Is It Hard To Overhead Press Your Bodyweight?

overhead press
August 11, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “is it hard to overhead press your bodyweight?”. The overhead press is one of the original tests of manliness and upper body strength. 

Before the bench press became popular, the overhead press was the lift of choice for revealing how powerful your shoulders and upper body was. 

Is It Hard To Overhead Press Your Bodyweight?

Yes it is hard to overhead press your bodyweight. The vast majority of the population can’t do this and a very large number of lifters can’t either.

If you can achieve this it signals advanced shoulder strength and pressing power overhead. It is possible to achieve if you focus heavily on the overhead press and have a solid plan and commit.

Another reason why it could be almost impossible for some is that they don’t focus on it heavily enough compared with other more popular pressing movements.


Bench Press Has Replaced Overhead Press

The bench press became more popular ever since the 1950s in particular. Before then the overhead press was used as the primary gauge of brute upper body strength. Neckberg has a good article on the history of the bench – you can read it here

Due to this, many lifters focus a lot more on improving their bench press. The overhead press is often utilised rarely and as an assistance exercise. This could also explain why it is not common to see people overhead pressing their bodyweight.

Whilst a strong bench press can mean a strong overhead press, the carryover is not as simple as this. The overhead press is a technical exercise that require lots of practice. It also involves a lot more core stabilisation.

A weak core will significantly affect overhead pressing power. You need to have a strong core to be able to provide a good base for pressing heavy weights and not leaking power through losing balance. 

Importance Of Technique

Technique is always important on any exercise, but for the overhead press it is arguably even more important. There are so many ways that you can lose power through inefficient technique.

If your technique is not optimal it is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to reach a bodyweight overhead press. 

The key is to use a slightly narrow grip on the bar at around shoulder width. When you stand up with the weight after the unrack you want to keep your elbows in tight and contract the lats.

This gives you a very stable base to initiate the press. You want to lean back at the hips slightly and then press the bar overhead. Once the bar clears your head you need to drive your head through to complete the lockout.

In a lot of gyms you will see inefficient technique being used on the overhead press. Some people allow their elbows to drop too much for example. You want to keep your elbows up and in tight. 

By practicing good technique from the start you will give yourself a much better chance to make real progress over time. With the right plan and motivation you can achieve your goal to be able to overhead press your bodyweight.

Below is an impressive video of a lifter that overhead pressed 220lb for 5 reps at a bodyweight of 183lbs. His technique is good and this is very impressive! He dedicated himself to this movement.

Push Press Power

The push press is a great exercise to overload the overhead pressing muscles. It can help to overcome sticking points with the strict overhead press.

Ultimately, improving your push press can help you to improve your strict overhead press. The push press is where you incorporate leg drive when initiating the press overhead.

By getting used to heavier weights with the push press you will find that your core becomes stronger and you are accustomed to handling heavier weights. This will mean that the lighter weights in the strict overhead press will feel easier. 

All in all, the push press is a great movement to gain additional strength on the overhead press. If you program it in well you will find that your overhead press will get stronger over time. 

Real Life Case Study

Now I am going to talk about a real life case study. This case study is of Reddit user MythicalStrength. His username is very apt for he was able to achieve a 196lb bodyweight overhead press for 10 reps! 

This is amazing pressing power and he did it using an axle bar. He is a strongman competitor and before that was a powerlifter. MythicalStrength attributes his strength to running Deep Water program for 18 weeks.

He believes in volume work being able to intensify the intensity work down the line. Many lifters run into brick walls because they constantly push heavy weights. By doing lots of volume work with lighter weights you will build more muscle mass which will then translate into more strength later on in the intensity phase.

To use his words “the greater the accumulation, the greater the intensification effect”. This is something that I believe could apply to all exercises. If you are in a plateau on a movement try this out, lighten the load and work through a long period of high volume training.

Come back later on and then go through a strength phase where you use heavy weights again. You will find that you will break through the plateau and have more strength. You have to also ensure that you are eating well and feeding the muscles with quality nutrients. 

Below is the video of his incredible overhead pressing feat. It took him 3 years of training specifically for this to do this.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, in this article I have answered the question “is it hard to overhead press your bodyweight?”. 

It is hard and is considered a mark of advanced shoulder and upper body strength. You also need to have good core stability. For many people it is very hard as they don’t dedicate the same amount of time and effort on this movement as other pressing exercises.

If you overhead press with very good technique and adopt a good training program with solid volume work and an intensity phase, you will improve your overhead pressing strength over time and eventually achieve your goal of a bodyweight overhead press.

It isn’t easy, but nothing in life worth achieving ever comes easy! Even if you don’t achieve a bodyweight overhead press, you will certainly be a lot stronger than where you started.

If you have any questions about anything I have written in this article, please leave me a comment below.

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> RELATED: How to get big shoulders

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