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COLUMNS: Exercise Technique

Barbell Overhead Press

Graham, John MS, CSCS*D, FNSCA

Author Information
Strength and Conditioning Journal: December 2008 - Volume 30 - Issue 6 - p 70-71
doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e318189a9fe
  • Free
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John Graham, MS, CSCS,*D, FNSCA

Column Editor


Upper body and multijoint.


Deltoid, trapezius, serratus anterior, triceps brachii.


  • Position a standard weightlifting bar at chest level in a squat or power rack (not pictured).
  • Load barbell evenly on both sides and secure weights with collars.
  • Position the feet flat on the floor.
  • The head, shoulders, and upper back should be erect.
  • Grasp the barbell shoulder-width apart with a closed pronated grip.
  • Inhale before initiating the movement.
  • Lift the barbell off the rack and rest the barbell on the upper chest.


  • Begin the motion by pressing the barbell upward.
  • Exhale as the resistance passes the sticking point.
  • Avoid arching the lower back or moving the feet or buttocks from their stationary position.
  • Keep the wrists rigid and the forearms perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
  • Continue pressing the barbell upward until the elbows are fully extended, but not forcefully locked.
  • At the completion of the lift, the barbell should be in line with the supporting joints (i.e., wrist, elbow, shoulder).
  • Keep the body rigid throughout the ascent.


  • Begin the descent by lowering the resistance in a slow, controlled manner toward the chest.
  • The elbows will move down past the shoulder and slightly away from the body.
  • Wrists should be kept firm and rigid.
  • Forearms are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the floor.
  • Lower the resistance to the upper chest; avoid bouncing the resistance off the chest.
  • Keep the head, shoulders/upper back area and buttocks erect and the feet securely on the floor.
  • Keep the body rigid throughout the descent.
  • Inhale before initiating the ascent for the next repetition.
Figure 1:
Barbell overhead press starting position.
Figure 2:
Barbell overhead press completion of the ascent phase.
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© 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association