MBS April Fitness Challenge: The Overhead Press

The Fitness Challenge


Last month, we focused on a vertical pulling movement (the humble, yet often corrupted chin-up). This month we’re going to focus on its counterpart: The Overhead Press. While there are lots of ways to press (seated, standing, kneeling), and lots of implements you can use (barbells, kettlebells, sandbags), we’re going to settle on a single arm dumbbell overhead press from an offset standing position (means the foot on the unloaded side is slightly ahead of the loaded side).


Because it’s a truly challenging version worthy of the MBS Fitness Challenge! It will not only force your deltoids and their immediate stabilizing muscles to do solid work, but done right, it will light up and engage your entire core while quickly giving you feedback on any strength disparities between your dominant and non-dominant sides. So, if you can overhead press 20 pounds on your left side, but only 15 on your right side, or if your trunk and core get fatigued easily or are simply too weak to hold the finish position, you’ve got problems, bub! But this challenge will help you get things straight.


Your goal is to get 5 clean, smooth, controlled reps on each side. A session with a Personal Trainer is the best way to ensure you achieve correct form but referencing the pics below for guidance can be helpful as well…
<img src=“image.jpg” alt=“woman demonstrating how to perform an overhead press”>
Proper Form for Overhead Press
Now, before we get started, we’re assuming you have no injuries, pain, or mobility issues, and you can raise both arms overhead without dropping the head or chin forward, creating a straight line from hands to elbows to shoulders to hips to knees to ankles without any deviation along the line. If you can do that, then we should be good to go… if not, please speak to your doctor before attempting this challenge. And, as always, we do highly recommend working with a Personal Trainer if you are new to fitness.


1. Grab a dumbbell in your non-dominant arm (Not a bad idea to start with a load that’s equal to about 10 percent of your bodyweight).
2. Assume your split stance
3. Bring the dumbbell to our start position at shoulder height in whatever position feels most comfortable (neutral grip, or palms facing away from you).
4. Maintain a tall/neutral posture and slowly and smoothly press the weight overhead- just short of full lockout, while keeping the rest of your body stable (shoulders and hips stay ‘flat’ and neutral), and without using your opposite arm to brace externally or anywhere on your body.
5. Once you hit the top position, pause for a half-second before slowly lowering the weight back to the start.
Working with 10 percent of your body weight shouldn’t be so bad. The challenge then, is working your way up the percentage charts with an initial goal by the end of the month of working with 20 to 25 percent of bodyweight. That means if you’re a 200 pound dude, you’ll be pushing a 50 lb. dumbbell overhead in a slow, controlled manner for 5 reps on each side. If that’s easy, keep working your way up to 30 percent and beyond. And if you hit 50 percent, make sure to send us video or pictures!
Good luck!
MBS Personal Trainer and Author of this Blog Post, Tom Trevino
MBS Personal Trainer Tom Treviño. Read his bio here.