So, you’ve plateaued with your overhead pressing and you’re looking for ways to break through that plateau. Adding some stability work and extra strength work for the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle is a great way to do that.
At Strength Ambassadors,we know all about building strength and stability in the overhead position. We know exactly how to help lifters generate extra strength in their shoulders, whether for Crossfit, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, or simply everyday life.
So – why not spice up your overhead pressing with four of our best exercises for overhead strength and stability?
The best part? You can do these four variations at home with just one dumbbell – but don’t be afraid to come and say hello at a Strength Class in our top quality London Powerlifting Gym to really push your overhead strength to its max.
Check Out Our YouTube Guide or keep reading to learn more!
Why Build Overhead Stability & Strength?
There are plenty of reasons you might want to focus on your overhead strength and stability.
Maybe you’re a Crossfitter who wants to be able to do handstand push-ups, or perhaps you want to add some extra weight to your Powerlifting routine.
You might also simply be looking for a way to improve your posture – after all, strong shoulders can help you to sit and stand up straighter.
Overhead strength is important for daily life, too. If you’ve ever had to move something heavy overhead – like a piece of furniture – then you know how difficult it can be without the right muscles working together.
Having strong shoulders, triceps, and traps will not only help you to avoid injuries when moving heavy objects, but it will also make the task a whole lot easier.
So – how can you work on your overhead strength and stability? Read on to find out!
The 4 Best Exercises To Build Overhead Strength & Stability
Exercise 1: Half Kneeling Single Arm Press
This exercise is great for working on imbalances in a stable position. It also challenges your core to resist rotation, which is a great way to build overhead stability and prepare your body for more challenging Olympic lifting movements such as the overhead press, snatch, and clean & jerk.
How to do it:
- Start in a half kneeling position with your left knee down and your right foot flat on the floor in front of you.
- Have a dumbbell in your right hand and press it overhead, keeping your elbow close to your ear as you drive the arm upward.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat for 8-10 repetitions before switching sides.
Exercise 2: Push Press with Slow Lowering
Stuck on the same weight for overhead press? Try this to push through the plateau. The one arm push press with slow lowering is a great way to increase strength, power, and stability in the overhead position.
How to do it:
- Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in one hand and press overhead, using the legs to drive the weight to arm’s length.
- As you lower the weight back down, take around 4 seconds to control the descent, ensuring each shoulder blade is fully retracted at the bottom of the movement.
- Once you reach the bottom of the movement, explosively drive the weight back up overhead.
- Repeat for 8-10 repetitions on each side.
Exercise 3: Overhead Press into Reverse Lunge
Working the shoulder joint and legs in the same movement, this exercise is time efficient – and good for cardio too! Plus, by repeating the lunge movement you also get some good hamstring work in and with the added overhead press, it makes for a great strength and stability exercise to aid more powerful lifts like the clean and jerk.
How to do it:
- Start standing with a dumbbell in one hand and hold at shoulder position.
- Press overhead. As you do this, take a large step back with one leg and lunge downwards.
- Press the weight on the same side as the lunging leg, and slightly rotate your hand so that your palm is facing forwards when you are in the lunge.
- Step your lunging leg back to starting position and lower the dumbbell to shoulder position. Repeat for 8-10 reps on each side.
Exercise 4: Kettlebell Bottoms-Up Press
A real challenge for those who are confident with overhead press, this works wrists and forearms hard! The kettlebell bottoms-up press is a great way to build strength and stability in the small muscles of the hands, wrists, and forearms. This can improve your grip for other exercises such as the snatch, clean & jerk, and pull-ups.
How to do it:
- Start in a half-kneeling position with a kettlebell in one hand, held upside down so that the bottom of the kettlebell is facing up.
- Keeping your elbow close to your side, press the kettlebell overhead.
- Once you reach full extension, lower the weight back to the starting position and repeat for 8-10 repetitions on each side.
Top tip: keep your eyes on the kettlebell to help keep it balanced.
Best Exercises For Overhead Strength FAQs
Is the overhead press overrated?
We don’t think so! The overhead press engages multiple joints and muscles, making it a really useful tool for building overall strength and shoulder stability.
If you’re a lifter who is just getting started, working on your overhead pressing strength can help you build a strong foundation that will carry over to other lifts.
However, the overhead press is not necessarily the most important lift for everyone. If your main goal is to build muscle, you might want to focus on other exercises that better target the muscles you’re trying to develop.
Why is my overhead press so much worse than my bench press?
There are a few reasons this is usually the case. Firstly, the muscle groups involved in the two exercises are different in size. As the chest muscles are bigger and stronger, they’re able to generate more power than the shoulder muscles.
Further to this, the mechanics of the two exercises are very different. Horizontal pressing is mechanically more advantageous, as the weight is less likely to shift and cause you to lose balance. Both of these factors can make your bench press stronger than your overhead press.
How can I improve my shoulder overhead strength?
There are a few key exercises that can help you build strength and stability in your shoulder blades and surrounding rotator cuff muscles, such as the four outlined above: the half kneeling single arm press, the push press with slow lowering, the overhead press into reverse lunge and the kettlebell bottoms up press.
By working on different angles and using a variety of exercises, you’ll be able to better develop your upper body strength and target all the muscles involved in pressing weight overhead.
Are overhead presses bad for shoulders?
If you practice the right technique, or work with a personal trainer who specialises in lifting, then the overhead press can be a great exercise to improve shoulder health and shoulder mobility.
However, if you have any existing shoulder injuries or pain, it’s important to listen to your body and ensure that it is safe to do so before adding any overhead pressing movements to your workout routine, especially at heavy weights.
Some tips for protecting your shoulders during the overhead press include:
- Ensuring shoulder width grip on barbells/dumbbells
- Keeping chin tucked and maintaining good posture throughout the movement
- Keeping elbows tucked and not flaring them out to the sides.
Does the push press increase your overhead press?
Yes, the push press is a great exercise for increasing your overhead press. This is because it helps you develop explosive power, which can help you generate more force when pressing overhead. In addition to this, the push press also targets muscles that assist in the overhead press, such as the deltoids and triceps.
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At Strength Ambassadors, we offer Strength Classes, 1-to-1 Powerlifting Coaching, Olympic Lifting and more. Our team of expert coaches can help you reach your strength goals, whether you’re just getting started or you’re a seasoned lifter.
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