How To Do An Overhead Press

The overhead press is one of the most basic and fundamental weightlifting movements for your arms, shoulders, back and chest. It involves taking a barbell from overhand to overhead in front of you while standing upright with legs together on an incline bench or box. The way to do this movement is by holding onto the bar at shoulder-width grip distance apart before lowering it down until forearms are parallel to ground (or higher). Then push up so that elbows extend upward as high above head as possible without touching chin/neck

The “overhead press dumbbell” is a weightlifting exercise that builds up the chest muscles and triceps. To do an overhead press, you will need a barbell or dumbbells.

Illustration guide showing how to do overhead press.


  • Grip the bar with your forearms parallel to the ground.
  • Look ahead with your head in a neutral position.
  • Directly above the forearms, the bar is grabbed at the base of the palms.
  • Uplifted and enlarged chest.
  • Feet should be hip-to-shoulder distance apart.
  • Around the clavicle level, there’s a bar.
  • Shoulders are not touched by hands.
  • Wrists should be parallel to the forearms.
  • In front of the barbell, elbows.
  • Avoid arching your back by squeezing your glutes.
  • In heels, the weight is considerable.


  • Raise the bar to its full height.
  • Tuck your chin in and push the bar straight up and above to full extension; after the bar clears your face, return to neutral and pull your body forward.
  • Elbows should be locked out.
  • Extend arms upwards while squeezing shoulder blades until full extension is achieved.
  • Tighten your upper back, glutes, and abs.
  • From the bar, down through your shoulder blades, and to the center of your feet, draw a straight line.
  • While pushing, drive through your heels.


“Know Your Lifts” is a series of illustrated guides that demonstrates how to do fundamental weightlifting exercises. Check out our guides on the High-Bar Back Squat and the Deadlift for more information. Another crucial and ferocious lift is on the agenda today: the Overhead Press. The overhead press (also known as the shoulder press, strict press, or simply “press”) is preferable than the bench press in that it trains the whole body and is a far more functional workout (you’re usually on your feet, not laying on your back while lifting objects). Hoisting a hefty barbell over your head also feels fairly macho.

Thanks to CrossFit Sandstorm’s Barry Schroeder and Jim Schoenberg for your help with this article.

High-Bar Back Squat Deadlift Overhead Press is part of the Know Your Lifts series.

Do you like the illustrations in this guide? Then our book The Illustrated Art of Manliness is for you! Get a copy from Amazon.

Ted Slampyak created the illustration.

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The seated overhead press is a good exercise for those who want to work on their shoulders and triceps. With the proper form, this exercise will help you build up your shoulder muscles while adding some variety to your workout routine.

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