The Military Press vs The Overhead Press: Which is the Best Option for You?

Updated: Jul 2


the-military-press-vs-the-overhead-press

When it comes to the military press vs overhead press, there are a few things that you need to know in order to make the best decision for your workout routine. Both exercises are great for building muscle and strength, but they have different benefits that may be more important to you depending on your priorities. In this blog post, we will discuss the significant differences between these two exercises along with which one is the best option for you!


Before we dive in: check out our full-body training program to develop a strong body and aesthetic physique; you will benefit from one of our programs. We designed a program that gives you the tools to build muscle with an easy-to-follow routine that will fit any schedule. To find out more:


The Military Press

The military press is a great exercise for overall upper body development. This exercise primarily works the shoulders, but it also targets the triceps, chest, and upper back. The history of the military press dates back to the early 1900s when it was used by military personnel to test their strength and fitness. To this day, the military press is still a popular exercise amongst military personnel and gym-goers alike.


Performing the Military Press

To do the military press:

  • Start by standing with your feet close together and a barbell in front of your chest, hands shoulder-width apart.

  • Inhale and tighten your core before you begin the press.

  • Exhale as you press the barbell overhead, extending your arms fully.

  • Inhale at the top of the movement and then lower the barbell back to the starting position.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Miltary Press Common Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes people make when doing the military press is over arching their back. This puts unnecessary stress on your spine and can lead to injury. Another mistake people make is bouncing the barbell off their chest in an attempt to get momentum going. This not only takes away from the effectiveness of the exercise, but it can also be dangerous. Always lower the barbell under control and press it up with slow, steady movements.


The Overhead Press

The overhead press is a compound exercise that primarily works the shoulders, but it also engages the triceps, chest, and upper back muscles. The overhead press is a great exercise for overall upper body development and strength. Unlike the military press, the overhead press is performed with a wider base and your feet should be shoulder-width apart.


Performing the Overhead Press

To do the overhead press:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.

  • Take a deep breath and tighten your core muscles.

  • Next, bring the barbell up to your chest with your palms facing forward and your elbows close to your body.

  • From here, press the barbell overhead while exhaling and extending your arms until they are fully locked out.

  • Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.

  • Inhale at the top of the press and then lower the barbell back down to your chest.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Overhead Press Common Mistakes

A common mistake is not bringing the head forward into neutral alignment with the body after pressing the weight overhead. This can put undue stress on your cervical spine and lead to injury. Another mistake is flaring the elbows out to the sides instead of keeping them close to your body. Always keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement to avoid injury

What is the main difference between the military press and the overhead press?

The primary difference between the two exercises is the stance used while performing the movement. The military press is done with the feet close together and the overhead press is done with the feet shoulder-width apart. This drastically affects the muscles worked during the exercise. With a more narrow stance, the military press forces you to use more of the stabilizer muscles in your shoulders and core. Balance is also more difficult to maintain, which increases the challenge of the military press. On the other hand, a shoulder-width stance is much easier to balance and places less stress on the stabilizer muscles. This makes the overhead press a better option for beginners because more on their chest and triceps.


Which exercise is better for building muscle and strength?

It depends on your fitness goals. If you're looking to build more muscle and strength overall, then the military press is the better option. this is due to the fact that it puts more stress on the muscles and requires more stabilization. However, if you're looking to focus more on the chest and triceps, then the overhead press is a better option. Keep in mind that the core and stabilizer muscles are still worked during the overhead press, just to a lesser extent.


What equipment do I need?

For both the military press and the overhead press, all you need is a barbell and a weight plate. You can also use dumbbells or an EZ curl bar if you don't have access to a barbell.



Variations

Here are variations of the military press and overhead press that you can try to mix things up:


Variation #1: Dumbbell military press

This variation is performed with two dumbbells instead of a barbell.


To perform the dumbbell military press:

Start by standing with your feet close together and a slight bend in your knees.

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward and your elbows close to your body.

  • Take a deep breath and tighten your core muscles.

  • From here, press the dumbbells overhead while exhaling and extending your arms until they are fully locked out.

  • Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.

  • Inhale at the top of the press and then lower the dumbbells back down to your sides.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Variation #2: Seated Overhead Press

This variation is performed with a barbell while seated on a bench or chair.


To perform the seated overhead press:

  • Start by sitting on a bench or chair with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.

  • Hold the barbell in front of you with your palms facing forward and your elbows close to your body.

  • Take a deep breath and tighten your core muscles.

  • From here, press the barbell overhead while exhaling and extending your arms until they are fully locked out.

  • Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.

  • Inhale at the top of the press and then lower the barbell back down to your chest.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Variation #3: Dumbbell Overhead Press

This variation is performed with two dumbbells while standing.


To perform the dumbbell overhead press:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level with your palms facing forward and your elbows close to your body.

  • Take a deep breath and tighten your core muscles.

  • From here, press the dumbbells overhead while exhaling and extending your arms until they are fully locked out.

  • Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.

  • Inhale at the top of the press and then lower the dumbbells back down to your shoulders.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Variation #4: shoulder Press Machine

The shoulder press machine is a great exercise for overall upper body development. This exercise primarily works the shoulders, but it also targets the triceps, chest, and upper back. A shoulder press machine is a great option for those who want to focus on their shoulders without having to worry about balancing a barbell. Beginners may also find the shoulder press machine to be a more comfortable option.


Performing the Shoulder Press Machine:

  • Start by sitting in the machine with your back against the pad and your feet flat on the floor.

  • Grasp the handles of the machine and press them overhead, extending your arms until they are fully locked out.

  • Inhale at the top of the press and then lower the handles back to the starting position.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Shoulder Press Machine Common Mistakes

One common mistake people make when doing this exercise is bouncing the weight off their chest in an attempt to get momentum going. This takes away from the effectiveness of the exercise and can also be dangerous. Another mistake is flaring the elbows out to the sides instead of keeping them close to your body. Always keep your core engaged and your back against the pad throughout the movement to avoid injury.



Alternative Exercises


Alternative #1: The Arnold Press

The Arnold press is a great exercise for overall upper body development. This exercise primarily works the shoulders, but it also targets the triceps, chest, and upper back. The Arnold shoulder press gets its name from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was known for performing this exercise with great success.


To do the Arnold Press:

  • Start by sitting on a bench with dumbbells held up to your chest and palms facing inwards.

  • From here, press the dumbbells overhead while exhaling and turning your palms to face forwards.

  • Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.

  • Inhale at the top of the press and then lower the dumbbells back down to your chest.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Alternative #2: Push Press

The push press is an excellent exercise for overall upper body development. This exercise primarily works the shoulders, but it also targets the triceps, chest, and upper back. The push press is similar to the military press but with a few key differences.


To do the Push Press:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.

  • Hold a barbell at shoulder level with your palms facing forward and your elbows close to your body.

  • Take a deep breath and tighten your core muscles.

  • From here, press the barbell overhead while exhaling and extending your arms until they are fully locked out.

  • As you press the barbell overhead, use the momentum from your lower body to help drive the weight up.

  • Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.

  • Inhale at the top of the press and then lower the barbell back down to your shoulders.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Alternative #3: Dumbbell Front Raise

The dumbbell front raise is a great exercise for overall upper body development. This exercise primarily works the shoulders, but it also targets the triceps, chest, and upper back. The dumbbell front raise is a great exercise for beginners because it is relatively easy to perform.


To do the Dumbbell Front Raise:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, raise the dumbbells in front of you until they are at shoulder level.

  • Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement.

  • Inhale at the top of the raise and then lower the dumbbells back down to your thighs.

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Summary

In conclusion, the military press is a great exercise for overall body development. This exercise works similar muscles to the overhead press but it better targets the core and stabilizer muscles. this is because the closer stance of the military press forces the lifter to use more core muscles to stay upright. The military press is also a great exercise for beginners because it is relatively easy to perform. However, the overhead press is a great alternative for those who are looking to focus more on their upper body development. Whichever exercise you choose, be sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the movement to avoid injury.


For a complete routine, check out our full-body training program to develop a strong body and aesthetic physique; you will benefit from one of our programs. We designed a program that gives you the tools to build muscle with an easy-to-follow routine that will fit any schedule. To find out more:


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