Pressing overhead is hard. Very hard.
The reason for the Press being a rather unpopular and underused exercise is because of this:
One, it is highly technical.
And two: gravity is a b****.
I go as far as saying that the Press is equally - if not more - technical than the back squat.
Timing is of utmost importance. As your upper body leans backwards as a result of the forward-directed hip drive, the moment of WHEN the bar needs to be pressed upwards is crucial. Press too early and you loose stability in the hips and trunk. Press too late and the weight becomes too heavy to manage.
When executing the press, a greater-than-what-you-think-you-need backward lean makes all the difference for a successful Press.
Picture it this way:
1) The hips and trunk create the LINK between the floor, your pressing muscles (i.e. arms), and the bar. When the hips are TIGHT as a result of a firm contraction of the glutes, the reactive forces coming from the ground can travel upwards efficiently via your legs, hips, trunk, arms - into the bar.
2) Trunk stability in the Press is largely provided by an eccentric/isometric contraction of the abdominal muscles. This contraction happens when you lean backwards. Your abs are then holding your trunk up against gravity. If they didn't, you would fall over backwards with your head hitting the ground first (...ok - let's move on....).
THE STRONGER THE HIP DRIVE, THE GREATER THE BACKWARD LEAN, THE GREATER THE STABILITY ACROSS THE ABS AND GLUTES, THE STRONGER THE PRESS.
Along with a rock-solid upper back position, the second major reason for a greater-than-what-you-think-you-need backward lean is improved mechanics:
The further you lean back, the further your chest and shoulders move away from the bar, the more your arms are starting to lock out automatically.
Criticis of this technique will argue that this turns the Press into a standing bench press.
Allow me to intervene here:
Firstly, the bench press is performed with a prior downward and subsequent upward motion. The Press, on the other hand, relies on all but a pure upward pressing motion - making it much harder than the bench press.
Secondly, the bar has to be pressed OVER your head in the Press, which is not the case in the bench press (where the bar stays in front of your face). As such, greater force production in a VERTICAL PLANE is required as the bar has to be moved into a position perpendicular to the head and centre of gravity - contrary to the bar being perpendicular to your chest in the bench press. This is the reason why a weight moved above your head will always feel heavier than a weight moved away and in front of your chest.
Thirdly, the contact surface in the Press is much smaller than in the bench press (just your feet vs. hips, feet, and upper back). This makes the overhead press a far more challenging movement than the bench press as the demands placed on stabilising and producing force are mannifold when trying to move the bar above your head.
Let's keep the lost of art of overhead pressing alive.
Because - as we know - stronger is better.
PS: Any physio or doctor gasping at the view of a backward lean in the press is more than welcome to contact me.