Overhead Press Benchmarks: What’s The Average For Men and Women?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

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This article is your guide through the landscape of overhead press benchmarks. We’ll navigate through the averages for different groups, dissecting how factors like age, weight, and experience shape these numbers.

Whether you’re starting out or pushing for new heights, understanding these benchmarks is key to setting realistic, motivating goals.

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Related: Find the average squatbench press and deadlift weights (how do you compare)?

Join me as we celebrate strength in its varied forms and uncover where you currently stand regarding your overhead press.

The Overhead Press – Quick Overview

The overhead press (or military press, or strict press) is a foundational movement in fitness, and one of the big four (with the Bench press, squat and deadlift)

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More Than Just Shoulders

While the overhead press primarily targets the deltoids, it’s a misconception to think that’s all there is to it. This lift engages a suite of muscles, turning every press into a full-body endeavor.

The triceps brachii, crucial for the extension of the elbow, play a supporting role.

And the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, act as stabilizers, maintaining balance and posture during the lift.

What’s Influencing Your Overhead Press?

When it comes to the overhead press, numbers on the barbell tell only part of the story. Several factors interplay, influencing how much one can lift overhead. Understanding these elements is crucial for setting realistic goals and charting progress in this fundamental exercise.

  • Age and Strength Training:
    • Younger athletes typically have more muscle mass and faster recovery.
    • Older athletes benefit from experience, mastering technique and muscle endurance.
  • Impact of Body Weight on Overhead Press:
    • Heavier individuals generally lift more due to greater muscle mass.
    • Lighter athletes often show impressive strength-to-weight ratios.
  • Gender Differences:
    • Natural variations in muscle mass and distribution between men and women.
    • Training and technique can narrow the strength gap.
  • Experience: The Key Factor:
    • Experience significantly influences overhead press ability.
    • Beginners may face challenges with form and muscle activation.
    • Veterans display precise execution in lifts.
    • Training duration, consistency, and technique refinement are crucial for overhead press improvement.

Average Overhead Press Weights for Men

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All right guys, so let’s see how much you should be able to press, based on body weight, age and experience:

By Weight

According to Strength Level, this is approximately how much a man should be able to press:

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Body weight plays a crucial role in overhead press performance. Generally, heavier individuals possess greater muscle mass, contributing to higher lifting capabilities. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Lightweight (<150 lbs): Averages range from 85 to 115 lbs.
  • Middleweight (150-180 lbs): Expect averages between 120 and 160 lbs.
  • Heavyweight (>180 lbs): Here, averages climb to 165-200 lbs or more.

By Age

Here’s a summary of the average overhead press weight by age:

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Age influences strength, but it’s not a linear relationship. Younger lifters often have the advantage of more muscle mass and quicker recovery, but older athletes bring technique and experience to the table.

  • Teens to Early 20s: Peak physical condition often leads to higher averages.
  • 30s to 40s: A slight decline may occur, but many maintain strength through consistent training.
  • 50s and Beyond: While averages may lower, strength training remains vital for health and vitality.

By Experience Level

Experience in training profoundly impacts overhead press capabilities. Here’s a breakdown by experience level:

  • Untrained: Just starting out, average lifts might hover around 45-65 lbs.
  • Novice (Up to 1 year): With some training, averages can increase to 70-100 lbs.
  • Intermediate (1-2 years): Here, lifters often reach 105-135 lbs.
  • Advanced (2-5 years): Expect to see numbers around 140-175 lbs.
  • Elite (5+ years): These athletes can press upwards of 180 lbs and beyond.

Overhead Press Goals: Body Weight Benchmarks

Setting realistic goals aligned with body weight is essential for progress. Lightweight lifters (under 150 lbs) should aim to press half to full body weight, while middleweights (150-180 lbs) target pressing 75% to 100% of their body weight. Heavyweights (over 180 lbs) should strive to press 80% to 125% of their body weight, reflecting a blend of strength, technique, and body mechanics mastery.

Current Overhead Press World Record for Men

On August 23, 2018, Larry Wheels overhead pressed 200 kilograms (440.9 pounds). Now that is a massive accomplishment!

Average Overhead Press Weights for Women

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Now, let’s look at the average weights for the overhead press by women of various weights, ages, and experience levels

By Weight

This table shows you the body weight and all the overhead press lifts in pounds (lbs).

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Women’s overhead press performance varies significantly based on body weight. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Lightweight Division (<120 lbs): Women in this category typically press between 45 to 60 lbs. This range is a solid foundation, offering a balance between strength and technique.
  • Middleweight Category (120-150 lbs): In this bracket, the average press ranges from 65 to 80 lbs. It’s a noticeable step up, reflecting increased muscle mass and strength.
  • Heavyweight Lifters (>150 lbs): Here, women can often press upwards of 85 lbs, showcasing the power achievable with greater body mass and dedicated training.

By Age

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Age plays a crucial role in strength capabilities:

  • 20s and 30s: Peak physical condition often sees women pressing at their highest weights in these decades.
  • 40s and 50s: There’s a slight dip in average weights due to natural changes in muscle mass and strength, but with consistent training, impressive numbers are still achievable.
  • 60s and Beyond: Strength training remains vital, with the focus shifting more towards maintenance and mobility. Overhead press weights may decrease, but the emphasis on form and technique grows.

By Experience Level

Experience in training profoundly impacts overhead press performance:

  • Untrained: Beginners often start with the bar (typically 45 lbs) or less, focusing on form and gradual strength building.
  • Novice: After a few months of training, pressing around 50-60 lbs becomes achievable.
  • Intermediate: With a year or more of consistent training, pressing 65-75 lbs is a common benchmark.
  • Advanced: Several years of dedicated training can see women pressing 80-90 lbs, a testament to their commitment and skill.
  • Elite: At this level, pressing over 95 lbs is not uncommon, reflecting years of disciplined training and refined technique.

Current Overhead Press World Record for Women

On Feb 2, 2022, Inez Carrasquillo pressed 136-kilogram (300-pound) over her head!

Overhead Press at Each Stage of Your Fitness Level

Let’s explore how each age group should approach the overhead press and what you should expect.

Youth: The Foundation Years

  • Building Blocks: For younger athletes, especially those in their late teens and early twenties, the focus is on building a solid foundation. This age is characterized by rapid physical development and a remarkable ability to adapt and grow muscularly.
  • Key Focus: Emphasis should be on mastering technique, gradually increasing weights, and understanding the importance of a balanced approach to fitness.

The Prime: Peak Performance

  • Strength Surge: Individuals in their late twenties to mid-thirties often experience their peak strength levels. This is the golden era for many, where years of training culminate in the highest potential for overhead press performance.
  • Optimal Training: At this stage, training can be more intense and focused, with an eye on maximizing strength gains while being mindful of injury prevention.

Maturity: Maintaining Muscle

  • Consistent Strength: As one ventures into the forties and fifties, maintaining muscle mass and strength becomes crucial. While there might be a slight decline in maximal strength, this age group often surprises with their resilience and endurance.
  • Smart Training: The focus here shifts to smarter training techniques, incorporating more recovery time, and possibly adjusting routines to accommodate changing physical needs.

Wisdom Years: Strength and Stability

  • Sustained Power: Beyond the sixties, the emphasis is on sustaining power and stability. While overhead press numbers might not be at their peak, the strength displayed is often a testament to years of consistent training and a well-maintained physique.
  • Adaptive Training: Training at this stage is more about adaptation, focusing on maintaining functionality, joint health, and overall well-being.

Mastering the Overhead Press: Technique and Safety First

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Let’s delve into the essentials of executing this powerful move with precision and safety.

The Cornerstone of Technique

  • Posture Perfection: Begin with a solid stance. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, creating a stable base. Engage your core and glutes to support your spine.
  • Grip Matters: Position your hands just outside shoulder width. Wrists should be straight, aligning with your forearms, to efficiently transfer power.
  • The Lift Off: Initiate the press by driving the weight upwards from shoulder level. Elbows should point forward, not flared out, to protect the joints.
  • Head and Bar Path: As the bar ascends, slightly tuck your chin, allowing the bar to pass close to your face. This ensures a vertical bar path, key for an efficient lift.

Safety First

  • Warm-Up Wisdom: Never underestimate the power of a good warm-up. Prepare your muscles and joints with dynamic stretches and light, progressive lifting.
  • Equipment Essentials: Invest in quality equipment. A well-knurled barbell provides a secure grip. Weight plates should be securely fastened with collars.
  • Spotter Support: Especially when attempting heavier lifts, a spotter can be invaluable. They ensure safety and can assist if you find yourself in a bind.
  • Listen to Your Body: Recognize the difference between pushing your limits and pushing your luck. Pain is a signal, not a challenge. Respect your body’s cues.

Building Strength

  • Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the weight or reps over time. This principle is crucial for continuous improvement.
  • Balance and Recovery: Balance overhead press training with exercises that target the opposing muscle groups. Adequate rest and recovery are as important as the workout itself.

A Holistic Approach

  • Nutrition and Hydration: Fuel your body with the right nutrients and stay hydrated. This not only aids in performance but also in recovery.
  • Mind-Muscle Connection: Stay mentally engaged. Visualize the lift, focus on the muscle groups involved, and maintain a steady breathing rhythm.

Improve Your Overhead Press

Here are some training tips and strategies to help you progressively overload, optimize your diet, and ensure effective recovery.

Progressive Overloading: The Key to Strength Gains

  • Start Small, Aim High: Begin with weights that challenge you but don’t compromise your form. Gradual increments are the cornerstone of progressive overloading.
  • Variety is Vital: Incorporate different variations of the press – like push press, seated press, or dumbbell press – to challenge your muscles in new ways.
  • Consistency Counts: Regular training, at least twice a week, is essential. Consistency breeds strength.
  • Track Your Progress: Keep a training log. Monitoring your progress helps in planning your next steps and staying motivated.

Diet: Fueling Your Strength Journey

  • Protein Power: Protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth. Include lean meats, fish, eggs, and plant-based sources like lentils and tofu in your diet.
  • Carbs for Energy: Don’t shy away from carbohydrates. They provide the energy needed for intense training sessions. Opt for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Healthy Fats: Include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. They play a key role in hormone production, which is vital for muscle growth.
  • Hydration is Key: Adequate water intake is essential for optimal performance and recovery. Aim for at least 8 glasses a day.

Recovery: The Unsung Hero of Strength Training

  • Rest and Repair: Give your muscles time to recover. This means adequate sleep and rest days between intense workouts.
  • Stretch and Mobilize: Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into your routine. They improve flexibility and can help prevent injuries.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you feel pain or excessive fatigue, take a step back. Overtraining can set you back rather than propel you forward.

Setting Overhead Press Goals

Setting personal overhead press goals not only fuels motivation but also steers your training in the right direction. Here’s how to chart your course.

Personalize Your Targets

  • Assess Your Starting Point: Reflect on your current strength level. This self-awareness is crucial for setting achievable goals.
  • Define Your Endgame: What’s your ultimate overhead press goal? Whether it’s hitting a specific weight or mastering the technique, clarity is key.
  • Break It Down: Set smaller, incremental goals. These milestones keep you motivated and make the larger goal more attainable.

Tracking Progress: The Game Changer

  • Journal Your Journey: Keep a workout log. Record weights lifted, repetitions, and how you felt during each session.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Every increase in weight or improvement in form is a step forward. Acknowledge these achievements.
  • Adjust as Needed: Be flexible. If you hit a plateau or face setbacks, reassess and tweak your goals.

Embrace a Holistic Approach

  • Mind Over Matter: Cultivate a positive mindset. Visualize yourself achieving your goals.
  • Balance Your Training: Complement your overhead press workouts with exercises that build overall strength and stability.
  • Nutrition and Recovery: Fuel your body with the right nutrients and allow adequate time for recovery. These are as important as the workout itself.

Community and Support

  • Seek Guidance: Don’t hesitate to consult a coach or trainer. Their expertise can be invaluable in setting realistic goals and avoiding injuries.
  • Join a Community: Whether it’s a gym, a Crossfit box, or an online forum, being part of a community provides support and motivation.

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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