Move of the Week: High Split Overhead Press

For our Move of the Week today, here’s a great overhead pressing variation to get your weekend started!

THE MOVE: High Split Overhead Press

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Vertical push: shoulders and core.

WHY DO IT: One of the biggest mistakes I see during almost any overhead pressing variation is the tendency to compensate by hyperextending through the lower back to finish off the lift. More experienced lifters can get away with this, as they have enough core strength to buffer against using their back muscles and passive restraints excessively. However, I’m willing to bet that they don’t do this regularly, and only save that technique for the last few reps of an intense set.

Most of us are not this lucky, and save for a sore back, we won’t have much to show for overhead pressing this way. Hyperextending the lower back compromises the neutral core positioning that gives us the most stability to press with. Perhaps you lack the mobility to bring you arms completely overhead into 180 degrees of shoulder flexion, in which case, something like the half-kneeling landmine press would be a better fit right now. Or, it could be a simple lack of strength that’s causing you to arch your back excessively during the overhead press.

This is where the high split overhead press comes in. In the high split position, elevating and dorsiflexing the front foot locks the torso in place to enhance core stability. This position also moves your center of mass forward a bit; not so much that you’re leaning forward, but enough that it becomes very difficult to arch the back when you perform the overhead press. In this position, it is almost like it would be easier to just push through a sticking point in your lift by using the strength in your shoulders rather than your back–and that’s exactly the point!

The high split position is also great because it forces the hips to hinge independently of one another. The down-leg hip is in full extension, while the up-leg hip is basically in full flexion. I would not be surprised if lifting in this position contributes to better stability in single-leg exercises and movements like lunges and sprints, too.

HOW TO DO IT: Set up the bench so that the seat and backing are both angled. Place one foot up on the bench and straighten out the down leg. Squeeze your down-leg glute to fully extend the down-leg hip and create a stable high split position. This will make bracing your core easier. While keeping your ribs down, press the dumbbells up overhead. Think about pushing the dumbbells away from the floor, which will help you stay grounded.

Simple enough, right? I would include this for 3-4 sets of 6 reps/side in the latter half of a training session. You can also do this exercise with kettlebells instead of dumbbells. If you are an experienced lifter who has done every overhead pressing variation in the book, doing this with a barbell for a new training effect isn’t a bad idea either.

It is important to put yourself into the proper positions to lift heavy safely and effectively, and the high split does just that as far as the overhead press is concerned. Try this out for yourself and let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.