What is the Best Position to do Overhead Presses?

Great exercises can go terribly wrong if you do them from an anatomical position that is not safe for your body. Overhead press moves like Military Presses are a great tool for adding strength to the muscles of the deltoid and thoracic back. However many people choose to do these moves from either a seated or standing position, both of which can cause more harm then good.

The danger in doing moves like this in a seated position is the amount of compression and tightness it can cause in your lower back. Many trainers believe you should do them sitting to help reduce this issue and in regards to a comparison against doing it standing, this may be true. However, We feel that sitting is actually the most dangerous and really takes away from a great exercise. Not only do you tend to put very high levels of stress into your lower back, you train your muscles from a poor postural position. I know trainers will argue this and say they make sure their clients backs are straight and shoulders are up but still your in a seated position which your body never requires strength from so why do it?

Truly we are not a fan of doing any strength moves in a chair or seated position. Can you name a time when your going to need to move heavy objects around in a seated position? Is there a sport I am not aware of where you can just it there and push weight around? Sitting to do your weight training is a bad idea. You will ultimately create high levels of muscular imbalance in your body that will lead to poor posture and eventually pain and injury.

Standing is the second most common way we watch people do this move. The real danger here is that your lower back is now even more compromised. I have seen this used in aerobic classes that emphasize strength and if you watch the instructors do a good job of first setting the move up by making sure that the individuals in the class have completely prepared their core to handle the move. Whenever you do an overhead move from a standing position you put the back and knees at high risk for compensation and injury. However done correctly and with the proper amount of progression into the move, standing does present some great overall strength benefits.

The best way to do overhead presses in our opinion is kneeling. In a kneeling position you still can gain the similar strength benefits that you would from a standing position but by taking your lower legs out of the equation it lessens the demands placed on the lumbar spine and knees if your body is not in the anatomically correct position.

We did a video on this awhile back, here it is again showing what we feel is the best form for you to have to do overhead press style moves. If you are currently doing your overhead moves seated, we highly encourage you to watch the video and begin to do them kneeling. The benefits are significant and your back will thank you for it.

3 Comments on this post


  1. eric said:

    I see a lot of people doing presses like this from a seated position with a barbell. They look very tense with doing this and often compensate by arching their lower back or pushing with their feet.

    I like the kneeling position because you cannot cheat, you have to use the muscles intended for the move. squeezing your glutes and engaging the hip flexors can help eliminate the problem of arching the back.

    November 11th, 2009 at 11:40 pm
  2. Scott said:

    Eric, like in the video we like to put a medicine ball or something similar between the ankles. Then when you press on it it forces you to engage the muscles around the pelvis to help protect the lower back. Excellent point.

    November 12th, 2009 at 8:28 am
  3. eric said:

    I feel like you could do a pretty intense workout without leaving the kneeling position if you felt the need to! I might try that

    November 12th, 2009 at 9:42 am


You must be logged in to post a comment.

What Others Are Saying

"My body has not reacted well with working a desk job.  I am only 25, but have been having a lot of pain that has built up over the past 6 months...The cubicle workouts have truly helped, I cant even begin to tell you...so much better! Thanks Scott, love the routines!" Brandon
UBD Moneymaker Theme by Unique Blog Designs & Phillip van Coller