How do I properly perform the press?
- The “elevated” chest position throughout the exercise.
- Neither the upper nor lower back round during execution. They stay tight and supportive throughout. The entire body is a direct part of the kinetic exercise chain (the path of energy from the bar to the ground), and as such, he maintains his entire body in proper alignment and proper tightness throughout the exercise. Much like the “tight upper back and shoulders” through which you push the bar in a bench or squat, the body serves as the “strong base” from which you press. Keeping a tight core means contacting everything from the ground up, especially squeezing the quads, butt cheeks, back and abs.
- ONLY THE HEAD leans back with some hip extension, and just slightly, until the bar clears his head, then he presses upward and allows his head to come forward so that the bar is directly overhead
- There is NO BACK LEAN. This is not a standing incline press, this is the standing barbell press with no backward lean.
- Note that at the top, at full extension that the barbell almost appears to be behind the head? That is because the bar should, at the top, be aligned with the spine. Guess where on the body the spine points? it points straight up through the BACK of the head.
- There is NO LEG DRIVE. This is a shoulder press, not a push press.
- A quick breath or two can be taken at either the top or the bottom, but you will find it most beneficial to breathe at the top and thus take advantage of the “stretch reflex” you get at the bottom. Hold your breath using the valsalva manuever while the bar is in motion.
Grip should be close, just outside of shoulder width. Elbows should stay just in front of the bar throughout the exercise for optimal drive. Again, DO NOT LEAN BACKWARD.
If you have a weak set of abs or a weak set of spinal erectors, you will find out rapidly during the execution of this exercise.
What about DB, Seated, Smith rack, Hammer, Behind-the-Neck or Push-Presses?
The answer is going to be “no” to all of the above…however:
- DBs are an outstanding tool to use, as are seated presses, and push presses. Refer to the section on the bench press for the reasons behind not using DBs.
- Seated presses are an outstanding exercise to develop specific deltoid musculature, but when starting off, the extra added benefit of balance, proprioception, core stabilization and CNS stimulation is pretty tough to beat with the standing press. Use the seated press “later on down the line”, but for now, stick with the standing version. You will benefit immensely for the reasons stated above.
- Push presses are an outstanding exercise which will develop power and strength throughout the deltoid/trapezius/upper back complex. Unfortunately, because it potentially involves a large degree of hip and leg drive, large weights can be used, possibly more than the novice really has any business using at this stage in his training. As such, it will not be used until the trainee advances more. In fact, in Practical Programming, Rip demonstrates the “Volume-Recovery-Intensity” method of training using the push-press and the basic press as his template. He considers this to be an “intermediate” assistance exercise.
- Smith/hammers….do you really have to ask? Use them later. Stick to the free weights and the barbells for now. Move onward to machines and such once you have developed a solid base of strength and training competency using the free weight barbell versions
- Behind-the-Neck - The BTN is murder on the shoulders.
I don’t like doing overhead presses, can I do DB front raises instead?
No. DB front raises serve 2 purposes.
- To allow powerlifters to get some additional anterior delt work without having to do MORE heavy presses
- To allow physique athletes to “touch up” an area which is rarely a problem spot for anyone.
DB front raises are “nice”, but like DB flyes, they aren’t going to be necessary unless you are training for a physique contest or simply want to get some front delt work without stressing your shoulder joint.