Exercises You Should Be Doing: HBT Overhead Press

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What the WHAT!?! I know what some of you may be thinking:

“Did Tony just recommend an overhead exercise?”

For all intents and purposes, I’m 100% against overhead pressing right? What the hell has happened? Has the world flipped on itself?

This is analogous to Donald Trump showcasing an ounce of humility, or Kanye West not being an asstard, or, I don’t know, the Jedi and Sith hugging it out.

There’s part truth to the statement above. I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating here:

“People need to earn the right to overhead press.”

Most (not all) people have the movement quality of a rusty crowbar. I’m not even sure that’s makes a ton of sense, but I’m rolling with it nonetheless.

Okay wait, people move like shit. That’s better.

Due to a litany of reasons – poor t-spine mobility, poor lumbo-pelvic-hip control (weak core), overly kyphotic posture (computer guy) or excessive extension (most athletes and meatheads), both of which affect our ability to upwardly rotate our scapulae, global warming – many of us have lost the capacity to move our arms over our heads (pressing or otherwise) without serious compensation patterns and increased risk of injury.

I’ve written on the topic in the past – HERE – and I’d be remiss not to mention that, because I’ve worked with overhead athletes almost extensively for the past eight years, I play the conservative card a bit more that other coaches with regards to total frequency I allow my athletes/clients overhead press.

It comes down to risk-reward.

I’m not against overhead pressing. I understand and respect it’s a fantastic way to build total body strength – particularly upper body strength. And, if we’re going to hop onto the “functional training” caravan I’d much rather see people get brutally strong with overhead pressing compared to bench pressing.1

That said it’s rare when someone walks in on day #1 and passes THIS screen which helps me ascertain whether or not overhead pressing is a good fit.

Even if it’s not, I can still include a variety overhead pressing variations that are more “shoulder friendly.”


1-Arm Landmine Press

Bottoms-Up KB Side Plank

And Even the Turkish Get-Up (<– links to article on MensHealth.com)

But lets say all systems are a go for overhead pressing. There isn’t a lengthy history of shoulder issues and the person standing in front of me demonstrates ample movement quality with limited restriction(s).

Lets overhead press our faces off.

HBT Overhead Press


Who Did I Steal It From: Dr. Joel Seedman from THIS article printed on T-Nation not too long ago.

What Does It Do: HBT = Hanging Band Training.

It’s exactly what is sounds like. You take some bands, hang some stuff off them, and do stuff. Because, science.

While at first glance it comes across as a bit gimmicky, HBT training does have a fair amount of efficacy. As Dr. Seedman explains in the article linked to above, the oscillatory characteristics of this brand of training provides a unique training stimulus that challenges stabilization, increases core demand, helps “excite” the CNS, and also has a bit of carryover to muscle gain due to the increase in time under tension.

Key Coaching Cues: Don’t be a hero. You won’t need a lot of weight with this exercise to make it challenging. In the video above I looped two 1″ resistance bands and hung a 12 kg kettlebell from each side. That was plenty.

The idea here is to keep the bar quiet.

You want to go slow. If you go too fast, the KBs start flying all over the place and you’ll inevitably collapse to the floor like a game of Jenga.

Take a deep breath in before you un-rack the bar and then exhale all your air until you feel your ribcage depress. Owning that position take another deep breath in and focus on getting 360 degrees of expansion.

Un-rack bar.

Maintain abdominal brace, squeeze glutes, and press – under control – keeping the bar quiet. Don’t be surprised if you end up using a tempo akin to 2-3s up and 2-3s down.

I actually like the idea of being forced to use less weight on the bar as it forces the trainee to focus on technique. But the increased time under tension will more than make up for it.

You don’t have to limit yourself to one band per side, but I also feel it’s a bit over-kill to use more. You also don’t have to use KBs. Plates work fine too.2

I consider this more of an accessory movement, so high(er) reps is the way to go. Think: 8-10.

Give it a try today and let me know what you think.

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  1. Relax. Yes, I get that the bench press is “functional” for those who compete in powerlifting. Deep breaths internet hero. I’m not trying to bash the bench press. In terms of day-to-day activities, though, not many people are required to press a barbell off their chest.

  2. Or live grenades depending on how hardcore you are.

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