No two exercises are created equal and how each is performed means everything. We’re not talking about proper form, as that should go without saying. This is more about where the weight is in reference to your body and what that does for the muscle group(s) you’re working by doing it.
Overhead exercises are used for various body parts and there are some that hit the muscle in a certain way that no other movements can. So it makes total sense to give your workout routine the once over and see if you are getting the most out of it.
If you’re going to bust your ass in the gym, it would suck if some of that either was redundant or ignoring a particular part of a muscle. Here are six exercises to keep in mind that are done with the weight lifted overhead:
1 – SEATED OVERHEAD TRICEPS PRESSES
You can do these either with one dumbbell and both hands with your fingers crisscrossed or bilaterally with a single arm at a time. You are hitting the long triceps head with either one but get a better stretch with the latter, which also means that you have to use approximately half the weight as the former.
When it comes to the long head, you need to perform overhead triceps exercises to target it. If you leave these out of your routine, then you’ll just be working the other two heads (lateral and medial).
2 – SEATED EZ BAR OVERHEAD TRICEPS EXTENSIONS
An important aspect of doing the overhead movements for triceps properly is to try and keep your elbows tucked in as much as possible. With the two-hand dumbbell exercise above, there’s a tendency to have them flare out. So a good way to keep the form stricter is by using an EZ bar with a slightly wider grip.
3 – STANDING OVERHEAD LOWER CABLE ROPE EXTENSIONS
This exercise is a lot like the above one but has a few interesting differences. Your stabilizer muscles become engaged by standing and the rope allows you to hit the triceps from a different angle while opening the two ends up over your head.
4 – SEATED BEHIND-THE-NECK SHOULDER PRESSES
You can do these with either a barbell or dumbbells and both have their respective advantages. The barbell is more stable and can assist your weaker side, if you will, with the stronger one. When you use a set of dumbbells, each arm is on its own and you have to compensate if one side is markedly weaker than the other. And if one of the gym ‘geniuses’ suggest to use a lighter weight on that side, dismiss that notion right away and ask him or her to get the fuck away from you.
Another positive aspect of using dumbbells is the longer range of motion you can do by going passed the parallel mark of your shoulders.
The same goes for performing these in the front, military press style, as opposed to behind the neck. Both will work your shoulders well, with the rear delts being hit harder behind the neck.
5 – STANDING BARBELL MILITARY PRESSES
Just like the above, this can also pertain to behind-the-neck. But we’ll speak a little bit about military presses since they are more commonly done standing.
When you do this exercise, you’ll engage the secondary muscles (triceps, biceps) even more than while seated, as well as the front and middle delts. Another plus here is the balancing, core and stabilizer muscles being taxed to control the weight as you press it overhead.
6 – OVERHEAD SQUATS
Not the safest exercise out there but one that we wanted to mention since it has become so popular with the CrossFit crowd. So if you’re going to delve into this one, at least understand what you should be doing and how to do it right.
This is more of a full body movement than the regular old fashioned squat, aka the King of Exercises, which is a leg exercise. Because it has so many moving parts and leaves you in a very awkward position, this can be a recipe for disaster and should not even be contemplated unless you’re an advanced lifter.
Your core muscles come into play here, but that will not help the pressure that you are putting on your spine, though. You have to make sure that you are aligned properly and not on a bad angle or else you will be off balance before you even start.
Use a weight that your shoulders can handle and keep it under control throughout the entire rep. If you can’t, then drop the weight a little. You also need to lock your elbows, which kind of goes against everything that you were taught in the gym. Such is life in the CrossFit world. If your elbows begin to bend, then the weight will tilt forward and throw your entire body off balance.
You want the weight to go straight up over your head and not swing forwards or backwards at all. A spotter can help you on this part. Go down as far as you can but don’t be overly concerned with ass-to-grass just yet. This is a totally new animal and you have to take baby steps.