Push Press 101
We show you step-by-step how to do the push press to build strength and boost your bench with the baddest overhead press in the gym.
By Noah Bryant & Josh Bryant
Whether you’re loading boxes overhead at the docks, or you’re one of those male cheerleaders lifting up a dime piece for school spirit, we could all use more overhead strength and power.
The push press is one of the best lifts to achieve this extra strength. This lift activates your calves, quads, core, deltoids and triceps, which are prime movers, as well as a host of other muscles that stabilize and assist. Few lifts can make this claim. Furthermore, it is one of the best lifts to build your explosive power and, as we know, explosive lifts recruit more motor units.
The push press is a quick, explosive lift rather than a slow, “grind-it-out” lift like the strict overhead press. This targets the type II muscle fibers, which have a greater potential for growth. Due to the large muscle groups recruited in the push press, the hormonal response elicited is highly favorable.
The leg muscles are activated in the push press so you can hoist a lot more weight than you can with the overhead press. This can be incredibly useful if you have hit a plateau in your overhead press.
Because you’re lifting more weight than you could with no leg activation, the overload weight at lockout allows your connective tissue to adapt to a much higher level of stress, benefiting all of your upper-body training.
The push press is not only for people looking to gain explosive power—it can also be used by bodybuilders looking to build rock-hard delts and slabs of upper-body muscle. It’s a fast movement when the weight is light enough, but as you reach your upper limit it will turn into more of a strength movement.
The push press requires the lifters body to function as a whole unit. These high levels of motor unit recruitment will ultimately benefit all your lifts, from the squat to the bench. This, in turn, will lead to a higher level of muscular growth.
One way a bodybuilder can use the push press is to strict press as many reps as possible and then, once failure is reached strict pressing, start to get the legs involved and finish out the set push pressing. The extra reps pushed out using this method will result in serious strength gains and mammoth muscular growth.
Push pressing can also be an invaluable tool to the bodybuilder because it allows you to overload the eccentric portion of the lift. Push press the weight up and lower the bar for five seconds on the eccentric portion, this is a sure way to achieve the granite-like delts you seek.
Possibly the best thing about the push press is that it’s very easy to learn and implement it into your training. One can learn to do this movement within a few minutes, as opposed to a jerk, which is extremely complex and can take a long time to master. If you can overhead press and you can jump; you can successfully learn how to push press.
As you watch this video, pay attention to a few key points:
- Keep your torso upright during the lift. A big mistake people make is either leaning forward or leaning backward. Both of these can lead to missed lifts, and serious injury.
- Activate the legs first. Think of this as a leg lift and really explode up.
- Make sure you keep the lift “fluid,” as in one upward motion. Explode up with the legs and then be ready to activate the upper body to keep the momentum going.
- Be mindful of the bar path. The bar should travel slightly back so that at lockout the bar is over the crown of the skull.
Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS, trains some of the strongest and most muscular athletes in the world in person at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and via the Internet. He is the co-author of Amazon # 1 selling book, Jailhouse Strong. To learn more about Josh Bryant or to sign up for his free training tips newsletter, visit www.JoshStrength.com
Noah Bryant is a 2-time NCAA Champion and 4-time All-American in the shot put, with a personal record of 20.80 m. He holds the school record in the shot put at the University of Southern California. Noah represented the United States in the 2007 World Track and Field Championships and the 2011 Pan-American Games. He was regarded as one of the strongest shot putters in the world, with a 210 kg (462-pound) clean and 150 kg (330-pound) snatch.