How Hard Do You Squeeze Your Glutes During Overhead Presses

April 21st 2019

Are you tensing up your glutes during the overhead press? Do you get glute cramps as a result? Is this normal? During the overhead press, your entire body should be braced and tensed up prior to unracking the weight. This ensures that your body is in the safest position to press weight over your head. It is obvious that we need to brace our core. Take in a deep breath and create as much intraabdominal pressure as we can. But what about our glutes? Should we flex them as hard as we can?

Why you need to flex your glutes during the overhead press

Flexing your glutes during the overhead press can have many benefits to help you improve your max:


  • Reduces your tendency to lean back
  • Reduces lower back pressure
  • Stabilizes your pelvis


Reduces your tendency to lean back

In a standing overhead press, lifters want to lean back in order to press the weight. There are several explanations for this. If you lean forward, you cannot press the weight since you will fall flat on your face. If you try to maintain a neutral position, your abs may not be strong enough to handle a certain amount of weight. As a result, your body will want to compensate by leaning back a little so that the weight can be in a good position to not fall forward.

Some lifters take this to the extreme and lean very far back, which puts an excessive amount of pressure on your lumbar spine. There is a good chance that when you brace your abs, you are protecting your mid-back. But it is the lower back that cannot get stabilized by just bracing your abs.

So, by flexing your glutes, you remove a lot of unwanted lumbar pressure. This forces your body to be more upright, which is the ideal starting position for the overhead press. Though this forces your body to activate more muscles to protect your joints, it is the safest position to start your overhead press.

Do not forget, your spine has a natural curve to it. While many strength coaches advise keeping your spine straight or neutral, there can be a small bend in your lumbar region naturally. Flexing your glutes and bracing your abs will help you achieve this position in the most efficient way possible.

Reduces lower back pressure on your spine

Flexing your glutes will help lower the pressure placed on your lower back when doing overhead presses. If you just brace your abs, you will notice that your lower back and downward is loose. Depending on your job and posture, you may want to hyperextend your lower back in order to have a more “stable” position for your overhead press. This is not good form.

In addition to bracing your abs, flex your glutes as hard as you can prior to starting the overhead press. You should feel like a stone pillar and the only way to knock you over is like a domino. You should not be able to wiggle free like a worm; you need to be as tight as you can be during the overhead press.

Stabilizes your pelvis

Another important point to have a monster overhead press is to have a stable pelvis. This means that your posture is good, having no anterior or posterior pelvic tilt when you are standing up. Anterior pelvic tilt will create a donald duck butt while a posterior pelvic tilt will create a pink panther butt. Neither hip alignment is healthy for an effective overhead press and it is important that lifters continue to work on improving your posture in order to limit injuries.

Anterior pelvic tilt is more common in today’s world with the rise of desk jobs. This makes our glutes weak which does not help your lower backs. To compound this problem, many Instagram models also try to perk their butts up in order to get a few more thousand likes. In reality, all of this will lead to poor posture that will need to be corrected later on.

By flexing your glutes, you are stabilizing your hips and putting them in a strong position to do overhead presses.

Lower back pain from flexing glutes during overhead presses?

Flexing your glutes will prevent your lower back from hyperextending when you do the overhead press. At the same time, you need to also brace and flex your abs as well in order to maintain a stable spine position.

Glute pain from overhead presses

Glute pain is uncommon to have during overhead presses. To stabilize your lower back, your glutes must be flexed in order to straighten your lower back. This should not put any excessive pressure on your glutes. If your glutes are weak or untrained, you may experience some soreness after flexing them for a certain period of time.

If glute plain continues to linger while you flex them, this could be a warning to a different condition. Nowadays, many people have desk jobs which require them to sit for long periods of time. This can irritate certain nerves that run through your glutes and force you into a bad postural position if you are not walking more and stretching your lower body. Sitting down for a long period of time can also cause glutes to become inactive, which means it will take us longer to get them warmed up.

I flex everything during the overhead press, now I am stalled out

The overhead press is identified as one of the more challenging lifts to increase. Many gym bros boast about the achievements of a 135lbs overhead press. For a casual lifter, this can be enough. For strongman, they need to press hundreds of pounds overhead. So, a 135lbs overhead press needs to be improved if you are competing in strongman competitions.

Many general strength training programs include the overhead press since this is one of the Big 4 movements that can lead to overall strength gain. As a powerlifter, it is up to your exercise preference since the overhead press is not tested during competition. As a result, many elite lifters opt to not train it as a main movement but as an accessory for the bench press.


You should be squeezing and flexing your glutes as hard as you can during the overhead press. It is one of the best cues in order to activate your entire lower body kinetic chain to have a stable and strong base. The overhead press is not the exercise you should take lightly; it takes hard work and consistent effort in order to really push past your limits.

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