Push Press More Weight with these 4 Tips

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben Crookston

Ben Crookston is the Founder and CEO of TrainHeroic. Prior to finding his home in the tech world, Ben ordered the Sampler off the career menu, teaching, coaching, and writing. He has an incredible family and back squats 500 pounds A2G.

The push press is an incredible training tool for increasing upper body power and a large contributor to increasing bench press output. It’s a functional movement in the sense that if you need to ever shot put two infants at the same time from your shoulder directly to a ledge 10 feet up, there is probably a good dose of applicable skill transfer.

// What’s the Push Press Do?

As noted above, the push press develops upper body power through recruitment of a large number of motor units. Basically, it does more work for our bods because it quite literally requires lots of muscles to execute. It’s a ground-based lift that requires coordination of an explosive lower body extension as well as violent vertical press overhead. In the push press, we’ll be able to load more weight onto the bar than the strict press, but not quite as much as a jerk.

// How Often Should I Push Press?

The push press will likely be a staple in any proper strength and conditioning program as accessory work to the strict press, the bench press, and the jerk. Depending on application (are you playing a sport or just trying to look awesome?) we need to work upper body pressing strength a couple times a week and the push press should be cycled with regularity in these pressing elements.

// Push Press 4 Points of Performance

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Posture

When we set up for our push press, we should unrack the bar high and tight to our clavicle with our elbows just in front of the bar but pointed toward the ground. We shouldn’t be fully racked like a front squat, but rather with a more vertical forearm to create leverage under the bar.

The torso should be upright and vertical throughout the entirety of the movement dip, weight on heels.

Dip

There are different cues and descriptions accounting for how to initiate the Push Press, but most often, this part is called the “Dip.” Effectively, we want to sink into our heels, bend our knees about 1-2 inches, and explode out of the bottom. To get athletes to move the bar faster and maintain the stretch reflex of our legs, I’m a fan of Mark Rippetoe’s description of this movement as a bounce vs. dip. In short, don’t sink slowly or get into a squatty type of mentality. Simply “bounce” the knee and start accelerating that weight up!

Tempo

Speed wins in the push press. We’re not going to grind this lift out and you’re not going to see a slow tempo notation (or for that matter, any tempo notation) assigned to this lift. Bounce the knee, punch the weight, lock it out. PR.

Finish
See how stoked you get when you have your elbows locked out right by your ears and your chest is forward? Barbell harmony.

I’ve seen a lot of push presses missed right near the end of the lift, and the reality is, this is too many. To finish strong, we should seek to throw fists to ceiling and drive our chest forward and down. Often this will be described as “putting our head through the window,” yet I’ve been more successful driving my chest forward than head. When athletes “put their head through the window” I see many people putting their necks into a hyper flexed fashion and staring at the ground. No upside here. There is nothing on the ground worth looking at. Further, I don’t like the idea of putting my head through a window, I imagine there will be lots of blood and discomfort.

In sum:

  • Explosive hip & leg extension
  • Bar locked out over heels
  • Rib cage down in overhead position

// Faults

Leaning to Extension

One of the biggest things you’ll see from athletes faulting on their push press is leaning back into extension. By leaning back, athletes are trying to McGuyver their way into a pseudo-bench press of sorts and recruit the strength of their pecs to finish the press. What ends up happening though is poor overhead mechanical development and a whole lot of lower back pain as the bar’s base of support now rest above your lower lumber. Stack ’em up and stay tight!

Push Press Error 
Not only is this guy way too tan for his own good, but he’s also lost crucial bar-body contact. Double Whammy.
Losing Bar Body Contact

Another big fault is losing bar body contact. Or, more likely, never having bar body contact in the first place. Many novice athletes will “hold” the bar in their palms and suspend it using the strength of their shoulders. This immediately cuts out our engine by sacrificing the powerful output of our legs in favor of our weaker shoulders.

Dip and Drift

Another common fault is dipping at the hip rather than knee and letting the bar drift down our sternum. This is bad for two reasons:

  1. The bar drifts of our midline and leaves the point of mechanical advantage
  2. With the bar being forward it sets up another inefficiency known as the loopy bar path…
Loopy Bar Path

And since we mentioned it above, we’ll discuss in a little more detail here. Simply, the fastest, most efficient way to get between two points is in a straight line. Thus, why make things more difficult on ourselves by taking a Tour De Bar around the world? No need. Avoid this by retreating your chin, driving straight up, and forcing chest forward at the top.

Lack of Swagger

This is the last one and it’s a fault in nearly every athletic activity. You gotta have swagger if you want to lift a lot. Believe you’re going to hit the weight. Move the bar aggressively. Hit the successful lift. Drop the bar. Throw high fives. Taste greatness (or something vaguely and temporarily similar to greatness).

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