6 Best Overhead Press Variations To Crush to Build Your Upper Body

When it comes to shoulders there are a ton of exercise variations to choose from. The overhead press is one of the best and most effective shoulder exercises to build lean muscle mass and more strength. Yet, with so many options, it's difficult to determine which shoulder overhead press variation is best for your training program and getting you closer to your goals. That's why we compiled this list of 6 of the best overhead press variations to include in your routine.

What Is Overhead Press 

Overhead press is a strength training movement, that positions the load anteriorly with your hands in a pronated position (palms facing forward) or away beneath a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. The weight is then pressed overhead from your collarbone and locked out. The overhead press has many aliases and is also referred to as the Military Press, Shoulder Press, Strict Press, and Standing Push Press.  

The Overhead press is a functional compound movement. Compound movements, engage multiple muscle groups, stabilizing muscles, and joints, all within the same movement pattern, which can improve mobility, core stability, and balance. As one of the most effective upper body functional training movements, overhead press stimulates the anterior and medial deltoids, trapezius, upper chest, and triceps. This movement can help build more functional strength and mobility, which can greatly benefit and enhance more complex Olympic movements, such as the snatch, clean and jerk, and power clean. If you can master the overhead press, you will add more power and strength to overall athletic performance.

6 Best Overhead Press Variations 

With any of these overhead press variations, you can change several variables such as the tempo, intensity, position (seated or standing), choose between single arm, dual, pause reps, etc. The possibilities are endless and there are no right or wrong variations, so long as you execute correct and proper form throughout your movement.

Overhead Press (Military, Strict)


The most common overhead movement is the overhead, military, or strict press. This movement is performed standing up, traditionally performed with a barbell and is extremely effective at increasing lean muscle mass, power, and strength.

Standing Behind The Neck Strict Press


Contrary to popular belief the behind the neck overhead press, is safe and effective. This overhead press variation significantly core strength and stability, as well as lower back and trunk stability to push the load overhead with precision. If you have good shoulder mobility, then the behind the neck press is a great overhead press variation to build more strength and size.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Strict Press)

The seated dumbbell shoulder press is a common and effective exercise to train your shoulders for more strength and power. EMG studies have shown that dumbbells in a standing or seated position greatly stimulate the deltoids as opposed to using a barbell [R]. Adding the seated dumbbell or standing dumbbell shoulder press to your upper body training day will improve lean muscle mass and strength.

Seated Arnold Press


Yes, bodybuilding icon Arnold Schwarzenegger created the Arnold press. In an effort to stimulate the anterior deltoid more effectively while overhead pressing Schwarzenegger found that he was able to drive more engagement and muscular development by rotating his palms to face his chin when he was at the bottom of the lowered position of the exercise. The Arnold press is one of the best overhead press variations for better muscle growth and development. 

Kettlebell Z Press


Z Press was invented by Lithuanian strongman Zydrunas Savickas (Big Z), hence the name Z Press. The Z press is similar to other overhead pressing movements, yet fairly more difficult than a normal standing shoulder press, and slightly more beneficial. The Z press is performed as an accessory movement, from the sitting position, therefore, you won’ have the same power and drive like you would in a standing overhead press. The Z Press is also an asymmetrical single-arm movement, conventionally performed with a kettlebell, placing more emphasis on your core and spinal stability.

Push Press


The push press is a prerequisite to the Military Press aka the Strict Press, but as opposed to strictly using your delts and upper body, you can use your legs and core for a quick push. The push press uses the full body to move weight from the shoulder to overhead movement in a quick, effective motion. The push press uses the legs, core, and upper body which ends up driving the weight into the overhead position. While the push press movement does require the legs to bend, the completion of the movement has straight legs, straight arms, and the weight will be overhead in a full lockout position. 

RELATED ARTICLE 4 Accessory Movements To Build Your Standing Push Press

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