Training

How To Fix Dizziness During The Overhead Press

February 16th 2020

Have you ever felt dizzy during the overhead press?

Lightheaded during and/or after the overhead press.

You are not alone.

Especially when you are pressing movements overhead.

Today, we will go over why you might be feeling dizzy during/after the overhead press and some remedies you could do in order to fix that:

Dizzy Overhead Press

These are the following reasons why you might be feeling dizzy during and after the overhead press:

 

  • You are handling heavy weights
  • You did not eat/hydrate enough
  • You have poor breathing technique
  • Technique issues with your bar placement and grip
  • You have tight neck muscles

 

You are handling heavy weights…

If you are lifting your warmup weights and feel no pressure in your head.

No dizziness, no lightheadedness doing up to your working set.

Then, once it is heavy enough for you, you feel lightheaded.

Congratulations, there is nothing wrong with you!

Your body has reached a temporary limit to what it can handle.

Given that your form and technique are flawless, of course.

So, here is a short video to recap to make sure you have all the proper techniques and cues for an efficient overhead press.

A few important tips from the video but you should definitely review it in your own time as well:

I did not cover everything in the video (so, you should definitely take a quick look at it)

  • Straight, strong wrists
  • Shoulder width grip
  • Elbows are slightly in front of the barbell (from a side view)
  • Big breath before you press
  • Straight bar path

Is heavy weight going to always cause you to feel dizzy?

Not necessarily.

But it depends on you.

Dizziness and lightheadedness should decrease over time.

But if you find that not much is changing, or your dizziness actually increases with the same weights.

You will definitely need to keep troubleshooting your overhead press.

You did not eat enough

If you do not properly fuel your body prior to a workout, you could expect to feel some sort of lightheadedness whenever you force yourself to lift weights.

This happened a few times to me personally.

While training fasted or 6 hours after my last meal, I feel that my energy just ran out.

As a result, my training does suffer a bit but I still need to get my working sets done at least.

If you need a bigger break or more water, definitely accommodate yourself. 

Solution 1 - Eat something somewhat closer to your workout time

That way, your body has immediate fuels to reach out to.

Solution 2 - Intraworkout carbs

Ever see your favorite lifters eat candy during their workouts?

Though candy might not be the best choice, it is readily available and can provide your body with immediate glucose to fuel your high intensity workout

Solution 3 - Manage your symptoms

If nothing above worked, take a macro snapshot of your yearly training.

Has your dizziness stayed constant or did it actually decrease slowly after time?

If your dizziness is manageable and is less distracting over time, you should have nothing to worry about.

Though it is not ideal, you are dealing with intense weights that could crush you if you did not have proper form. 

You have poor breathing technique

You should be taking your inhales and exhales at the top of the lift, both arms extending out.

You will have contrasting opinions on the internet about the following:

  • Breathing in during the descent
  • Breathing in at the bottom of the lift (starting position)
  • Breathing out while pressing up
  • Not taking a big breath before you start 

You get the idea, just not following the inhales and exhales at the top of the lift.

Common Complaint - Holding your breath throughout the entire lift will increase your blood pressure, that is why you feel dizzy

Here we go again with the internet garbage.

Here is an article written by a doctor about performing the Valsalva movement during heavy strength training.

In the end, if you want to best protect your internal organs and spine, you will need to a deep breath and brace hard.

This should not make you dizzy but if it does, it is a necessary evil in order to lift heavy weights as safely as you can.

There are thousands of Olympic level athletes that hold their breath throughout their snatches, clean and jerks, accessories, and do you see them collapsing?

The same does for Strongman and powerlifters - in order to get strong, we need to brace hard to best protect ourselves.

Solution 1 - Fix your form

Make sure to watch the video posted above. 

That should nail down the basics of how to overhead press correctly.

Most importantly, take a deep breath so that you can brace properly.

Shallow breaths here will do nothing to help press heavy weights over your head.

Solution 2 - Catch your breath and hydrate

After a heavy set, make sure you take it easy and take in your deep breaths.

No shallow breathing.

Take in breaths after your press as if you life depends on it.

Then, reach out to me if this does not solve your issue.

Solution 3 - Stop holding your breath too long

You should know your lung capacity.

If you do not, you may find yourself on Youtube while everyone laughs at you.

Right before you exert yourself past the point you could hold your breath, you should reset your breath and take in a new one.

That way, you minimize the risk of you falling on your face and blacking out.

This might be referred to as vasovagal syncope, when your body overreacts and you want to faint.

If your body faints and you have a blackout, you release all the tension from your body and can breathe normally again.

This is a subconscious defense mechanism to make sure your brain does not die and can get a steady supply of oxygen when you temporarily cut it out doing the Valsalva technique. 

 

Solution 4 - Advanced technique for unracking (may have mixed results)

I have seen this technique and tried it myself a few times.

It was not effective so I stuck to the regular big breath to unrack and just go straight into pressing.

However, some experienced lifters may find that after they take a big breath to unrack the bar, they should also exhale a bit while still maintaining tension in the body.

Then, they inhale again and tighten their entire body and start the press.

So, this is a 2 part breathing technique that has mixed results since it is difficult to say how much you should exhale after unracking

  • Exhale too little, you will exhaust yourself
  • Exhale too much, you lose too much tension in your body and you put your back at risk

Use this as a last resort but even then, you should look at other ways to manage your dizziness.

Technique issues with your bar position and grip

Self-explanatory here.

You are compressing certain parts of your throat and neck, which makes it difficult for you to breathe.

And if you cannot breathe, you will feel dizzy.

Solution 1 - Fix your form.

Again, refer back to the video above on how to overhead press correctly.

Until you have the most optimal form possible, keep working on it

You have tight neck muscles

You might be prone to headaches, migraines, and dizziness even before you start overhead pressing.

And when you perform good technique, it makes your dizziness even worse.

Unfortunately, this may be a slow process to get yourself back to normal but at least you can have something to look forward to.

Solution 1 - Movement, relaxing + light stretches

A Theracane is good to get in deep into your neck.

Hot packs is good.

Oils and cream that creates heat and cools down later is good.

You also need to do some light stretches for your neck so that you can regain some mobility.

In addition to all of that, make sure to keep moving your neck.

Make sure you have perfect posture - your tailbone, mid-back and the back of your head should be able to make contact with a straight all.

Conclusion

And there you have it.

Hopefully, you are getting less and less dizzy each workout.

I barely get dizzy during my overhead press

But you must know that you are responsible for your health.

If you are experiencing dizzy symptoms during a heavy overhead press set, know that the following situations might describe you:

  • These symptoms are ways that your body is telling you that something needs to be addressed
  • Your overhead press set is heavy and you are doing a good job training your body to handle heavier loads

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