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Ask anyone at a gym and odds are building their upper body and shoulders is one of the primary motivations for being there.

This is where the overhead press comes in but it doesn’t come without some inherent risk: many people can attempt to start at too high a weight and run the risk of causing serious harm to themselves. It is of huge importance to master the technique before layering additional weights and the best way to do so is to begin with just the bar, and with no weights attached to it.

This may seem counterproductive to some, given how many of us look for a quicker route to discover our ideal weights but this can only come with the correct preparation. The overhead press activates numerous muscle groups including your abs, lower back and the various muscles surrounding your shoulders. The standing variation of the same exercise will also test your glutes, hamstrings and quads.

So with that said, here are some tips to get yourself started:

  • If you are new to the technique, start with some sit-down barbell overheard presses as this will help stabilise your back
  • Once you move to full overhead presses, it is important to have your arms shoulder-width apart
  • Keep your wrists mobile
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades
  • Remember to tilt your head back on extensions so as to not make contact with the bar
  • Keep your chest up to maintain a strong upper back

There are various other configurations to graduate to, including the standing dumbbell overhead press, military press, push press, thruster and kettlebell press — all of which we encourage you to look into once you have mastered the initial movements.