In a recent Athlean-X video, trainer Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. breaks down how to get the absolute most out of your overhead barbell press by addressing a common issue many people encounter in their form. He explains that, as the name of the exercise suggests, an overhead press is all about getting the bar directly over the head—but that lifting in an inefficient path frequently results in the bar being extended out in front of the body instead.
This occurs due to the structure of the shoulder joint when internally rotated, which introduces a bone blockage that prevents the arms from extending to a fully horizontal position—Cavaliere calls it an “anatomical stalemate”. He demonstrates a mobility exercise that you can do prior to performing an overhead press which will help you overcome this blockage by focusing on thoracic extension in the mid-back and external rotation at the shoulder.
“Not only will you find you can press the bar overhead more easily, you can also do so with more strength because of the efficiency of the movement,” he says.
Hold a weight plate out in front of you at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions. Press it up overhead, going back as far as you can. Perform this three or four times, using no heavier than a 45-pound plate. The positioning of the hands and movement pattern will create a greater degree of external shoulder rotation and thoracic spine extension, and prepare the rotator cuff for the overhead press. “Each time, you’ll feel it start to open up more and more and more,” says Cavaliere.
This drill can also yield additional benefits. “You’re providing a loaded mobility drill,” says Cavaliere. “Working mobility without a load falls apart when you step under a load. By having even a moderate load in your hands here, you’re able to activate muscles in a different way.”
Remember, this is meant to be a drill, so your goal is not moving heavy weights. Grab a 35 pound plate—or even lighter, if you need—and get pressing.
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