Stronger Press by Avoiding This...
Before reading this article:
The objective isn’t to “hate on form” or be “the form police”. It’s to help you lift more, reduce your risk of injury & increase your longevity in lifting!
As always my door is always open to questions if you have any after reading.
The Overhead Press (OHP) also known as ‘Military Press’, ‘Shoulder Press’ and just ‘Press’ is a great compound movement that challenges the shoulders like no other…BUT like most compound movements it requires education on how to perform it safely and efficiently.
Fun Fact: The OHP used to be one of the three main lifts within Powerlifting instead of Bench Press. The reason the Bench Press replaced the OHP is because as time went on it became harder to judge what would class as a good lift in accordance with the technique rules due to people shooting their hips forward and arching their back to help generate momentum.
There are many variations of the overhead press of which I’ll get into towards the end of this blog post, but today I’m going to be talking about a ‘Staggered Stance’ *shown in the image below*.
Of the many variations of the OHP, I do not think a staggered stance should have a place within training sessions UNLESS the staggered stance is alternated (left foot forward & right foot back or left foot back & right foot forward) but most of the time from what I’ve seen in the gym personally or online, the stance is not alternated by the individual(s); and even if a person is alternating between the two I believe there are better and more effective variations.
"Why you shouldn't stagger your stance?"
An Asymmetrical Pelvis Can Affect Your Shoulders.
The Intrinsics that make up your Biomechanics (muscular, skeletal and nervous systems) is one integrated system, meaning your pelvis and shoulders are biomechanically linked. There are multiple myofascial slings that link the body from one side to the other diagonally, for example the hamstrings: The start of this connection is at the back/either side of the shin bone and it runs up the back of your femur, into the back of the pelvis, across the lower back, through the lats and lastly they then insert into the shoulder blade & humerus…if you need to pick your jaw up from the floor, don’t worry I had to do that too when I found this out.
So now that you know that, let’s visualise the asymmetrical pelvis which would affect the myofascial sling example used above, of which could cause a compensation not only within the spine but also into the shoulders and then (typically heavily) loading it repetitively.
The most common reason for people stagger their stance is to help with stability, that being said it doesn’t help with force production: this means you could be lifting more. Think about a squat or a deadlift and now altering your position to a staggered stance and how that will affect how much you can now lift, it isn’t that different when it comes to an OHP. Another good example is if I was to get you to jump as high as you possibly could…would you use a staggered stance or have your feet placed evenly? There’s a reason jumping lunges are harder than squat jumps.
Centre of Gravity.
You will have more efficient technique and be able to get more reps out if you finish the OHP rep with the centre of gravity being from the barbell/dumbbells down to the mid foot having your joints stacked/locked out. By staggering your stance you lose the use of both glutes to help stabilise at the hips.
Which is another helpful tip within itself: using your glutes in an OHP can help you lift more, if you’ve not tried it yet clench your glutes as if you’re trying to snatch a £50 note whilst simultaneously keeping your midline braced to prevent an arch early on in the lift.
Easier to Sustain a Back Injury.
You pelvis should move independently a great example of this is in this video:
When the pelvis doesn’t move independently typically this causes a posterior tilt, anterior tilt or hitching. If you always press from the same side, you’ll always be loading that rotation within the pelvis and your sacrum has to rotate which also rotates the lower lumbar discs in your spine (you can see this happen again in the video shown above).
There are a lot of these variations such as the push press, press from pins, Arnold press, single arm Arnold press from a lunge, push jerk, split jerk, split stance press, split stance push press and I’m sure there’s more but I’m sure you get the point but these are what I would consider better variations to try depending on your goal.
If you train to be better at the Snatch and Clean & Jerk (Weightlifting) then you'll be wanting to implement variations like push jerks, split jerks, jerk from split stance, OHP from a split stance, sots press, snatch balance etc.
If you want to get stronger/bigger then I would recommend the: OHP, push press, arnold press, kneeling single arm arnold press, Z press, press from pins, viking press, log (if you have access to it)...i'd even recommend a machine shoulder press over a staggered stance OHP :')
This once again would depend on your goal and current programming. I personally have two upper body sessions per week so I'll do a mixture of OHP, push press & Arnold press on my heavy days but then kneeling single arm Arnold press, Z press and standing dumbbell OHP for reps on my lighter days for reps.
To lift more, for longer and reduce your risk of injury: don't stagger your stance :)
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