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The overhead press is a great move, but it needs to be done right. Its simplicity has led many a lifter (myself included!) into carelessness and injury. But done right, it delivers.

Question: why is the overhead press like running?

Answer: because it's a great way to build strong muscles and healthy joints, in a functionally applicable way that involves a naturalistic movement and gives a lot of 'bang for your buck.' Or, it's a great way to wreck your joints and give yourself a pile of chronic injuries. 

The same things that make the press great make it dangerous too. It tests a lot of attributes - so it develops them. Unless it exceeds them, whereupon you get injured. It works a lot of body structures - so lots of opportunities for improvement. Or injury. 

To press well, you need stability, mobility, strength and technique - the very things you're trying to develop by pressing!

Mobility is more important for the press than most people realize. Without the ability to extend the thoracic spine and shrug the shoulder up into the ear you're going to get hurt pressing overhead. Here's how to fix that:

Wall presses (front): stand facing a wall with a broomstick ready to be pressed. Touch your toes to the wall and press. Go slow and careful, and watch the bar path. You should finish with your elbows locked, shoulders high, and core braced.

Wall presses (back): try the same move but with your back against the wall. Touch the back of your head, your butt and your heels to the wall, then press and watch what happens.Are your knuckles touching the wall when you finish? If they are, but your butt isn't, you need to work on thoracic mobility (or lumbar stability).

Hindu Push-up: this means going from downward dog to scorpion poses in yoga, then pulling back to downward dog and repeating. Look it up on YouTube and see for yourself. It's good for building mobility in the shoulder.

Face Pulls: You'll want cables or a band for this. Think of it as an inverse row where you're pulling toward your temples instead of your chest. It's good for waking up and strengthening the muscles of the upper back and lower neck, which stabilize your spine when you press.

Band resisted press (front): get your trusty broomstick and a light resistance band. Put the band round the broomstick, then round a bar at about shoulder height or a little over. Step backward, facing the bar, til there's some resistance from the band, and then press overhead as usual. Watch the bar path and think about where your upper back and the points of your shoulders are.

Band resisted press (back): repeat the steps above, this time facing away from the bar. Keep your core tight and allow some stretching of the front of your upper body - let the band pull you into a more extended posture.

You'll also need impressive stability. If your bar is moving fine and your shoulders are doing what they should, but your core is slack, your lumbar spine is lordotic and your hips are doing the funky chicken, it's only a matter of time.

Basic core training will help - planks, leg raises, V-ups - and so will a good front squat, an underrated dynamic core exercise which emphasises lumbar stability and strong, active thoracic extension simultaneously, ideal for overhead pressing.

Additionally, try a half kneeling overhead press.

Half kneeling overhead press: Set a bar up in a squat cage where your shoulders will be if you kneel up, with your thighs vertical. Kneel under the bar, kneel up and press from here. It puts more stress on the core and forces you to adopt better posture. Use a light weight. 

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