Hello fellow gains enthusiasts,

If you’re reading this, you probably squat.  Everybody in our sport squats often.  Most people deadlift regularly too.  However, I don’t see athletes putting weight over their heads as often as they should.  Moving weight from the shoulders to overhead produces increased force production from the legs and hips, core and trunk stability, and upper back strength.   

Force production from the legs and hips is the main ingredient in overall strength.  Greater core and trunk stability increases force transfer from the legs and hips to the upper body, and will improve nearly every aspect of your performance.   Increased upper back strength will positively impact your squats, deadlifts, cleans, jerks and snatches.  In other words, getting weight up over your head makes you better at almost everything.  It’s also awesome.   Sure, rising up out of the hole on a heavy squat is great.   Reaching full extension on a big deadlift is a triumph.   Celebrate these victories.  But locking out weight overhead?   That’s total victory over the barbell!

Our athletes rely on the push press for their shoulder-to-overhead training, and here’s why:

 

The push press requires substantial lower body force production, or “leg drive”, and effective transfer of that force to a barbell.   Applying force to an external load is not only critical in our sport, it makes you better at nearly everything else.  

The correct bar path requires excellent mobility of the thoracic spine, shoulders and scapula.    If you have a deficiency here, the push press helps you find it so you can fix it.  

The push press also demands that you control the weight overhead, which requires core / trunk stability along with upper back and shoulder strength to finish the lift.   Upper back strength enhances back, front and overhead squats, and will improve all aspects of your snatch and clean & jerk.   Core and trunk stability is required for force generated by the hips to be transferred to a object.  

 

In short, push presses make you better at just about every other barbell exercise!   Here's Matthew Wiebke hitting a tough triple at 225.  Not bad for a guy in his 40s! 

 

Like any barbell lift, proper technique or “good form” maximizes force production and minimizes injury risk.  The dip-drive-press sequence should be familiar to you and therefore we won’t review it in this article.  Our athletes receive unlimited video review of all lifts by coaches with CrossFit Games experience (competitor and coach) as well experience with professional football players, so if you’d like to sign up, click here to get started.  

Instead, we will share a few accessory lifts we do that are proven to make our athletes better at the push press.  You can do them starting with your next training session.  The first is the pause push press, seen here:

 

The pause push press will reinforce a straight dip and develop familiarity / “muscle memory” with the bottom position of the dip.   Dipping too deep causes the chest to lean forward, which launches the barbell off course.   You can experiment with foot placement and positioning in this drill.  The pause push press also enhances force development without the benefit of the stretch reflex, creating a stronger press.   

 

Another useful accessory lift to develop the push press is the tall-kneeling strict press. 

In this position, you cannot rely on the stable foundation provided by your heels.  Instead, you have to provide stability by flexing your glutes and abs, to stabilize your pelvis and keep your ribcage down before beginning the press.   Enhancing stabilization in this unsupported position will result in superior stability in the push press.   We program regular strict press as well, though we prefer this version. 

The last accessory exercise our athletes do is the fast push press, usually a set of In this exercise, we do a set of 8-10 push presses as fast as possible at submaximal weights.  

In addition to mirroring the stresses seen in many competitive WODs, this exercise demands efficiency.  Loss of balance or bad positioning can be very costly in terms of energy. This exercise refines our athletes’ ability to hit the correct positions, stay on their heels and keep their torso vertical even under fatigue.