The Press – The King of Upper Body Lifts

Yesterday Nick and I covered the Press on episode 9 of the Mighty Cast for almost 2 hours, so if you want more detail than this blog gives you then you know where to go:

With this blog post I am going to go over the more salient points for the Mighty fans who don’t podcast – although you really should; what are you thinking?

The Great John Davis listens to the Mighty Cast - well I'm sure he would if he were still around!

Why Press?

The Press is great for total body strength; this lift stresses the shoulders, upper back, and triceps, there’s loading through the trunk, and there’s even some stress on the hips and legs, especially with variants such as the Push Press, and the Jerk. The Press and it’s variants are also great for those wishing to increase muscle mass, as well as for fat loss. Along with this I think the Press is the coolest lift to excel at; or should I say I imagine it would be cool to excel at. I’m a pretty good Kettlebell Presser but I’d gladly swap that for a 300lb Press.

The Movement

Here I am going to talk about the standing barbell Press, not the many variants.

  • Start by Cleaning the bar, or un-racking the bar and take a small step back.
  • Your grip should be shoulder width – usually.
  • Take a huge breath, thinking about making your shoulders and back as wide as possible.
  •  Attempt to keep your elbows slightly forward of the bar (just a couple of inches / 4-5 cm) prior to driving from the rack position; the name for the start of the Press.
  • Drive the bar overhead so that it is locked out to the back of the head. If you lock out to the front of the head, or even further forward than that you will put greater stress (bad stress) on your lower back. If this describes your Press then you need to a different variant, usually a 1 arm Db Press with a split stance. Listen to the section about the “Press Continuum” in the Podcast.
  • To give yourself the best chance of this happening think “head through”, or even better have your training partner(s) coach this, as the bar passes the top of your head. A forward head position gives you the best chance of locking out in the correct position.
  • If the bar is locked out overhead correctly the lifter should be able to hold that position with relative ease; as I said in a previous point, if this isn’t the case then regress down the continuum.
  • Control the bar back to the rack position.

Coaching the Press

You’ll undoubtedly be pleased to hear that for 95% of you I would recommend the following coaching points:

  • On setting up – “Air”, this encourages the lifter to create massive tension.
  • Just prior to driving the bar overhead – “Elbows”, trying to get the lifter to get their elbows forward.
  • And finally “Head”, this tells the lifter to put their head through the hole as the bar passes the top of their head, thus putting the bar in a good position for locking out.

In Closing

Now you know how to Press get to it; no matter what your goal you’ll be glad you did.

Be Mighty,