Talk to any gym rat and one of the first questions will be “How much you bench?” It’s a staple of lifting. The bench press. The total upper body strength test. So much so, even the NFL uses it to compare strength in draft prospects. Its an awesome upper body builder as it uses the pectoralis as the prime mover for the most part and the deltoids, biceps and triceps as stabilizer muscles or synergists. The bench is the standard of strength for this reason. 

Along with the bench press, overhead presses work wonders for upper body strength. For starters, the shear act of pressing a weight overhead just feels and looks badass. The overhead press just isn’t done that much anymore. At one point decades ago, this was a standard strongman strength staple. It is staring to make a comeback now with programs such as Starting Strength and 5×5. The main difference in the overhead vs bench is that the overhead press works the shoulders far more as they are the primary muscle group in any overhead pressing. The pectoralis now works as a stabilizer muscle along with the core, traps, biceps and legs. The overhead press is more of a total body movement than the bench in this way, although the legs also stabilize the bench press. 

All in all, both of these presses should be incorporated into any strength building program as they both target key muscles in the upper body and in a big way. Big, compound lifts will always prepress strength much more quickly than isolation movements, although isolation has its place as well. The ultimate key to building a good strength program is balance between the two.