Without over generalizing too much, most things that taste good to our pallet, either food or drink related, are not going to be good for us in terms of their health and nutrition benefits. Water is one healthy drink option that isn’t going to set your taste buds tingling, but there’s simply no escaping its critical to your health. With the human body consisting of approximately 60-70% body weight from water it’s easy to see why it’s so vitally important to stay hydrated at all times.
Display your strength and prowess by executing one of the classic bodybuilding maneuvers, the overhead press. In the days of old, lifters would act out spectacles of might. Viewers watched in awe as hefty loads were thrusted overhead, hence the name overhead press.
This guide will cover the basics of an overhead press and how to begin doing it.
Before we begin this lecture I must point out that there are known variations of the overhead press. Some simply differ in name whilst others differ in overall technique. The most common instances of the overhead press are Military Press, Seated Shoulder Press, Seated Military Press, and Push Press.
In essence the main differences among the various overhead presses are whether you’re sitting or standing and whether the legs are involved or not. For example in the Push Press the lifter utilizes a slight burst in lower leg strength to assist in getting the bar up overhead.
We will be focusing on the traditional Overhead Press. This movement is great for building upper body strength as well as helping to stabilize the core and build a solid muscular structure. By maintaining as strict as form possible, the lifter will thrust the weight upward in a straight line , lock out at the top, and return to the starting position, all with a minimal amount of lower body push.
The Benefits of the Overhead Press
Learning to press a significant amount of weight overhead can be a very beneficial experience both physically and mentally. It is a compound lift and will require the lifter to engage all the muscles in the body. Each time you load the bar with plates and execute your lift ,you can expect . . .
Gains in Size and Strength—You will be amazed at how strong you get and how this strength carries through to many other lifts. By working the overhead press, your body works together to lift and stabilize the weight overhead.
Improvements in Flexibility— With strict form, you improve your flexibility in your wrists and shoulders. This improved flexibility can carry over into other lifts like the clean-and-press or even the front squat.
Better Posture—With strict form not only will your strength increase in your upper body, but the strength that is built up in your core and stabilizer muscles assists in your posture. Better Posture increases your overall confidence and boosts your self image.
Standing Tall with the Overhead Press
Pressing weight overhead can be tricky and in some cases rather scary. However, the rewards and joy that come from achieving it bring forth a powerful feeling of accomplishment. When approaching the overhead press for the first time many people want to try a seated version or even resort to using the smith machine. I highly advise to stay away from both.
The reasons I feel most people are afraid of any pressing movement is the lack of control and possibility of being stuck under the weight. In some cases, this could apply, but with the proper equipment and setup, those fears can be eliminated.
As a word of condolence from someone that has gotten stuck in an overhead press, its not that scary. In most cases, all you have to do is drop the weight and be aware of where it is falling. If you press upwards and feel yourself going back you know your form is off but you also can save the lift by slightly stepping. Or in an extreme case just letting go and moving your body forward out of the path of the falling weight.
Once you conquer your fears in any lift whether it be the overhead press—or even—the squat you can accomplish anything.
A Lesson in Overhead Press Form
As I stated before, learning to overhead press can be rather freaky. It shouldn’t be. Taking the time to learn and develop your technique for this movement is critical. The overhead press is great in building impressive shoulders and upper body strength.
This lesson will cover the proper form used for a strict overhead press.
The items we will need in order to complete our overhead press will be a barbell and a power rack.
Note: Smith machines are great inventions and have their purpose. However they are not beneficial for us during this workout. The overhead press on a smith machine does not allow the stabilization muscles to engage. Always press with free weights.
Overhead Press Setup
The press can begin either in a power rack or on the floor. As a beginner it is much easier to un-rack the weight in the proper position, than to clean the weight from the floor. As you advance this is a great way to add some dynamic to your lift.
Note: for taller lifters or shorter power racks adjust the j-hooks so they are in the front of the rack allowing you to lift free of any obstructions.
Approach the barbell in the power rack and grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
With a firm grip, dip under the bar and allow it to rest on your front deltoids.
With your elbows pointing forward and slightly upwards, press the weight up with your legs and take a step back from the rack.
With your feet together or a little narrower than shoulder distance apart, tighten your core, legs, and upper back to stabilize the weight and form the proper base to push off of.
Squeezing the glutes is a great way to keep all of the muscles engaged.
Your head should be in a neutral position, chest up and tight, back slightly arched, stabilization muscles engaged, and your elbows pointing forward, not down.
The elbows point forward which gives the body a “platform” to push from. With the elbows pointing down strength and stability are lost. You can press lighter weights this way, as the load increases the lift will become more difficult.
At this point you should look like a statue. Firm, solid, and ready to press the weight high above your head!
Beginning to Overhead Press
With the proper setup in place you are ready to begin the overhead press. Remember to keep your back and core tight. You need a solid base while pressing the weight overhead.
Standing tall and strong take a deep breath, hold, and begin by pressing the weight upwards.
The goal is to keep the bar in as straight of a line as possible.
The bar will be moving up and in a straight path we want to keep the weight as close to the body as possible but we also want to avoid hitting ourselves in the chin, in order to do so we will need to move our head back a little bit.
Once the weight has cleared the chin and is moving upwards past your nose or bodies will need to begin to shift to compensate for the path that the bar is traveling. In order to do so we must begin to bring our chest forward.
As we fully extend our arms overhead, our bodies should be directly underneath the bar.
Head looking forward, arms extended and locked out, elbows slightly flared, back moderately arched, feet solid and together firmly planted on the floor. You have successfully completed the first part of the overhead press.
Releasing your breath, control the weight back down. Reset to the starting position and prepare yourself for your next lift.
Keep in mind that you had to slightly adjust the position of your body to get the bar above your head, so you will need to reverse that path as the bar descends back down to your shoulder shelf.
Viola! You just completed your first overhead press. You should feel proud of yourself. This is such an amazing accomplishment.
If you get stuck don’t worry. Keep on trying. Remember to keep focus on your form.
As a resource a great video on learning the overhead press is the video Standing Military Press by Testosterone Nation.
The grandaddy of all lifts, squats. If you are not squatting, you are totally missing out big time. The squat is one of the most important exercises you can do. Along with working your legs, squats engage the whole body. Learning to squat is essential when beginning any training program.
This guide will cover the basics of a squat and how to begin doing them.
First and foremost, I would like to explain that there are three variations to the actual squat itself. All very useful yet, different in their own rights. The three squats are the olympic squat (high bar), low bar back squat, and front squat.
Each of the three squats has different variables which affect how they are performed. The obvious difference between the front squat and the other two back squats would be placement on the back or placement on the shoulders. And the main difference between the olympic squat and the low bar back squat would be the placement on the back.
As in the diagram, the bar position of the squat determines the angle of the back and the overall geometry of the movement. The positioning of the hips and knees changes, but one thing that remains the same is that the bar travels in a straight up and down vertical path, balanced over the middle of the foot.
The variation of the squat we will focus on is the low bar back squat. The reason we will focus on the low bar back squat is because this particular form will allow the most weight to be used.
The Benefits of the Squat
Squats require the use of every muscle in the body. The back and arms hold the weight, your core stabilizes the body, and the legs drive the squat back up from the bottom position. Each time you load the bar and get underneath it you can expect . . .
Gains in Size and Strength—There is no doubt you will be getting stronger. You’re putting your body under a heavy load it is not used to and you’re calling for all the various muscle groups to work together. Stronger squats means the ability to gain more muscle.
Improvements in Flexibility—In order to squat, you need to have some degree of flexibility and mobility in your joints and ligaments. Squats help to improve this over time, proving that lifting weights will not make you stiff and rigid.
Better Posture—Perfecting form will not only help with increasing your strength it will also help in your posture. Many of our daily functions are in a chair at a desk. With proper form, our muscles will become stronger and more stable; thus helping to reduce any posture infractions as well as carry over into a healthier life.
Common Squat Myths and Misconceptions
Many gym goers and lifters of old commonly reference the squat as being the culprit responsible for their now shotty knees as well as aches and pains. Improper form in any exercise will lead to aches, pains, and serious injuries. The squat is not responsible, the lifter is responsible.
Your knee joint is strongest in a fully flexed/extended position, not in-between. Partial squats only strengthen your quads. All full range of motion squat will work your entire leg including your glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Always squat with proper form and always squat to proper depth. Partial squats and limited ranges of motion do have their place. However, they are for more advanced lifters and are in place for specific reasonings. Your efforts should always be to squat to depths of parallel or below.
Squatting incorrectly and performing partial squats repeatedly will result in muscle imbalances and probable cause for injuries.
Proof is in the pudding, it’s not called the deep knee bend for nothing.
Children and babies sit in a squat position time and time again without any problems. Just because we lose this ability over time does not mean deep squats are wrong, it just means we have work harder at regaining the flexibility we once had.
Weightlifters, powerlifters, and even some bodybuilders squat to much lower depths than parallel with much heavier weights. Compared to any other sport weightlifting has a lower rate of injury overall.
Avoiding injuries while squatting can be very simple. Use common sense. Practice proper form. Always use a power rack. When you are just learning to squat this can be your saving grace. There is nothing like getting too tired to push back up and just dropping the weight on a safety bar as opposed to being stuck with a couple pounds on your back.
A Lesson In Squat Form
Learning to squat can be very intimidating. It shouldn’t be, however. There are very few people that do it correctly and very few people who will take the time to show someone how the proper squat should be performed. And since there seems to be such a misconception as to what a squat really is, it can get rather confusing.
This lesson will cover the proper form used for a low bar back squat.
The items we will need in order to complete our squats will be a barbell and a power rack.
I cannot advocate enough the importance of proper form. Learning to squat correctly without any weight will instill the correct motor patterns in our body and will assist in our efforts.
Note: Smith machines are great inventions and have their purpose. However they are not beneficial for us during this workout. Squatting on a smith machine puts the body in a fixed path and does not allow the stabilization muscles to engage. Always squat with free weights.
Many things will come into play while squatting, so start squats with the proper setup.
Approach the barbell in the power rack and dip underneath it.
Position the bar low on your back just above the bump in your shoulder blades.
With as narrow a grip as you can manage, set your chest by adding a slight arch in the back.
Squeeze your upper back muscles together and keep your back tight at all times.
This will allow for a stable upper body and will help to hold the heavy loads as you progress.
Keep your head in line with your body and find an area on the floor or wall just in front of you. Focus on that.
If possible avoid squatting in front of a mirror, rely on the feeling. Focusing on the mirror enables you to become dependent and can actually throw you off.
Plant your feet firmly underneath you, slightly wider than shoulder width. Press up from your legs, not your back. You have now unracked the weight.
Take one step directly back with your foot and the follow with the other foot.
If you step back and your feet are not slightly wider than shoulder width you can make a slight correction with your second step by making one small step out, putting your feet in the optimal squatting position.
Standing firmly with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your toes pointed no more than 45 degrees from the body, your are now set up and ready to squat.
Beginning to Squat
With the proper setup in place you are ready to squat. Remember to keep your back and core tight. You need a solid base while squatting and your core is it.
Take a deep breath and hold it, causing your abdominal muscles to tighten.
Begin the movement by performing hip break.
Hip break is when you engage the hip muscles and push the glutes back.
Keeping tension in your muscles slowly bend at the knees pushing the hips backward and keeping the hamstrings tight.
Do not be afraid to fall. It will feel awkward at first. Keep going with the movement. With proper form you will not fall backwards.
As you lower the weight aim, to keep your knees out and tracking in line with your foot. The outside of your quad should line up with the outside of your foot.
A good way to always ensure this happens is to envision spreading the floor apart with your feet you want to get the pressure to the outside of your foot where you are most stable.
Go parallel or below. Your hip joints need to be lower than your knee. Over time you will be able to judge the proper depth. It will help if you can get a training partner to give you subtle cues.
At the bottom of the squat, you will be in what’s called the hole. With your breath still held and your muscles tight, squeeze your glutes and drive back up from the hips.
Never let your shoulders lead. That is the incorrect way to squat. Power comes from the ground up and the hip is your delivery point. Your shoulders and upper body will follow-suit naturally. Imagine someone pressing their finger into your lower back as you push against it. This will help to teach the proper pattern your body should follow as you return to the top.
Drive upwards, slowly releasing the air until you reach midway, then exhale to force the rest of the air out as you reach the top.
Lock out the movement with a deep squeeze of the glutes.
Take a big breath and repeat.
There you have it. You just learned how to do your first squat. And you’re well on your way to building some serious size and strength.
It took me many attempts to learn to squat and with much research and trial and error I figured it out. Once you get the proper form, squatting is very rewarding and fun.
As a resource some great videos on learning the low bar back squat are Mark Rippetoe’s “Fixing the Squat: Hip Drive” and “Candito Training “How To Low Bar Squat”.
Mark Rippetoe: Fixing the Squat: Hip Drive
http://youtu.be/yha2XAc2qu8 How To Low Bar Squat
You would think that breathing would be second nature and there really shouldn’t be much thought put into it. Breathing is something that our bodies will do naturally. As a child it is easy for us to breathe properly, however as we age our lives fill with stress and our brains begin to become flooded. The over abundance of activity tends to become too much and can block us from having the ability to slow our role and focus on critical areas that enable us to progress.
Learning How To Breathe Properly Is Like Riding A Bike
We have all heard the age old expression “It’s just like riding a bike”. Meaning somethings we learn come easy and even without practice we can accomplish the task at hand. Reconnecting with ourselves and making an adjustment in the way we breathe is as easy as riding a bike. Like I stated earlier as a child taking a breath was no problem. We did it well and we did it correctly. Our lungs filled with air that was pulled deep from our diaphragm. Now that we have aged our breaths have become shallow and our air is pulled from our esophagus.
If we can take the time to slow our minds down for a short period of time each day we can re-train ourselves to use the diaphragm. Once we re-learn how to breathe. Yes, I said re-learn, we can apply that to lifting weights.
The Benefits of Learning To Breathe Properly
It would be safe to assume that there are numerous benefits from learning how to breathe properly (bold). More than one can possibly list. I know what I have experienced since my refresher course in breathing is a reduction in stress but more importantly the ability to focus my intentions as I lift. My main purpose with this article is to discuss how proper breath can increase ones potential when lifting weights.
As a lifter we want to get better at our chosen sport. Wether it be bodybuilding, weightlifting, crossfit or power lifting. And in most cases if your a serious athlete you will train and train to get better. Our good fundamentals are drilled in by constant repetition. Sometimes though we may forget to breathe. Let me stress this before I move on, breathing may be different based upon what lifts are happening and at what rate but understanding the proper procedure will allow us to adapt to the circumstances.
Having said all that I feel the main benefits of learning to breathe properly when lifting weights is that we will be able to perform at our full potential.
How Can We Learn To Breathe Properly
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. The way we learn is different for each of us. Either way it’s essential we figure it out. My lessons in breath came from my participation in Golden Breath American Tai Chi . Unlike traditional systems where the focus is on balance, the focus of Golden Breath is to connect our breathing with our movements. The way we were taught to breathe from the diaphragm was to use a counting method. By counting slowly to 4 while inhaling and counting to 4 while exhaling the bodies movements were able to slow down and match the flow our air.
Many of us may already be familiar with this counting method. If your a bodybuilder you may know it as rep tempo. Our tempos can range but I have found that a 4 count is pretty easy for most and gives enough time for a full breath of fresh air. There are many videos and articles on the net that explain diaphragmatic breathing. In the video below I feel that the instructor gives a pretty good explanation on proper breathing.
In all honestly it is a pretty simple process. It just takes constant attention until it becomes second nature again. Each time you lift make sure you are taking your breath from your diaphragm and slow your role. Sometimes our routines call for fast explosive movements. And that is fine but in most cases if we can take the time to control the form and control the breath in the end we may have a better outcome.
The more you do it the easier it will become. So practice your breathing like your practice your lifting. Learn how to breathe properly when lifting weights and increase your potential.