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The Push Press

The Push Press

Some days even now I learn something new. I guess that’s the thing about continuing to grow in anything you do, continuing to seek out new ways of doing things, to keep things fresh.

Today’s lesson was courtesy of the push press. I thought I had done push presses before. Today I found out I was wrong. What I had actually done was cheat a little bit on the standing press. The two things can in fact be easily confused.

The standing press is a staple exercise for any weight training program. In words, for those who are not familiar with it, you bring a barbell to the front of your chest at your neck height. You then extend the arms upwards until they are fully extended with the barbell about your head (like the picture at the top of this post).

It’s a fantastic exercise for putting slabs of muscle on your shoulders.

However, the push press supercharges this exercise. To explain why we have to delve into the idea of neuromuscular training.

In simple terms neuromuscular training is choosing exercises that require the maximum number of muscle groups at one time. For example power cleans and the like.

What these type of exercises do is to teach your muscles and the nervous system how to work together to generate maximum power in athletic movements.

The best way to explain this is contrast it with exercises that don’t cause a high level of neuromuscular activation. A dumbell curl for example. You may have a few muscles apart from the biceps act as stabilisers to do the exercise, but not really a great deal of recruitment of the rest of the body apart from the bicep itself.

So back to the push press. You have the barbell at your shoulders, squat down slightly, perhaps a quarter of the depth of a full squat, then as you come up from the squat, you will push the bar until it is fully extended (then of course repeat).

When done right you will feel it throughout your hips, the top of your thighs, your glutes, your core, your back from top to bottom and of course your shoulders and arms.

It gives you functional strength. You know? That term beloved by crossfitters and derided by bodybuilders.

Functional strength is the ability to do stuff. Stuff like being able to knock the ball out of the park in cricket or baseball, hit hard in rugby, American football or Australian football or punch hard in combat sports like boxing.

I prefer to train for functional strength these days. It actually seems such a waste to have muscles that are for show rather than go.

So I recommend that if having a physique that is as powerful as it looks is a goal of yours, you give push presses a try.

and this is what it looks like. Russian weight lifter Dimitry Kholov push pressing a stupendous amout of weight.



Image Source: By Aberbey65 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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