Quite awhile ago we posted a comment on over head lifting as opposed to bench pressing. We commented a little on the history of the bench press and the sport of powerlifting.Prior to the 60's when powerlifting began to grow into a competitive sport, "How much can you lift?" meant over head. Not, "What can you bench?" We made clear the benefits of over head lifting as compared to lying on your back, although bench pressing does have it's place. We just think that benching should not be the exclusive upper body exercise, nor even the main one. Having said that, there are several ways of pressing the bar overhead.
Seated presses are common with body builders. They allow isolation of the upper body. This can be good in some cases, such as injury or for a change of pace. (Although be aware that if you have lower back problems, seated pressing creates greater pressure on the lumbar discs than standing) We believe that standing is the best type of press for an athlete. Barbells or dumbells both have their plusses. While dumbells usually require a lighter total weight; I.E.; If your max press with a bar is 100 kg., it is unlikely that you could press 2- 50 kg. dumbells. Dumbells require more stabilization as they must be controlled from drifting in all directions, where as a bar only needs to be stabilized from front to back. Kind of like the difference between riding a bicycle and a unicycle.
In the early days of weightlifting competition the press was performed very strictly with little lean back. Thus the term Military press, meaning straight up as in attention. Over the years the competitive press evolved (deteriorated) into a much different lift. The lifter above is using a pretty extreme back bend, although others of the era were even more exagerated. Below is Norbert Schemnasky, one of the all-time greats whose career spanned several decades and 4 olympiads. His style was fairly strict. When using the press as a training tool there is no reason for excessive lean. Stay straight as possible and drive the bar in front of your face. As you cross your forehead, then drive it back over your ears to lock out driving your head forward under the bar. This style protects the lower back and maximizes shoulder and upper back strength. Indeed, in 1972 the Press was dropped from weightlifting competition as it became too difficult to judge because of the excessive back bend. Since then, lifting meets include only two lifts, the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. Even though it is no longer a competitive lift, pressing in it's various forms is still a very beneficial lift for athletes and anyone who wants to get stronger and look stronger. It is the best all-around shoulder exercise in my opinion.
Oliver Whaley pressing 100 lb. Dumbells for 28 reps