Article by JC

Standing barbell overhead press

The bar should stay evenly on the rack; both sides should have the same amount of weight.

Hand placement

Walk to the bar and put your hands on the bar in a place where your forearms are perpendicular with the barbell. This is the strongest position when you are pressing. Don’t go too wide, to where the angle of your forearm and the barbell is greater than 90 degrees. You will lose some stability and strength in that position. Look at your position in the mirror or ask your partner to check that your position is perpendicular with the barbell.


The safest grip for an overhead press is a thumb-around grip. The bar should be sitting on the bottom of your palm. Do not place the bar in the middle of your palm or close to your fingers, as this will pull the wrist back and injure you. When the bar is placed on the bottom of the palm there is no pressure on your wrist.

Un-racking the bar

Step under the barbell, push your chest out, elbows just in front of the bar, squat the bar out of the rack. Do not just pick the bar up and off of the hooks, this will cause injury. You are not as strong as you think and you must first get into your starting position when un-racking the bar, not after. Similar to a squat, get in the right position, un-rack the weight, step back and go. Put your elbows just in front of the bar, which will allow you to press the barbell up and down in a straight line, not over your head. Take a deep breath before you press—it will help support your position and keep your chest high.

Now you are ready to press; keep your head straight, and press the barbell up. The barbell should be directly over the shoulder blades and over the middle of the feet—this is the correct lockout position. The bar should not be in front of your head. The correct lockout position is the key to keeping your balance.  Finish a press with a shrug. It helps you support the weight, and it’s also a good way to stop shoulder impingement. When you lower the bar it is imperative that you lower right back to the correct starting position. Chest high, elbows slightly in front of the bar, the bar directly over the bottom of the palm.

Don’t let your elbows drop behind the barbell, don’t lose your wrist position and don’t let your chest drop. Trying to regain this position at the bottom of each rep is a waste of time and energy and you could get hurt.

We all know that the barbell starts in front of neck and ends over the shoulder blades. The bar has to be pressed a couple of inches back on its way up. The path of the bar should be a straight line. You want to move your body around the bar, not the bar around your body. You have to figure out how to get your body out of the way of the barbell so that you can press it up in a vertical line. We are going to use a horizontal hip movement with locked knees to generate a little bounce at the hip.  Lock your knees and squeeze your abs without bending your lower back. The hip joint is where the movement occurs, so move the hip and not the lower back. Push the hip forward in your starting position, the next step should all happen at the same time, press the bar up and push your hips back. Remember to keep your knees locked and abs squeezed.

JC is a fitness instructor; if you want to contact him for one-on-one training add his  WeChat: jc18370330856 (Chinese) or janihaupt (English)