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In a quest to be innovative, personal trainers have devised several new exercises using various equipment. These include things like Bosu ball squats and stability ball bench presses. I think nearly all of these exercises are useless if you are training to build strength and gain muscle size. Time and time again the old-school exercises defeat the new exercises. There are various reasons for this, which I won't get into right now, but if you need evidence then simply observe the physiques of those who train with these exercises.
The point is that even though these new exercises are ineffective, they have caught-on in some circles simply because they are new. This is not so terrible in itself, but many of these new exercises seem to have pushed the classic exercises from the gym entirely. One such classic exercise is the overhead press. Now, the overhead press has always been somewhat of an endangered animal due to the huge popularity of the bench press, but now it is nearly extinct in most gyms. So it is time for a reintroduction to this classic mass builder.
As mentioned, the bench press is by far the most popular variation of the press, likely due to its activation of the pectorals. However, if you have become too bench press obsessed in your programming you have likely seen a stagnation in your strength and size gains. One of the best ways to get your bench press moving again is to increase your strength in the overhead press. By focusing on the overhead press the deltoids, triceps, and traps will all get stronger and bigger, which will translate to a bigger bench press. I highly recommend that most trainees forego the bench press altogether for at least 2 months out of the year to focus on the overhead press. Don't worry about your bench press strength, it will be much better when you return to it.
There are a variety of ways that overhead presses can be done. The first obvious choice is whether to use dumbbells or a barbell. You can then choose to be seated or standing. For now we are going to focus on the standing barbell variations as these will usually give you the best results.
Standing Front Overhead Press
This is the classic version of the overhead press, with the bar in front of the head at the collarbones. The bar is pressed overhead until the arms are straight. The end position is with the bar directly over the head, even with the ears.
Standing Behind-the-Neck Overhead Press
This variation is the same as the Front Overhead Press, except that the bar starts resting on the traps, just as you would for a high-bar back squat. From this position the bar is pressed overhead and then returned to the traps.
Standing Bradford Press
The Bradford Press is a combination of the Front and Behind-the-Neck Presses. The starting position is the same as the Front Press. From this position the bar is pressed to a position just higher than the head and then brought down onto the traps. From the upper back the bar is pressed as in the Behind-the-Neck Press, but only to a level slightly above the head and then brought back to the front of the body. This is one rep.
The Push Press is a variation on the Front and Behind-the-Neck Presses, although it is most often performed with the bar in front of the head as in the Front Press. From this position the motion of the arms is the same as in the Front Press. The only difference is that the movement is initiated with a slight bend in the knees followed by an explosive extension of the knees. This brings the leg muscles into play which will allow you to use more weight.
Use one or more of these overhead pressing variations in your training program instead of the bench press. If you do I know you will be ecstatic with the strength and muscle gains you experience.