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I have begun the Stronglifts 5x5 program. I am constantly working on my form for all exercises, but I think I'm not terrible at any. I do have a problem with the overhead press, that is potentially dangerous.

I am following the form the best I can, imitating the Stronglifts website. When my arms are locked (and the weight is at the top, my chest and head have moved forward, and my glutes are contracted), I sometimes feel like I'm going to tip back. I shift my body weight forward to avoid doing so. This also occurs when I start to bring the weight back down, sometimes.

This isn't every rep, just once in awhile. But the consequences of falling backwards with this weight overhead make me take this issue very seriously. I am working with low weight now (55lbs or so), and don't want to increase the load until I fix this issue.

Is there any obvious issue that's likely behind my balance issues with the overhead press?

  • Does this happen when you do them seated on an adjustable bench too? Are you able to do them seated without the back support? Seated with it? – Mike-DHSc Mar 3 '18 at 19:02
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Without seeing you press, I'm uncertain what's causing your imbalance. However, you may be able to improve your balance in the press by:

  1. Picking a point of focus. Before beginning each repetition — preferably for the entire duration of the set — pick a point straight ahead of you at eye level and stare intently at it. Wandering eyes change the visual point of reference, making balance more difficult.
  2. Keeping the barbell close to you, and your elbows forward and up. The barbell must start quite close to you and remain quite close to you for efficiency and balance. Touching the barbell to your neck to begin each rep is a useful, tactile check to ensure a good initial position. The barbell must travel upward and downward close to your face ("aim for your nose").
  3. Pressing straight upward. Fairly frequently — especially with lower weights, which permit greater form deviations — lifters will fail to press the barbell in a vertical line, and will, instead, press the barbell in a path that slopes upward from anterior to posterior. (#2 above contributes to this.) This causes balance trouble when the barbell travels too far backward; it should end up directly above the shoulder joints, not behind them.

I recommend that your record a video of you pressing and apply these ideas while reviewing it. You may also submit a video to the Starting Strength Technique forum. Position the camera to either of your sides, either directly to the side or slightly little in front of you. In other words: Assuming that "12 o'clock" is the direction that you are facing, aim the camera at yourself at 2 or 3 o'clock (or 9 or 10 o'clock).

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Working on stability in that overhead position with other exercises could help.

Try doing single arm dumbbell presses overhead while standing, work the weight up and keep the movement slow to work on your stabilising muscles.

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