T Nation

Overhead Press: Bad or Good?


Hi Guys, having read many articles on T-Nation about the Overhead Press being the BEST to the WORST exercise you can do for your shoulders, I was wondering what everyone else's ideas were on the matter. Do you think it is the same with Military Press?

I have suffered from AC joint difficulties but want and know that the shoulders are both the best muscle group in terms of aesthetics but also the worst in terms of bio-mechanics.

Any thoughts?



Honestly what is the difference between a Military Press and a OHP? Is it stance? I always thought they were basically one in the same.

For years I solely performed BTN presses and seated OH DB presses and in turn have impingements in both of my shoulders, this along with poor benching form I blame totally for these issues. For the past 18 months however I do only Millies along with DB OH presses and these along with tons of shoulder mobility exercises and stretches my shoulder pain has been basically as good as its gonna get (i.e minimal discomfort).

In a total non clininal terms the MP generally IMO gives your shoulder more room to move in a natural way whereas the BTN press you are pushing your shoulder to its ROM limit.

I dont know of any article on TN that states that the OHP is bad for you, I believe there has been an article that gives certain mobility tests for your shoulder to see if you should do it or are ready to peform the exercise.


I also believe that your MP can benefit your bench, as well as being a good warmup for a bench day.

just my .02


Hey Matty,

Great speedy reply, I think the difference between MP and OHP is only when you perform the ex standing . Seated they are the same. The difference is in the name: Military: standing with heels together (like to attention) and pushing the bar up with no drive from hips. Im pretty sure that with this in mind its makes the MP a gliding bodybuilding ex and the OHP an explosive strength ex.

I read the article you posted, it was the one that got me thinking. Then I read another.

Below is the link to the article I had read stating that both will wreck havoc in the shoulder joints and RC.


What you think?



I disagree, I cant understand how a Military Press could be seated, kind of loses its meaning, I dont think you could ever be at attention seated...but maybe thats just semantics.

While you are correct in stating that there is no leg drive in a MP, an OHP maybe just a generalized term of any standing press. An explosive over head press would be a Push Press where you are using leg drive. I know of many people who switch to these types of presses as it can be easier on the shoulders.

But then again, I consider myself more of a PLer who does adopt some BB movements. While it is not included in the PL meets some feds have a strength meet where a MP is included, which I plan to enter in eventually.

If bodybuilding is your goal, and you have the aforementioned joint issues, I dont think the MP or OHP has to be a mainstay...I would think you can use other alternatives for the same effect. But take my opinion with a grain of salt because Im not a bodybuilder, but I like to hangout in the thread lol!

anyways good luck


OHP and MP are basically the same thing. MP your heels are together and OHP they are not. There is no leg drive in either one. An OHP with leg drive is called a push press.IMO OHP is good and not dangerous but BTN press should be done with caution especially considering your shoulder problems.




if i was restricted to only 1 upperbody push - it would be ohp


So very, very good.

Now, to be fair, I fully believe in my heart of hearts that heavy BTN presses are a trap and bad news just waiting to happen, but that's also just my opinion.


Jesus christ. who gives a shit what the name is.

Do whatever allows you to progress fastest. This means a combo of what feels best, what feels most natural, what you enjoy most, and what allows you to avoid injury.

When I used to train my shoulder directly I really liked doing push presses with minimal leg drive. And standing pin presses every now and then. For me, sitting down, either hurt my back or I would slide off the chair. In general, I dont think doing seated presses with a 90 degree chair is a good idea at all, 75 degrees is a good angle IMO, but I simply enjoyed doing that stuff standing so that's what I did.

p.s. I think doing a standing press with your feet together is about as dumb as it gets when it comes to efficient lifting. I dont care what the bodybuilding textbook from 1947 says. In fact I cant see how having your feet directly under your shoulders, regardless of how wide they are, is an efficient set up. A split stance works best IMO.


Do what feels most natural. Everybody´s different and as a result someone on here can give you brilliant advice for themselves, but awful for you.

how do you feel when you press overhead? do you feel any impingement doing dumbbell presses vs barbell? seated vs standing? BHNP vs in front?

These are things you need to figure out. Personally BHNP feel horrible and unnatural for me, but that doesn't mean that everyone would feel the same, i´m sure there´s guys out there who´ve done them for the past 10 years and feel great.

The reason you get conflicting info from various articles is exactly because of this, everyone´s experiences are different, be it with a client or personal, you´re going to have to just go through the motions and see how you feel. And keep a log, at least then you'll know what worked and what didn't.


I'd marry the OHP


I think this pretty much wraps this thread up.


Curious-- do you not train them directly any more? Injury?


Na, no injury. They just grow quickly compared to my arms and such, and Im still trying to fill in my upper chest more. I usually do some stuff for the medial delt but I havent for 4 months because of baseball and my delts are still my best body part.

I do lateral raises every now and again but I dont do any shoulder pressing anymore. Id rather save the wear and tear for stuff that focuses more on pecs.


Bah, pure envy over here, my delts are my worst bodypart. Worst part is, I've never seen anyone start with shitty shoulders and eventually turn them into a stand out bodypart.


I actually dont like OHPing im not sure if ill ever do it again


As I have gotten older and have slowly stopped doing the exercises that HURT, presses from the clavicles to arms length over the back of my head are still in my routine.


It's so weird... Standing OHP kills my shoulders after 2 or 3 sets, as in intense pain moments after, whether I go down to my chest, or chin level (I've had people check me form, they say it seems good), Yet, seated OHP is probably my favorite lift, and perfectly hits my anterior and medial delts. I always here standing is better for your shoulder, but doesn't seem like that to me.

Point of the story: Do what works for you


I also have shoulder problems (tore my rotator cuff a few years back and I always feel that I need to take special care when performing shoulder work)

Some tips: Personally, I find that the least aggravating movement for my shoulders is standing shoulder press with limited leg movement. Holding slightly narrower is very key for me to reduce the impact on my shoulder joint (I hold just inside shoulder width). I see sooo many people holding super wide (not a good idea in my opinion, for shoulder health - you want to hit the muscle not the joint). Secondly, I hold my thumb under the bar, not wrapped around the bar. If you dont do both of these when OHP, give it a try and hopefully you will feel reduced strain on the shoulder joint. If this doesn't work for you, then try out different grips and hand positions until you find what feels the best for your shoulders.

good luck!



Thanks for posting a link to that shoulder article - I may well give it a try and see how the shoulders respond