

After you start creating that foundation, now you have to maintain it and continually progress forward.

That is why we are talking about the optimization of your mobility, agility, and stability when improving overhead press.

Below, watch a concise video on how to do your OHP with proper technique and form:


Improving Overhead Press: Mobility

Stretch First

Improving Overhead Press - Stretching OHPFor mobility, it is always very crucial to stretch first.

I cannot even fully explain the detriment you will cause to yourself if you overhead press (or workout in general) without warming-up with some easy and vital stretches.

Not only will the stretching help you move and lift better before you start, but it will also help with recovery after you finish.

I’ve spoken time and time again on the importance of stretching and there is no exception to that rule here!

Related: Stretching Before Exercise: A Life-Changing Tip


Use the Full Range of Motion (ROM)

Improving Overhead Press - Basic Overhead Press TrainingAnother problem I often see with those doing their overhead pressing movements is a lack of proper ROM.

Range of motion is highly important in every single exercise, especially if you prefer getting the most out of your workouts.

If you bench press and only press the weight three inches up off your chest, you aren’t fully activating or squeezing your pectoral muscles.

The same applies when doing the overhead press.

If you aren’t lowering the weight to your chest, or at least near your neck, then you aren’t properly targeting your shoulders.

Always try to strive for full ROM and if you can’t, then you may need to lower the weight.

But, in improving overhead press, don’t just try to improve how heavy you go, but rather how successful your reps are.

With a powerful inclination towards the full range of motion, you’ll benefit both your mobility and your overall overhead press.


Keep ROM Consistent Through Weight Ranges

Improving Overhead Press - Choosing Weights for OHPYes, ROM is important, but so is consistency.

So, keep your range of motion consistent as you progress upwards in your weight range.

If you are overhead pressing 10lbs on each side, will a full range of motion, don’t move up to 15lbs or 20lbs unless you can keep that consistency.

All of you who do have the proper mobility and strength to do so, you’ll find that your muscle and strength gains will come quicker and without injury due to following these mobility rules.

As a recap, for proper mobility, make sure to stretchuse full ROM, and keep it consistent!


Improving Overhead Press: Agility


Improving Overhead Press - Warming UpTo be agile with your overhead press, you need to warm-up.

This plays a lot with the idea stated above for your mobility in stretching.

But, with agility, I’d suggest warming up by doing the actual movement with low weight/no weight.

You can really gain control of your form, positioning, and bar path with a barbell.

This also helps to get any creaks and snapping out of the joints and tightness in your shoulders.

Trust me, warming up is important, especially for your shoulders.

The responsiveness of the movement and your mind-muscle connection will benefit from training your agility.

Improving overhead press agility can make a world of difference in your comfortability with the movement.


Start with Lighter Weights

Improving Overhead Press - Kettlebell Overhead PressTo properly train your agility, you need to use lighter weights.

With lighter weights, you can move your overhead press with proper momentum and ROM.

There’s never any problem with using light weights, particularly when you are doing so with a purpose.

Don’t be persuaded by others that there is no benefit in using weight that is under your max.

When you train with lighter weight, you can push yourself to focus on form and your connection to the overhead press.


Aim for Higher Reps

If you shoot for higher reps with your overhead press, you’ll be able to keep your agility.

You start to build your momentum and feel for the exercise.

It’ll almost be like you are doing the movement as second-hand nature.

These higher reps will also push you into progressive overload over time — higher reps, more agility, and better strength gains.

To be agile, you need to perform high-volume repetitions to fully grasp the overhead press and engrain it into your memory.


Be Explosive

Improving Overhead Press - Muscles Worked Overhead PressAgility will naturally lead to explosiveness.

And, to remain agile, you will want to practice being explosive.

This ties in heavily with using full range of motion and a weight level that is comfortable.

Don’t try to have explosivity with weight that you can’t even overhead press for 5-reps.

With your lower weights and high reps, you can focus on being explosive during each rep.

Being explosive is great for all your workouts and helps to push your body into overdrive.

Burn more fat, build more muscle, and foster the environment for more strength gains.

Agility — it’s important and beneficial in improving overhead press.

Related: The Impact of Explosive Overhead Press Movements



Improving Overhead Press: Stability

Steady Yourself

Improving Overhead Press - Standing Overhead PressStability is really one of the biggest factors in a successful overhead press.

Without stability, you will have problems pushing the load and maintaining all of the other elements we’ve already spoken about.

For great form, you need sufficient stability.

Without a stable base, your form will falter and not be optimal for strong, steady lifting.

Whether you do your overhead press standing or sitting, keep your core strong and tight with your body nice and straight.

Then press with your full range of motion and in a controlled manner that doesn’t cause you to lose grasp of the weight, nor shift your body around.


Get Comfortable

To improve your stability, you must be and feel comfortable in whatever position you are doing the overhead press.

I always recommend that you are lifting in a way that is comfortable.

That doesn’t mean easy or light — just comfortable.

You don’t want to stress your body with uncomfortable positions and movements if you don’t need to.

If you can follow these other guidelines, while remaining comfortable, then you are doing it right!

Related: 4 Major Reasons Why Overhead Presses are So Hard (But Beneficial)


Use the Correct Muscles

Improving Overhead Press - Muscles OHP dumbbellsOne reason people aren’t stable during their overhead press is that they are recruiting the wrong muscles to achieve the press.

If you are using a huge amount of leg drive and momentum to simply get the weight up, then you are pressing incorrectly.

This means you are lifting either too heavy, too much, or with overall incorrect form.

Focus your stabilizer muscles; make your core tight and keep your feet planted on the ground with your knees as straight as possible (if standing).


Life Benefits from Improving Overhead Press

Easier to Accomplish Daily Tasks

When improving overhead press, you end up improving your overall lifestyle.

Daily tasks often requiring lifting and placing items above your head or reaching above your head.

With these three focuses on improving overhead press, you also improve general stability, mobility, and agility.

Your daily problems will become easier and eventually insignificant due to your overall health.

Treat all of your exercises with the same focus and constant improvement and your progress will seem limitless.


Help with Other Exercises, Recovery, and Better Sleep

Improving Overhead Press - Dumbbell Overhead PressSpeaking of other exercises — improving overhead press can help improve other upper body workouts, as well as those exercises that require mobility, stability, and agility.

Having that full range of motion, explosivity, and strong, stable foundation will crossover to all of your exercises.

Furthermore, your recovery will be on point because you will have successfully warmed-up, stretched, focused on form, and lifted properly.

We often downplay the importance of recovery until we are in agony after a hard workout that was done with no preparation before or after.

Lastly, if you follow all of these rules, I guarantee you will be exhausted and fall deeply to sleep.

But, not only will it be deep sleep, it will be revitalizing — the perfect scenario for further muscle development!


Final Thoughts on Improving Overhead Press

Why Mobility, Agility, and Stability are Important to Improve (Especially with Overhead Press)

Improving Overhead Press - Overhead Press FormThese three key features of improving overhead press are important because they are basically the backbone to the exercise.

Well, in reality, these three things can comprise any successful weightlifting movement.

But, particularly with the overhead press, because the movement requires a somewhat dangerous feat.

You are quite literally lifting heavy weights above your head and hoping that you can continue to control them.

So, with an emphasis on perfecting mobility, agility, and stability, you don’t really need to worry much about your own safety.

Related: Rookie Mistakes: The Overhead Press


Start off Slow, Controlled and in a Safe Environment

Regardless of practicing these three things, you still need to start off slow.

Learn the overhead press properly and treat the movement with respect.

Do slow, controlled repetitions and practice your explosivity when you can, but with zero/light weight.

And, make sure you are doing so in a safe environment — a public gym or somewhere with a friend.

You should have a spotter available or someone nearby who can come to your aid.

If you are doing overhead press at home, make sure you have some safety measures in place, as you don’t want to get injured.

Following all these guidelines will help you succeed in all you plan to do with the overhead press!

Lastly, check out the video below to see different ways to help increase your OHP.