Assistance Exercises for Overhead Press

The overhead press is often referred to as the military press. If you are trying to bulk up then the overhead press is one of the exercises you should be doing consistently. However, sometimes you may need some additional work to get more out of those military presses. We look at the best assistance exercises for overhead press to help you build a bigger, sturdier press.

What Is An Overhead Press?

This is a compound weight training exercise used to build upper-body strength with a focus on the shoulders. It is also referred to as the shoulder press. The overhead press is considered one of the most difficult upper-body workouts. It can be done with a barbell, kettlebells, or dumbbells. Usually, it is done standing as this way it engages more muscle groups but can also be done while seated.

The overhead press activates the shoulder muscles best making them more muscular, bigger, and stronger. Other overhead press muscles worked include the triceps, obliques, rectus abdominis (abs), and the trapezius muscles (traps). While this press works the chest, it doesn’t do a good job. Other lifts such as the flat barbell bench press, chest press, and dumbbell bench press are better at working the chest.

So, what are some overhead press variations? Common overhead press variations include:

  • Barbell Z press
  • Double Kettlebell Overhead Press
  • Dead stop Shoulder Press
  • Shoulder press with chains

It is always a good idea to take in ingredients such as green tea extract, cayenne pepper seeds, glucomannan, vitamin B6,… to promote the fat burning process and build lean muscles.

Best Assistance Exercises for Overhead Press

Sometimes standard exercises may not help you meet all your fitness goals. Assistant training exercises are thus a great way to supplement your workout. They help increase muscle mass, body strength and improve movement imbalances. 

So, what are assistance exercises for overhead press? These are supplementary workouts you can do to be able to build a sturdier overhead press and Below are exercises you can consider. 


Dips are one of the best compound movements to train the triceps, shoulders, and chest. You get to train several muscle groups during this workout. This means it’s great for building strength and mass. You need a dip stand, dip machine, or parallel bars for this exercise. 

To do dips:

  1. Hold the parallel bars and ensure that both your arms are straight. Lean forward about 45 degrees, bend at the waist so that both legs are vertical, and raise your toes towards your shins. 
  2. Slowly flex your elbows to lower your entire body into the dip until both your upper arms are almost parallel to the floor. Your elbows should remain close to your body.
  3. Straighten your arms and go back into the starting position.
  4. Do 10 to 20 reps.


Pull-ups help build back muscle and upper-body strength. Having a stronger back and lats enables you to have a more stable position while doing the overhead press. Most people regard pull-ups as challenging but with the right set of instructions anyone from a beginner to a pro can do pull-ups. 

To perform a pull up:

  1. Stand below a pull-up bar. With your hands slightly wider than your shoulder width, hold the bars with an overhand grip. 
  2. Breathe in then breathe out. Lift your feet off the ground so that you are hanging from the pull-up bar. Then pull your belly button towards your backbone to engage your core.
  3. Pull your shoulders back and move them downwards.
  4. Flex your elbows and lift your upper body towards the bar until your chin is higher than the bar. Avoid swinging your legs as you move and ensure your shoulder blades remain back during the movement.
  5. At the top of the pull-up, breathe in then elongate your elbows, lower your body and get back into the starting position.
  6. Do 25 to 50 reps.

Dumbbell Overhead Press

The overhead dumbbell press is perfect for activating the shoulder muscles and also engages your core. Begin with light weights. After you master the movement you can switch to heavier weights. 

To do an overhead dumbbell press:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart then slightly bend your knees.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand just outside your shoulders. Your arms should be bent at the shoulders and your palms should face each other.
  3. Press the pair of dumbbells until they are over your head and your arms are straight.
  4. Pause for a few seconds then lower the weights back to the beginning position.
  5. Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Push Presses

These are great for developing pressing strength. They help build shoulder, tricep, and upper back strength. This movement uses the legs to create power. It is ideal if you wish to start lifting heavier weights

To do push presses: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place the weight across your chest about the height of your shoulders so that it rests on your clavicles. Grip the bar with your hands sightly shoulder-width apart. Your palms should face forward.
  2. Keeping the barbell at your chest and your trunk strong, bend your knees slightly. Then push through your feet and begin straightening your legs. To gain momentum, do this movement quickly.
  3. Upon reaching full hip extension, press the weight up. You will need to move your head back to allow the barbell to pass.
  4. Extend both arms overhead, keeping your trunk well aligned. Once the bar is over your head, move it back to its original position then forward.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement. Do 5 reps.

Plate Raises

This exercise is completely different from the front raise. Plate raises trains the upper back, trapezius, and the anterior and side delts.

To perform a plate press:

  1. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly flexed. 
  2. Pick up a weighted plate and hold it at the level of your chest with your elbows bent. 
  3. Push the weight outwards and lock both elbows out.
  4. Return the weight to the starting position. 
  5. Do 3 to 4 sets of about 10 to 12 reps. 


Doing the overhead press is very beneficial for gaining upper body strength especially in the shoulder region. To improve your overhead performance, you may do any of the assistance exercises. Remember to hydrate, eat proper meals and allow enough recovery time for your muscles.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!