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Strict Press

The strict press is a compound movement that is great for developing upper body strength and midline stability.  It primarily strengthens the upper traps, deltoids, upper pecs and triceps, while the stabilization demands  provide plenty of work for the trunk.

The barbell begins at the level of the collarbone, either resting on the deltoids in the rack position or in the hands, keeping a tight grip with straight wrists and knuckles towards the ceiling.  The bar must either be cleaned to this position, or taken off of a rack set at collarbone height.

The stance places the feet under the hips or just slightly wider.  For our purposes in CrossFit, the power stance should be used, which is generally your natural jumping stance.  This is the proper starting position for the push press and the push jerk, so training the strict press in the same stance will help train familiarity for those other movements.  Putting the feet together turns the strict press into the military press, which increases the demands placed upon the core and can be used to help train holding a rigid body position.

The grip should be placed at a width that places the forearms perpendicular to the floor during the lift.  This provides direct pressing force into the bar, and helps use as much muscle mass as possible, which is the fastest way to increase strength.  Each athlete will have to test moving their grip slightly in and out, to find the position that works best.

The elbows must be underneath or slightly in front of the bar.  This helps maintain a vertical bar path.  If the elbows are behind the bar the tendency will be to push the bar forwards away from your center of gravity.

The legs must not move during the lift, so the muscles of the legs should be contracted to keep them active and to help resist the urge to start the lift with a knee bounce.  The feet should be trying to grip the ground, to maintain a solid connection.  The glutes should be active to help support the lower back, and the shoulder blades should be retracted to support the upper back and to help prevent shoulder impingement.  The abs should also be contracted to help support the torso.

The path of the bar should be as straight as possible to keep the weight over the middle of the feet.  If the bar travels forwards to move around the head, torque is increased against the shoulders and lower back and the weight is likely to be dropped forwards.  Therefore, the chin must be tucked back to allow room for the bar to pass the head while moving straight upwards.  Resist the urge to lean backwards instead, as this increases pressure on the lower back.  The back should be maintained as upright as possible during the lift.

Once the bar has passed the top of the head, the head should move forwards to end up directly between the shoulders and underneath the bar.  To prevent lean-back, ensure that the hips are at least in line with the shoulder blades, if not slightly behind.

Press the bar completely overhead, using the traps, delts and triceps to reach lockout.  The shoulders should be active at the top of the lift, so think of pressing them up into your ears and pressing the bar up into the ceiling (you should still be pressing even when your arms are fully extended).

Be sure to bring the bar back to the starting position after each rep.  Do not cheat by only bringing the bar down to the middle of the face.  Your breath should be held before every rep to help support the torso.  The first rep begins from the chest out of necessity, but think of all the other reps as beginning from the top, like the bench press.  This allows you to take advantage of the natural stretch reflex that occurs at the bottom of the lift.  To use the stretch reflex, use a quick turnaround of the bar at the bottom, i.e. only pause at the top of the lift, not at the bottom.  Rebreathe at the top of the lift as well, so you can keep your breath held during the entire movement.

During overhead pressing, it is crucial that the shoulder blades remain retracted.  If the shoulders are allowed to shrug or slouch forwards, the humerus can end up grinding against the bones of the shoulder girdle, causing inflammation in the bursa or other joint tissues.  Keeping the shoulders aligned back in the socket allows them to glide smoothly as your arms move overhead.

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