How to use the overhead press and push press to build broader, wider shoulders

The Push Press Guide (for Size)

The overhead press is the best lift for building bigger, broader shoulders. It’s also fantastic for your triceps, for your posture, and for your core, making it one of the best all-around bulking lifts.

There are a couple different ways to do an overhead press, though. There’s the classic “strict” press, where you start the barbell of on your chest and muscle it up with your shoulders. Then there’s the push press, where you drive into the barbell with both your legs and shoulders. This allows you to lift heavier weights, improve the strength curve, and ultimately build more muscle.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • How to bulk up your shoulders and triceps with the push press.
  • Push press accessories, such as the strict press and dumbbell press.
  • Push press assistance lifts, such as lateral raises and upright rows.

This article is bulking: It will grow and change over time. Occasionally we’ll trim off some fat. This isn’t meant to be the final word.

In a not-so-distant future, you’ll need to go through doorways sideways.

The Argument for the Push Press

The classic overhead press is a great lift for developing the shoulders, triceps, and even the upper back. However, it has some problems, too. The strength curve isn’t great for muscle growth, with most people struggling a great deal at a specific height (often at forehead height) and then blasting through the rest of the lift no problem. That means that you’re only getting a good amount of mechanical tension during a tiny portion of the lift.

We can fix that strength curve by making the lift more explosive, though. If you use some leg drive to throw the bar up—a push press—then you can blast through the sticking point and struggle through the rest of the lift, which is absolutely perfect for developing your shoulders.

Plus, you’ll get to use a heavier weight, which is going to allow you to stimulate a bit of extra muscle growth as you lower the weight back down afterwards.

The push press also becomes our explosive lift that helps to develop power and athleticism. This allows it to fill a role similar to how the power clean is used in many general strength program (such as Starting Strength). The push press, however, is far better for developing muscle size and strength than the clean is. (Although I’m not sure how it compares for developing power.)

About Shane Duquette

W. Shane Duquette, BDes, is a science communicator with a degree in design and visual communication from York University. He co-founded Bony to Beastly and Bony to Bombshell, where he specializes in helping ectomorphs, hardgainers, and skinny-fat people bulk up.

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6 Comments

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    […] Press: The overhead press is a great lift, but the push press is even better. I’m writing up a full article on why the push press is better here, but long story short, it has a better strength curve. It allows our shoulders and triceps to […]

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    […] Push press: Jeff used the landmine press […]

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    […] push press / overhead press hybrid is our favourite lift for developing the shoulders, and it’s great for your triceps as […]

  5. […] Push presses which develop the shoulders, upper back, upper chest, and triceps. […]

  6. […] can see above. They’ll grow the quickest when you combine heavy compound movements (such as the push press) with some shoulder isolation lifts (such as the lateral […]

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