The best measure of absolute pressing strength is not the bench press (please don’t tell the powerlifters) but the overhead press. Although the bench press is pretty standard among lifters, the same cannot be said for the overhead press or the many overhead press accessory exercises.

Why? You get no assistance from the bench or a spotter yelling, ‘It’s all you, bro’ while they lift the weight for you. With the overhead press, it’s your feet on the ground, hands on the barbell, and either lift it—or not. The overhead press is all you, bro, making it arguably a better test of pressing strength than the bench press.

Here we’ll dive into what’s needed for an excellent overhead press technique, and seven coaches share their favorite overhead press accessory exercises for an improved overhead press.

Muscles Used For The Basic Overhead Press Exercise

There are certain deviations in form and technique when it comes to any lift because you’re all put together differently. But there are certain non-negotiables regarding the overhead press, and they are.

  • Shoulder Mobility: If you cannot raise your arms overhead without pain or compensation from the back or anterior core, you have no business going overhead.
  • Core Stability: A common mistake with the overhead press is the overarching lower back and the protruding ribcage to lift the barbell overhead. Having good core strength will help reduce crushing your lower back to smithereens.
  • Triceps And Upper Back Strength: The final third of the lift is all triceps, and adequate triceps strength is needed to lock out your overhead press. For scapular stability, upper back strength is required to ensure a better pressing path and lockout.

This could go on a bit, but these three critical areas must be locked in before hoisting heavy weights overhead.

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Overhead Press Accessory Exercises

These seven expert coach accessory exercises will point you in the right direction when you’re looking at improving your overhead press strength and performance.