If you were to ask, what exercise can I do to bust through training plateaus, we would immediately say the overhead press. There are many variations of the overhead press, and this “family of exercises” will help 99 percent of the weight training population make gains and smash plateaus.
The reason is that no other exercise packs muscle mass and strength on to the shoulders and triceps as effectively as an overhead press training cycle. Here are six things you need to know about the overhead press:
1) If your bench press has not improved since Bill Clinton was president, get those overhead presses up. Ed Coan, multiple time World Powerlifting Champion, once said that improving his strength in the overhead-press-behind-neck was the critical factor in breaking through a long-term plateau in bench press strength.
2) If you’re having trouble increasing the number of chin-ups you can do, overhead presses are the answer. Get more powerful when chinning by doing overhead presses.
Why? If your overhead pressing strength is poor, it reciprocally inhibits the strength of your upper body to pull when in a hanging position.
Try an overhead press cycle. You will be impressed with how fast your chin-up strength and power goes up.
3) Talk about truly functional core work! This is especially true if you are involved in combative sports, like jiu-jitsu and ice hockey. Hockey players with great overhead pressing strength tend to have rock-solid core strength. For example, in his heyday, Stanley Cup winner Martin Lapointe was immovable on the ice and he trained hard in the overhead press.
4) Overhead pressing gives the strength coach a powerful diagnostic tool. For example, in the case of the ratio of the weight lifted in the seated dumbbell overhead press to that in the bench press, the weight done for eight reps on each dumbbell should represent 29 percent of the close-grip bench press measure. In other words, if you are able to close-grip bench press about 220 pounds for a single, you should be using a pair of 65 pound weights for eight reps in the seated dumbbell overhead press.
5) Another example of the use of the overhead press as a diagnostic tool is with the push jerk exercise. For strength coaches who use the Olympic lifts extensively with their athletes, the standing press should be 48 to 52 percent of the desired jerk performance.
6) Optimal position in the overhead press is also a great diagnostic tool for determining optimal muscle length and flexibility in the shoulder girdle. For example, if you use a pair of dumbbells held with a semi-supinated (hammer or neutral) grip and one dumbbell is too far forward, it could be tightness in one of the subscapularis muscles. We cover the diagnostics of overhead pressing in the PICP level 3 course.