What is the Overhead Press?

man hanging on steel bar exercising for obesity prevention


The overhead press (also called shoulder press or military press) is a compound upper body exercise that targets the shoulders by pressing weight overhead.


  • From a racked position at the collarbone, press the weight directly upwards while engaging the core until arms are extended fully overhead.
  • Lower the weight in a controlled manner back down to shoulder level. Keep wrists neutral and avoid leaning back.
  • The overhead press develops shoulder strength and stability in a full range of motion. Use moderate weight for reps.
  • Variations include barbell, dumbbell, seated, standing, push press, and Arnold press overhead presses.


  • Barbell overhead press
  • Seated dumbbell shoulder press
  • Push press with explosiveness

Related Terms

  • Delts, traps, triceps, compound lift

Common Questions

  • What muscles does overhead press work? Front and side deltoids, upper traps, triceps, serratus anterior.
  • Is overhead press good for shoulders? Yes, when performed with proper form it strengthens the shoulders through a full range of motion.

Do Not Confuse With

  • Upright rows – Also works shoulders but with elbows raising higher.
  • Bench press – Horizontal press that hits chest as prime mover instead.
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