T Nation

Overhead Pressing for Shoulder Size?


#1

I have read many articles and seen a lot of lifters doing some sort of over head pressing for shoulders. It may be silly to ask,but what part of the shoulders do they target and make bigger? For example,if a lifter is doing front raises(bench pressing works the anterior deltoid also),lateral raises(rowing and other things work this as well),and rear delt raises,the 3 heads of the shoulder are worked.

Throw in pullups and rows and the shoulders and upper back get worked...Where does over head pressing come in? Or is it even necessary if doing incline bech work on chest day? Upper chest deltoid tie in? I want to be able to use the mind muscle connection with this. Thanks. Confusion


#2

Theres still some debate whether OHP can positively impact bench but im a believer in it, I prefer to do seated barbell overhead for sets of 5-12. I have one day where I bench and one part of my accessory work is doing rear delt flies. Then later that week OHP and do lots of sets of front and side raises. But to answer your question, I’d just say do it, see what it does for you, give it time to impact your training.

If you are just training for size and strength there is no reason to leave it out, I’ve built some pretty large shoulders by OHP and raises and thats mainly it.


#3

It is always good to work muscles in a variety of planes of motion. Doing OHP obviously is different than doing any of the other shoulder exercises you mentioned. With that however is the fact that about 1/3 of people have an acromion type that makes overhead work quite risky for impingement. If you can do it safely, then do it.

Personally, I do more dumbbell OHP than barbell as it allows a more neutral grip, lessening the risk of impingement. As to what cparker said above, I have never gotten anything for my bench from OHP, but I do benefit from incline.


#4

I favor overhead dumbbell presses for direct shoulder work. For heavy dumbbell pressing, sitting on a backed bench helps stabilize lower back. You will feel these.


#5

I’ve heard many people who I respect say similar things, that if you’re benching enough your front delts get hit just fine. I agree to some extent, but would always keep some type of delt pressing in anyway, usually with DBs in an arcing motion to get more out of the movement.

In terms of building big shoulder though, I still believe that at least for bodybuilders and people aiming for an asthetic and symmetrical physique, that lateral work contributes much much more to a wider, capped appearance. As my own training evolved, I realized the whole “press first so you can move more weight” advice was just not a good idea for someone who didn’t really care how much they could lift.

My pressing work was always done last, after I had already directly toasted my side and posterior delt heads. I am thoroughly convinced that my shoulders as a whole (in physical appearance) got much more out of this approach.

S


#6

I feel that lately, on these boards, that pressing overhead gets shoved to the sidelines in lieu of lateral and rear raises. I Just feel that for those who can do a press variation safely, they should. They work and build all-round delt size. That is not to say that they should be prioritized. I just feel that a, program devoid of pressing overhead completely is lacking somewhat (barring injury).

Of course you can take multiple approaches including it whether you chase numbers and strength or put it last as a movement such as Stu it doesn’t really matter. I just think that leaving it out entirely is unwise. I know that pressing has increased delt size and upper body strength too much, for me personally, to ever leave them out entirely.


#7

[quote]cparker wrote:
Theres still some debate whether OHP can positively impact bench but im a believer in it…[/quote]

As am I.

N=1, but I took an 18 month hiatus from all horizontal pressing. Maybe as a finisher once every 3 months, I’d do a burn-out set on a seated machine press, but that’s it. During that time, using 531, I took my OHP from 135 to 225.

After a year and a half, I warmed up on bench and hit 285 for a single which was a 40lb PR for me at the time.


#8

[quote]Iron_Made wrote:
I feel that lately, on these boards, that pressing overhead gets shoved to the sidelines in lieu of lateral and rear raises. [/quote]

Really? I feel it’s all anyone talks about, and it gets mentioned as the cure-all for most issues, whether it be a weak bench or lagging delts. It seems even most PL’ers programs have a whole day dedicated to it now.

Not saying that’s bad or anything, but I feel it’s the ‘golden lift’ right now in strength sports lol


#9

Obviously no one is saying that front presses don’t have benefit, but I don’t think I would say that the feelings on this board lean one way (if indeed they do) without reason.

I’ve noticed that there seems to be a noticeable difference in age of the average TNer compared to say the average forum member on Bodybuilding . com. That says something to me (that, and I abandoned that site’s forums years ago when I got shouted at by a couple of 16 year old kids who knew it all from reading the internet, dismising my well intentioned help despite my own contest history and background and their complete lack of any development at all - lol). Obviously time in the gym doesn’t equate knowledge, but there are a good number of posters on this site that I respect their opinions quite a bit.

I know that in my own experience, I bought into the whole “lift big / eat big / compounds first so you move as much weight as possible” approach for years, and came nowhere near the physique I would develope when I started thinking for myself and deeply examining what I was actually trying to do with each decision in the gym or in the kitchen.

I have no doubt that some people can do nothing more than heavy shoulder presses and have boulder shoulders. Of course I wholeheartedly believe that more often than not, this isn’t the case.

S


#10

Depending on your style and structure, the effectiveness of the overhead press as a shoulder builder can go either way. The worse your mobility, the less carryover you’ll see for the bench.


#11

I know that for me, personally, dropping the OHP and just doing millions of raises made my shoulders look way better and feel a lot less injured.

I’m a very delt dominant presser so my anterior delts take a pummelling anyway, and all OHP ever did was pummel my anterior delts further.

There’s probably some lucky dudes who can build full, capped delts just from pressing (bastards!), but I’m not one of them.

I do quite like a high incline press in the Smith after all my raises are done.


#12

Good stuff guys. Thanks for the help


#13

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:

[quote]cparker wrote:
Theres still some debate whether OHP can positively impact bench but im a believer in it…[/quote]

As am I.

N=1, but I took an 18 month hiatus from all horizontal pressing. Maybe as a finisher once every 3 months, I’d do a burn-out set on a seated machine press, but that’s it. During that time, using 531, I took my OHP from 135 to 225.

After a year and a half, I warmed up on bench and hit 285 for a single which was a 40lb PR for me at the time.
[/quote]

Not trying to start a pissing match, here, just genuinely curious…

Did your body weight change during this time?

The fact that your bench went up absent any dedicated work on it is still a plus, but I question whether the increase was really all that surprising given that your OHP went up by 66% of its starting point. Hence my question about the body weight. I wonder if your results are:

  1. “working hard on OHP increased my bench press more than I would have achieved by actually benching”

vs.

  1. “I got significantly bigger and stronger overall over an 18-month period - without bench pressing - and then I could bench press more weight at the end of that time frame”

#14

[quote]ActivitiesGuy wrote:
Not trying to start a pissing match, here, just genuinely curious…

Did your body weight change during this time?

The fact that your bench went up absent any dedicated work on it is still a plus, but I question whether the increase was really all that surprising given that your OHP went up by 66% of its starting point. Hence my question about the body weight. I wonder if your results are:

  1. “working hard on OHP increased my bench press more than I would have achieved by actually benching”

vs.

  1. “I got significantly bigger and stronger overall over an 18-month period - without bench pressing - and then I could bench press more weight at the end of that time frame”[/quote]

Number 2 without a doubt. I would hope that 18 months dedicated to benching would have elicited a greater increase in my 1RM.

I chimed in because I thought it was fairly rare for someone to stop all horizontal pressing for a significant period of time and focus on the OHP, then come back and test a max on the BP.

Perhaps not surprising from a more experienced lifter’s perspective, but I was pleasantly surprised.


#15

For what its worth my focus is on strongman and I stopped flat benching altogether in July of 2014. I do overhead work twice a week, strict press and log c&p with incline bench and dips as assistance. My shoulder are noticeably bigger and definitely healthier.


#16

I like OHP because 1) it feels awesome to press heavy weight over your head and 2) it’s the only barbell “strength lift” I can do at the moment. For delt development, I would prefer machine presses at the end of a training session full of lots of sets of lateral and rear delt raises and partials (a la John Meadows “hang and swings”).

The lateral and posterior heads are generally under-stimulated by compound movements, and these are what contribute the most (IMO) to the appearance of upper body width (lateral head when viewed from the front) and thickness (posterior head when viewed from the side). I don’t think most people can develop these heads optimally without direct isolation work.

The other big thing that contributes a lot to looking wide and thick is (ironically) losing weight. Delts are notorious for their tendency to disappear over a certain bf%. Or at least mine are.


#17

Dr Pangloss,I take it you’re a fan of Voltaire. I am too. The world is exactly as it should be…lol. ty for your input,I was quite suprised at your results. This is exactly the sort of info that can help all of us . Confusion


#18

steelnation,aha. I like this. I have noticed also that lateral raises seem to be the only thing that widens my shoulders. Many of my buds,do very little direct shoulder work,thinking that the shoulders are involved indirectly in a lot of other exercises,which of course is true. I hate the weightloss idea,becuz,I hate the idea of weightloss.lol. I am sure you’re right tho. Confusion


#19

[quote]Yogi wrote:
I know that for me, personally, dropping the OHP and just doing millions of raises made my shoulders look way better and feel a lot less injured.

I’m a very delt dominant presser so my anterior delts take a pummelling anyway, and all OHP ever did was pummel my anterior delts further.

There’s probably some lucky dudes who can build full, capped delts just from pressing (bastards!), but I’m not one of them.

I do quite like a high incline press in the Smith after all my raises are done.[/quote]

yogi,do you notice if this has a carry over effect to your upper chest? Mine needs lots of work


#20

I found over the last year that if i include an overhead variation my delts do appear much fuller and rounder overall, however ive never gone crazy with overhead pressing, just a few sets once a week seems to do the trick!