The overhead press is one of the most popular exercises used in weight training. There are many reasons for its popularity, but it all boils down to how effective it is at building mass. A common misconception is that the overhead press will build size without any other form of exercise or even resistance training. That’s not true; however, there are certain factors which make the overhead press superior than others when it comes to gaining muscle mass and strength.
Types of Muscles Used During the Overhead Press
There are two types of muscles used during the overhead press: upper body and lower body. These two groups of muscles have different roles in your overall physique. While some exercises such as squats and deadlifts focus primarily on one type of muscle group, the overhead press requires both upper and lower body work to achieve optimal results.
The upper body consists of the chest, shoulders, triceps, bicep curls, and forearms. The lower body includes the quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. Each of these muscles plays a role in your overall physique. Some exercises such as leg presses and lunges emphasize one type of muscle while the overhead press emphasizes another.
For example squats emphasize quadriceps while leg extensions stress the hamstring muscles.
Why the Overhead Press is Effective
The overhead press focuses on building strength and mass in the upper body. Many people have been using the overhead press since high school or college. It is popular among many strength coaches including football coaches like Tom Martins of the Washington Redskins. This exercise is great for training athletes such as linebackers, running backs and defensive backs.
It helps with improving their hand eye coordination and reaction time. With the overhead press, you are able to build up your chest, shoulders, and tricep muscles. The form of the overhead press is similar to that of a bench press. While some people prefer to arch their back when doing the bench press, the overhead press requires a straight back and stiff torso. You can build strength and power with this exercise. You just need to be consistent and patient in your training.
Westside Barbell Overhead Press
Westside barbell is a powerlifting gym in Ohio. The overhead press is an important lift here. Many of the lifters have built impressive upper bodies by doing this exercise. One of the most popular Westside Barbell lifters is David Wilks who holds the world record in the bench press at 1015 pounds at a body weight of around 240 pounds.
Wilks started with a humble beginning like many other lifters. His first bench press was around 135 pounds at a body weight of around 190 pounds. In a short period of time, Wilks added around sixty pounds to his bench press. The overhead press was one of the exercises that played a vital role in building up his strength and size.
It was only after he started doing the overhead press that he started seeing significant gains in the bench press. After a while he realized that the overhead press was his best lift. In fact, his best competition bench press is 1020 pounds; however, his best overhead press is 1015 pounds.
Like many lifters, Wilks started in a garage with a few friends. They used car parts and scrap metal for plates. He didn’t have a spotter and had no one to teach him proper form. Over time, he learned from other more experienced lifters at the gym.
He found a mentor in Nick Winters who taught him proper form and gave him tips on gaining more strength.
Wilks was able to build up his strength through months of hard work and dedication. His overhead press improved from an initial 135 pounds to around 345 pounds (an increase of 200 pounds). After his growth spurt, he took up weight training seriously and started seeing results. He increased his bench press from around 225 pounds to 345 pounds.
From his humble beginnings, he has become one of the greatest bench pressers of all time. Along the way, he learned some lessons that you can learn from as well.
1. Get a Spotter- One of the most important things that you need as a lifter is a good spotter.
A spotter can prevent accidents from occurring and keep you safe while you build up strength. If you don’t have a spotter, then it would be best to do bench presses where you have your partner or partners set the weight down slowly on your chest. This will give you time to get out of the way if you can’t lift the weight.
2. Get Proper Equipment- Don’t try to lift weights that are too heavy for you.
Always use proper lifting equipment such as adjustable weight bar, weight plates, Olympic bar and collars, EZ curl bar, dumbbells, bench press, power rack, and gym shoes.
3. Warm Up Properly- Always warm up properly before doing any exercise.
You should first do some cardio for 5 to 10 minutes to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm. Follow this by doing some light lifts at 50 to 60 percent of the maximum weight you can lift. Your goal during this part of the warm up should be to work on your form. After this, it’s time to increase the weight to prepare your muscles for the heavier loads that are to come.
4. Focus On Proper Form- Always focus on using proper form when you do any exercise.
Don’t use excessive momentum or swing your body when doing any lift. Use slow movement instead which will lead to better results and more safety.
5. Add Resistance Gradually- To gain strength faster, add more resistance gradually over time.
You can add more weight, sets, or reps. The most important thing is to make these increases gradually. Don’t try to add 20 pounds to your bench press one week. Instead, try to increase the weight by a few pounds each week or every other week.
6. Take Time To Recover- Make sure that you take plenty of time to rest and recover in between workouts.
Your muscles need time to repair, and if you don’t allow them to do this, then you can actually do more harm than good especially if you’re working out every day or every other day.
7. Take Creatine- Creatine has been scientifically proven to improve strength and muscle mass when taken properly.
You should take 5 grams a day for at least a week and then 10 grams a day afterwards. You should also take it with some sugar or carbohydrate to increase the absorption of the creatine into your body.
8. Get Enough Sleep- Getting enough sleep is just as important as proper exercise when it comes to getting stronger.
Your muscles need time to repair, and if you don’t give them proper rest, then you won’t get stronger.
9. Eat Enough Food- Eating enough food is very important for getting stronger as well.
The best kinds of food that you should be eating are high protein foods such as meat, eggs, fish, and milk. These foods are filled with nutrients and vitamins that help build muscle.
10. Learn From a Trainer- If you really want to get stronger and build muscle, then you might consider hiring a professional trainer at your local gym or health club. They can help guide you through the process and make sure that you’re doing everything right.
Sources & references used in this article:
Powerlifting by D Austin, B Mann – 2012 – books.google.com
Exploring the standing barbell overhead press by J Kroell, J Mike – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2017 – cdn.journals.lww.com
Powerlifting: The TOTAL Package by P Sutphin – 2014 – books.google.com
A Debate Between Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting as the Main Athletic Training Method by J Johnson – Training, 2011 – elitefts.com
The physics of powerlifting by L Radenković, L Nešić – European Journal of Physics, 2018 – iopscience.iop.org
Category: Powerlifting by M Clevenger – louisvillestrongman.com