5 Overhead Press tips:

When it comes to myself as an athlete, I would say one of my main strengths would be my overhead press ability. The press is something I have worked on a ton over the years and has contributed to my success as a strongman recently.

In this article, I want to give you guys some basics tips that can help increase your press and put the most amount of weight overhead.

Tip #1: Don’t have your feet too narrow

I see this mistake often when people have their feet too narrow, this just affects the stability you will have in your press. If you are too narrow you are taking away from a stronger support base. When it comes to pressing the most amount of weight overhead, we want to have a nice base. I like to start athletes somewhere between hip and shoulder width.

Think of your feet as the base of a pyramid.

If the pyramid was flipped over it would have room to tip and sway. So, play with your stance, but make sure you are keeping your feet in a comfortable position, weight evenly distributed, and in line with each other (not staggered) I prefer to have my toes slightly pointed outward, but that is a personal preference.

Tip #2: Don’t have your grip too wide on the barbell

I was guilty of this mistake early on when I was pressing. I think this was just due to the bodybuilder in me who wanted to crank out reps and I didn’t care much about max weight, mostly just about the pump.

However, when it comes to pressing the most amount of weight overhead bar path is everything. The wider your hands are on the bar, the harder the press becomes as you are getting away from center-mass. It is also more stable because your wrists are stacked over your elbows, elbow stacked over shoulders, and everything is in a nice supportive line.

I also have noticed when I brought my hands closer, I got more triceps engagement in the press. A quick fix is if you record yourself make sure your arms don’t look like a “W” when pressing and have them more look like a field goal parallel to each other.

Tip #3: Breathing while pressing

When you are pressing one of the biggest mistakes, I see people making is breathing while they are pressing. When it comes to strength, we want to keep our body as strong as possible and keep that inter-abdominal pressure build-up.

This is often referred to as “bracing” which basically keeps the body sturdy and strong while under load. I know what you are probably thinking…

“How can I do all my reps without breathing? Wouldn’t I pass out?

You can and should breathe!

You have two options in my opinion on when to take those breaths.

  • In the rack position prior to the press
  • At the top of the press with the bar overhead before it descends.

I personally Like to breathe in the rack position and feel more comfortable doing it there, but you can play around with either and see what works best for you.

Do you have to breathe between each rep? Or can you hold it for continuous reps?

You don’t have to breathe between each rep and in fact depending on the weight sometimes I will hold my breath for multiple reps, just be smart on when to breathe or you can get lightheaded and that’s never good with weight over your noggin =].

Joey Szatmary Overhead Press

Tip #4: Learn the “Classic Press”

A great tool to have in the shed for pressing would be learning the “Classic Press”. This is actually taught I believe through starting strength and I learned this from Alan Thrall & while attending a Barbell Medicine Seminar a few years back.

I really like this press variation because it allows for a rebound type motion prior to pressing in the rack position. This allows to give you a little “pop” out of the rack position and a little momentum in the press WITHOUT using any leg drive.

Pretty neat!

This is caused by a quick hip extension which then has the bar travel downward then bouncing the bar up as you begin to press.

Tip #5: Keeping your chin tucked

One of the biggest issues that I see when pressing is people pressing the bar out in front of them and not directly over their heads. We want to keep a straight bar path from rack to overhead in a straight line. Usually, I see people pressing out in front of them, or around their face in an arch-like bar path.

This will make the press harder as we are away from the midline. It also tends to get people stuck more in their weak spots (typically when doing jerks). A way to easily fix this is to keep the chin tucked while pressing, and that way the bar path stays as straight as possible.

Hopefully, you can take away one of these tips to help out your press! Just remember it’s a journey and to focus on one thing at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and either is a BIG PRESS.

Pick the issue that stands out the most and attack that first!

Joey Szatmary

Joey Szatmary

Founder of Szat Strength and current Overall 2019 National Heavy Weight Strongman Champion.