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Old 10-13-2009, 01:53 PM   #1
Roy Dunham
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Overhead Press Question (shoulder position)

My question is about the shoulder position during the overhead press.

I've been practicing the press, and it was going alright. I was pressing with my chest up and my shoulders back and down, with the bar racked high on my chest, going across my delts but not touching them. Then I read in Starting Strength that the bar should be resting on the delts at the beginning of the press. So, I've tried to adjust my shoulders so the bar rests on the delts, which means rotating them forward and up. (To clarify, at first my shoulders were more like the bench press position, back and down. Now, they're closer to the clean rack position, up and forward.)

With my shoulders up and forward, I do feel like the lift hits my shoulders more - but my lift feels weaker and a bit more awkward. If this is the correct form, I'm fine with a temporary setback in weight. But I'm not positive it is correct.

So, how should my shoulders be in the overhead press - back and down, or up and forward. Or, in other words, with ideal form, should the bar begin resting on the delts, or can it begin on the upper chest, with shoulders back. I know this is a detail (perhaps I shouldn't worry so much). But I'm practicing the overhead lift OFTEN, so I want to make sure I get the form down perfect. Thanks!
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Old 10-13-2009, 01:59 PM   #2
Scott Dyck
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Re: Overhead Press Question (shoulder position)

On the delts, not leaning back.
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Old 10-13-2009, 02:03 PM   #3
Matt Haxmeier
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Re: Overhead Press Question (shoulder position)

I think if your elbows are slightly in front of the bar as they should be then your shoulder position would naturally fix itself. Where are your elbows? Behind the bar?
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Old 10-13-2009, 04:06 PM   #4
Roy Dunham
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Re: Overhead Press Question (shoulder position)

Thanks for the responses. I experimented a bit more, and here's what I found. See if it makes sense...

In my original position (shoulders back), my elbows were not really in front on the bar - more like right under it. And I did lean back more (still not that much, but more than with elbows up).

I tried rotating my elbows in front of the bar, as suggested, and that did put the bar on my delts. Previously, I had tried to make the bar rest almost exclusively on my delts (similar to a clean), which I think raised my shoulders too much. When I just focused on putting my elbows in front of the bar, the bar still rested on my chest, but it also was resting against my delts. In this position, I didn't really lean back at all, and the bar nearly scraped my chin. I assume this is the correct position.

I still felt like the second position was a little weaker than the first. But my bench press has always been pretty good. I max out at around 315 right now. My overhead press, however, has always been weak. I max out at around 175. I assume that by rolling my shoulders down and back, I made the overhead press a little more like a bench press, which is why it's easier for me. But this takes the focus off the shoulders, so it's not good form. So, I'll lighten the weight a bit, and press off my delts, with shoulders in front of the bar.

Does all this sound plausible?
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Old 10-15-2009, 09:38 AM   #5
Matt Haxmeier
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Re: Overhead Press Question (shoulder position)

Sounds right to me. Except that 175 is a pretty decent shoulder press.

Leaning back more will definitely recruit more of your bench pressing muscles making the movement easier but would not count as a shoulder press in competition.

Starting Strength has a great entire section on the shoulder press. Worthwhile reading for sure.
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