OH Press vs. Bench Press

by Neil Anderson

For men, the bench press is hands-down the most popular lift in any gym.  Few other feats of strength make coaches clamber and women swoon (supposedly) as a strong performance on the bench press yet, you won't find even one bench press apparatus at GPP.  Why is this?  

Bench pressing highly over-rated and hardly functional as an exercise.  

OH shoulder pressing is exponentially more useful as an exercise that simulates and promotes daily functionality.  In other words, the OH press helps you more in sports and in real life.  Let's compare:

Which works more muscles?  OH press!  Going over head requires every muscle in your body to stabilize and to create movement.  This equates to more work performed.  More work performed = more overall fitness.  And it is the kind of fitness that counts.

Which is more functional?  This is a question best answered with a couple of questions.  When was the last time you found yourself with your back pinned to an immovable object (as with bench pressing) with another object in your hands placed precisely at your chest with arms cocked back in pre-push mode?  Ever?  OK, then when was the last time you put an object (cooler, kid, flower pot) above your head?   Advantage = OH press!

Which is the safest movement?  While bench pressing may be a safer movement when you are actually performing the lift, performing lifts in the gym isn't what exercise is about.  Exercise is about preparing oneself for the rigors and benefits of daily living.  Bench pressing doesn't simulate anything we do in daily life, so using it for exercise actually detrains us for the rigors of daily life.  Right? Wouldn't this lend itself to more injuries outside of the gym?  OH pressing is quite the opposite on every count. 

Which makes you stronger?  Again, the nod would seem to go to bench pressing here because of the profoundly heavier weights moved during this lift compared to OH press.  However, as previously discussed, moving heavier weights with bench press only applies to bench pressing.  It doesn't necessarily make you a stronger thrower, puncher or pusher.  All of these moves (throwing, punching, pushing) require a highly coordinated effort from the entire body.  Once again, advantage = OH press. 

There are always exceptions to every rule.  Those with severe back or neck trouble will find less risk of injury by using bench press (in the short term).  Those who have interest in developing muscular pecs (Jersey shore types) will find bench press more useful.  But, at the end of the day the superior pushing exercise for activities of daily living is always OH press! It is why going over head is the pressing exercise of choice at GPP.