A step-by-step breakdown of the greatest test of upper body strength.
This is a man’s lift. Many people fear it, but let me tell you something, there is one thing all old time strong men have in common. They can press a shit ton. So here it is, arguably the greatest exercise for total upper body strength around, the press. As with everything else, I’ll go step by step to prepare you to start moving some weight during your strength and conditioning sessions.
Grip, Walk Out and Stance
Like with most lifts with a barbell you want to set your grip about a thumbs length in on the knurling. This will allow you to do two things: 1) avoid crushing your fingers between the bar and your shoulders, 2) put your elbows below your hands for leverage.
Now wrap your hand around the bar and squeeze it as hard as possible. Literally crush the bar. At this point your feet should be in the same position as you’d deadlift, a little wider than shoulder width. Next, “anchor” your feet to the floor and keep them flat the whole time so that you remain stable. With the bar in front of you you’re going to tuck your chin slightly. Please read that again and whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK UP! Looking up will only increase the likelihood that you’d crush your face when you’re performing this upper body exercise.
With your sight line set I want you to “set your core” (remember that one kids?) by breathing into your stomach and squeezing your abs and your butt as hard as possible. Hold this position for the whole rep, your lower back will thank you later.
With your chin slightly tucked in, bar in front of your shoulders, and core set, you are going to press the bar vertically as hard as possible in a slight curve. Why a curve? Well, go up straight once, you’ll figure it out when you’re bleeding from the mouth.
While pressing I want you to think, “push my heels down,” and “push my head through”. This will get you to the finishing position which is elbows extended, body in a straight line, biceps next to your ears. The bar should finish directly over your shoulders, not in front of you.
Side note: you will see some people with an extreme lean backwards while doing this. Next time you see them do this, imagine you’re their lower back. What do you think that feels like? Ouch is right, so stay as upright as possible and use your core strength to stabilize.
Lowering the Bar
Bring the bar down in a somewhat controlled manner. Since the starting position is different than the push press, bring the bar down under control. Once back down, reset your core and repeat.
And that’s the press ladies and gents. It’s a great way to develop upper body strength, and is really the only true, “heavy pressing movement” you can do standing up. Keep yourself tight, keep your technique on point, and start moving weight in no time. I mentioned in the best exercises for athlete’s article if you’re an “overhead athlete” (baseball, volleyball, swimming, etc.) I’d probably avoid this one. Your shoulders go through enough in your sport. But if you’re not involved in one of those sports, get under the bar and start pushing as this shoulder and core exercise is a fantastic addition to any strength and conditioning program.
To maximize your gains with the overhead press, 1R would recommend the following supplements: