Aesthetics & Athletics: Push Press

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 12:00 AM

For years the strict overhead press has been a staple in my shoulder routine. While it’s a great muscle building exercise, I've run into a few limitations:

  1. It's a difficult exercise to perform without a spotter.
  2. Many overhead press machines don't offer the right angle or range of motion for hitting the delt muscles.
  3. It can be tough to break through plateaus and continue to make progress.

Fortunately there is a simple solution for overcoming these issues. The answer: barbell push press! In this exercise you're able to use your hips and legs to drive the bar upward and use a heavier weight than you normally would for strict presses. This helps to build power and can help muscles "flow" together more aesthetically. Compound, free-weight exercises are key in creating an athletic and aesthetic physique. 

In this exercise, you control the negative portion and perform it slowly. This method allows you to break through plateaus and work without a spotter. Since it's a free weight exercise, grips and range of motion can be adjusted to hit the delt muscles.

Let's go through the details of the exercise:

  • Start with a weight lighter than you normally use. You can use the Olympic bar or a pre-loaded EZ bar.
  • Grip the bar with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your elbows under the bar - this will help give you leverage to press.
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your knees soft (never lock your knees).
  • Dip your body by bending your knees (only a couple inches max) and drive the bar upward.
  • Keep your body upright the entire time, engaging your core.
  • Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position, focusing on using just your shoulders to control the weight.
  • Repeat.

The drive should come from your legs and hips, while the negative motion should almost entirely come from your shoulders. The bar should stay overhead, but not behind your head. A good cue is to think “bicep to ears”.  This lift is most beneficial as part of an extended warm up or as the first heavy exercise after a warm up. As a warm up, I may do 3 sets of 8, using a lighter weight, and as part of my workout, I would then go heavy and perform 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps. Check out the video for a demonstration, along with tips and tricks to maximize results!

I recently hit a personal best on this exercise and am confident that PEAK ATP contributed to that! PEAK ATP enables me to get those last couple of reps in, and I feel stronger as a result!

Thank you for reading my blog! Until next time, train hard, y'all!
-Erin Stern

Love love love the honesty. Looking forward to trying this on shoulder day next week. Thanks Erin you look fantastic
Carla | 1/30/24 at 1:25 AM
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