Why Am I Shaking During The Overhead Press

April 23rd 2019

Find out if why you are shaking during the overhead press is normal or not. In a strict overhead press, you picture a no movement. The barbell goes overhead and back down to your chest. It looks like an easy movement, right?

Unfortunately, some lifters may experience some shaking during the overhead press. Is this normal?

Shaking during the overhead press

Keep your body as tight as possible to limit any shaking during the overhead press. The shaking should decrease as you continue to practice your overhead press with perfect form.

Brace your core

When learning how to overhead press, you will need to brace your core. This will help stabilize your entire lower body.

Do not forget to tighten your glutes

In addition to tightening your core, do not forget to tense up your glutes. With only a braced core, you may have the tendency to hyperextend your lower back, which can cause you some back issues. Tensing up your glutes during the overhead press can realign your posture and create an optimal overhead press starting position.

What is my weak link in the overhead press if I shake?

Your attention to detail needs to be worked on. The overhead press is just an exercise. It is the lifter who needs to work on his or her form in order to achieve the best results. Really pay attention if you are keeping your whole body tight. Be honest.

And if you are still consistently shaking during the overhead press while tensing your body as hard as you can, you can work on including some core stabilization accessories. In many strength training programs, there is not a lot of core work that is done. It is all indirectly done through the squat and deadlift. However, if you want to continue improving on your overhead press, work on your core. You do not need to isolate the individual muscles but you can do lift-specific core movements.

For example, you can hold the last rep of your last set of overhead presses and really tense your core as hard as you can. Once your body begins to shake, you can slowly and carefully lower the weight. Another functional movement is doing weighted planks or weighted back extensions but hold your body parallel to the ground.

Shaking goes away with practice

Ultimately, you can be doing everything right. You have tensed up your entire body. Core is tight. Glutes are being squeezed. You learned how to breathe properly during the overhead press. But you are still shaking.

There is nothing wrong with that and with heavy weights, your body may shake in order to recruit more muscle units to help you press the weight overhead. This is your body’s natural response when faced with a physical challenge.

If you are wondering if you have a weak link in your overhead press because you shake a lot during your working sets, know that it is fine initially and your body is being adjusted to the weight. With more repetitions, you will notice that the shaking will subside and that you may only shake when you lift very close to your one rep max. Many lifters have noticed this trend. Even for myself, my neck may start oscillating side to side and my upper body may tremble. Does that mean it happens on every high-intensity set? No, but it does happen sometimes. There will also be some high-intensity sets where I do not shake at all.

Why are my legs shaking during the overhead press?

If your legs are shaking during the overhead press, you may not be tight enough. Check your form and see that you are tensed throughout the entire lift. If you are still shaking, you are also probably lifting close to your 1 rep max, maybe 90-95%.

From my research done on my lifters, I have noticed that a lot of lifters commenting that they are not squeezing their glutes as tight as they can when doing a very heavy overhead press. For all your overhead press sets, you need to treat it like a max effort lift. Brace everything and keep your body tense. There should be no soft or weak links anywhere. Only then, you can really practice how to do overhead presses with great form

My whole body is shaking during the overhead press

You are not tight enough. If you are feeling wobbly and want to bend at certain parts of your body, you are not tight enough. Keep your chest up. Brace your abs. Flex your glutes. Take a deep breath. Flex your quads. Screw your feet into the ground. These are just some of the common cues in order to ensure a proper overhead press.

Once you nail down the basics, you can begin to practice great form. You will notice that your body will shake less and less as you implement these technique cues.

Practice your overhead press

I often see many lifters complain about how difficult the overhead press is. Whether they are shaking during the overhead press or not, a bigger issue is that they stall. They cannot seem to make gains during the overhead press. They do make a valid point in one area - some lifters love to point out that the overhead press will be the slowest lift to make gains on since you are targetting the smallest muscles in your body. Because these upper body muscles are small, you cannot make gains as quickly as a lower body lift.

These are just excuses and you can let them ruin your life if you want. If you truly want to make progress with your overhead press, you will need to start pressing more. I have not seen a lifter who just stumbled into overhead pressing 225lbs. Or strongman athletes who just think overhead pressing weight is light work for them. It will involve mental toughness. You will be tested to see if you are worthy of achieving a high overhead press.

A lot of beginner strength programs, like Greyskull LP and Starting Strength, will have alternating bench press and overhead press days. So, in two weeks, you will practice your overhead presses three times. As a beginner, this is a decent introduction to strength training. As you progress in strength, you will find out that it is difficult to increment overhead presses 5lbs each workout. You may need a different programming approach. This should prompt you to do your research and understand how to program and increase your lifting maxes at the gym.

There are some lifters who met this challenge and surpassed it. One example is a lifter who weighs about 200lbs and overhead presses 300lbs. He modified an intermediate program to fit his needs of increasing both his overhead press and bench press. This is just some motivation for the lifters who want to keep testing their strength potential.

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