The Press- Safety and Efficiancy


Looking to hone in on getting that new PR or link more reps together unbroken? rotator cuff
Are you having some issues with controlling the weight overhead “OH”? I have comprised a few different tips and techniques to assist with all of the above and also how to perform this safely decreasing the chance for injury to your Lumbar spine, wrist and to your shoulder.

The Press has pretty much been around the fitness world since the beginning of time and we have seen many people get various injuries from this move. So much that some Physical therapist frown against this movement pattern because when it done incorrectly you can put unnecessary force on the bony structure of your shoulder ( scapula and humeral head). When we move in an incorrect movement pattern not engaging muscles at the correct time and allowing for poor form just to get it up, we can also cause damage to the tendons and muscles that make up what is known as the Rotator Cuff (anterior aspect subscapularis and the posterior supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor) causing things to get trapped between the bony structures causing impingement of the cuff tendons.

But what is overlooked is the scapula basically floats freely through its range of motion except the one point where the scapula is attached to the shoulder girdle, the clavicle at the acromioclavicular “AC” joint. So as you are driving the weight OH you should finish the movement by shrugging your shoulders upward towards the bar. This will cause your trapezius muscles to engage to support the shoulder and the weight OH. When your traps contract they pull your scapula together at the top so they rotate medially (towards the center) and then the shrug pulls them upward. This motion will properly align your skeletal system which makes the impingement impossible.

We also tend to see more shoulder injuries with some of those people who only want to do movements that make their muscles “look good,” not actually learning the proper movement or additional movements that would reinforce their strength and decrease the chances of injury from neglecting the other muscles groups that support the muscles they are working on. Such are those athletes who only perform the bench press creating a significant imbalance of strength. What we need to realize is that the press isn’t just a upper body movement , it is a multi-joint and multi-muscle movement, remembering that every movement should be core to extremity and that we are also using our lower body by engaging our hips, and legs in this movement along with driving energy through our feet into the ground. By doing this we make this movement a compound movement instead of an isolated movement.

There are several different press’s in the PRESS family such as the Military (strict), push, jerk, bench, dips, just to name a few of the common ones. Each one of these press’s need to be performed with proper form to help strengthen the rotator cuff and decrease the chances for injury or impingement. Although we may not press things OH daily these are functional exercise movements to strengthen muscles that we use in our everyday life in activities such as; getting off the floor, pushing a grocery cart/ stroller, pushing our child OH or sports like swimming, tennis, volleyball, football, baseball. So ensuring that you follow the simple steps to  proper form will help continue to strengthen/ rehab an injury, and is key to your health of your shoulder and a fundamental part of your fitness journey. Let’s look at some simple set up and performance points of progression “POP” for the OH pressing series.

The press should start at the rack with a empty bar especially when learning this movement pattern.

1. The barbell height should begin from the same height you would start in a squat which is about mid- sternum.

2. When you place your hands on the barbell you want to have it resting in the center of your palm and wide enough on the barbell that the forearms are in a vertical position. Usually somewhere around the edge of the curl on the bar with the barbell placed on the heel of your hand. There are exceptions to this rule; typically for the exceptionally large folks that need wider grip to keep their forearms vertical usually due to lack of range of motion.

3.You want to create torque on the bar by taking the bar off of the rack while twisting your elbows under the barbell keeping your wrist aligned with your elbows. The proper angle of extension and clenched fist will allow you to obtain the most powerful position, thus permitting the greatest amount of squeeze in the forearm and a starting position of the OH drive more efficient.

4. Take a step away from the rig placing your feet under your shoulders. While maintaining midline core stabilization, allowing for your forearms to slightly move in front of the bar, shrug your shoulders up & forward; this will create a meaty pad on your anterior deltoids(shoulder) for the bar to rest on.

note:(people with relatively longer forearms than upper arms nearly impossible with the elbows in the correct position and a the narrow grip. Also, very flexible athletes need to not raise their elbows too high:  allowing the elbows to raise to high in the front will pull the scapula forward decreasing the tightness and stability in the shoulder blades creating a less effective press.

5. Find a point in front of you at eye level to focus on.

6. Lift your chest, Think “BIG CHEST” yes act like you are showing off the twins (weird analogy but strangely it works really good to get some in the correct position). Now take a deep breath and hold it. This allows you lock down your spinal column and make a more rigid torso . Chest up = tight back.

note: Tightening your torso down is super important here to protect your spine. You also at this point should have your glutes,quads and knees locked super tight as well. Now before you start to press the barbell up you need to drive your locked down hips forward. This movement will slightly transfer the weight out to your toes. But ,when you do this correctly it will rebound the weight back to mid-foot. This is not a push press move. Although, this will also allow for you to get the initial lift on the bar to leave your rack by transferring the weight with lift generated from the hips. Now that the bar is moving upward this movement will also allow for your head to get out of the way instead of you moving the bar around your head.

7. As you begin the drive of the bar and it passes the top part of your forehead, you should be  driving your body under the barbell as well  This will aid in overhead locking out by realigning all of the structures involved. As the bar is locked out OH make sure the bar is directly COM.

8. Once bar is correctly overhead you should continue to lock out elbows and drive your shoulders upward (shrug) as if something was pulling the bar upward out of your hands. This allows the trapezius muscle to help your arms to support the weight. Further  producing a sturdy position at the top involving all of the muscles to assist in preventing any shoulder impingement.

9. Control the movement back to the rack position without losing the tightness in the torso.

Common faults that are easily corrected:

1. You didn’t take the time to actually learn this move just as you might not have done with the other moves. Mostly because you think you are strong enough to accomplish anything when it come to weights. You also probably think that moving weighted objects is just about muscle strength. This is also called your “EGO” If you will take the time to learn the skill of the move with a unweighted bar in any of the olympic moves your body will quickly learn the muscular recruitment pattern and you will be able to move heavier weights for a longer period of time and do it safely.

2. You have lost the tightness in the torso. Whether it is from being fatigued, lazy, or just trying to get work done quickly in the WOD; there is no excuse for disregarding your safety. Yeah you might get that extra couple of pounds or reps by muscling through it, but what happens when you squish out the jelly between your vertebrae? Now, you have an injury that will be with you the rest of your life; is it worth it? If you will just remember to get your chest up, take a deep breath, pull your rib cage down and tighten those glutes. You will  be setting yourself up for more success than failure.

3. Not pursuing the complete finished move, which would also make the torso more rigid when OH. You need to remember to act as if someone was trying to take the barbell out of your hands when it is OH. Shoulders up (shrugged) and elbows tightly locked out.

4. Looseness in the starting position in the arms. Do not allow for your shoulders or elbows to drop.  You want keep those shoulders active, elbows slightly out in front of the bar, and your upper arm in close contact with your torso. By doing so it allows for a correct higher barbell starting and travel position.

5. Failure to get underneath the bar once it is OH. We see a lot of new and not so new athletes still press out in front of the frontal plane -usually because of dropped shoulders, elbows and pushing the barbell around their face instead of taking use of the rebound from the hips and then pulling themselves under the bar.

6. Excessive sway back when pressing OH caused by losing tightness in torso. This is almost as bad as a cardinal sin. If you are losing midline core stabilization and swaying your back you should know 2 things.

(A) the weight is to heavy for you if you have to do that to get the weight up

(B) you need to work on core strength more to better protect yourself from

  1.  Here is a quick tip. If you would scale the weight and focus on maintaining the tightness in the torso it would be a great core exercise for you while learning the skill of the press.

Takeaway tips:

Leave your ego outside the gym, proper setup is key to success, keep your tightness throughout the move, keep the bar as close to your body as possible during the press, keep your (hand,wrist, and arm all inline), and practice the strict skill especially the rebound bounce timing to strengthen target muscle groups to accomplish the lift as efficient as possible.

Good luck, happy lifting and contact Moowatee CrossFit to start your fitness journey.

Tuesday 9/16 Paleo Challenge WOD 1

13 Minute AMRAP:

10 minutes of work time with 3 minutes of built in rest time. The athlete’s score is the total number of reps completed.

  • 4 Minutes of Max Calorie Row
  • 1 Minute Rest
  • 3 Minutes of Chest to Bar Pull Ups
  • 1 Minute Rest
  • 2 Minutes of Back Squats
  • 1 Minute Rest
  • 1 Minute of Shoulder to Overhead

Warm-up and scaled skill levels will be posted on the board at the box.