Why you should be doing the Push Press

While the Bench Press is the king of upper body exercises, the Push Press is next in line for the crown. While less commonly performed by the average gym goer, the Push Press has value that carries over most, if not all fitness goals. Additionally, the Push Press is just plain useful. Hypothetically, if I had to prescribe just one upper body pushing exercise to my clients, it would be the Push Press. I love the Push Press. (**Note, the Push Press just like every other exercise, it can be misused and incorrectly performed. I am advocating for intelligent execution and programming.)

Why Push Press?

Carry Over to Real Life and Athletics- Consider the full range of upper body exercises you perform in the gym, not one carries over to an actual movement performed in everyday life. Picking things up and placing them overhead is a common movement and probably more common is the reverse picking things up from overhead and lowering them to our chest. The carryover to athletics is undeniable, building explosive power throughout the entire kinetic chain i.e. from your feet to your shoulders is essential for sports dependent on power think football, basketball, Olympic Lifting, jumping and catching as in baseball, and so much more.

Hypertrophy– The Push Press allows for more overload of musculature, more so than a traditional strict press. You can generally push press 10-20% more. Bigger weights =bigger muscles. Period. The Push Press is a great auxiliary lift for those looking for hypertrophy in the deltoids and pecs. Particularly if you perform the Push Press correctly touching the upper chest, the Push Press is a good exercise for building the fibers of the upper chest.

Full Body Strength – The Push Press starts from the floor. Force is generated from the floor and travels to the barbell in your hands. The hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes are all used during the Push Press to help initiate force. So unlike the strict press, the Push Press trains the body as a unit.

Overall Power (including lower body power) – The Push Press should not and cannot performed well slowly. The Push Press performed correctly is a true power exercise. While the benefits of the Push Press on upper body power are obvious (your pushing a bar explosively upwards with your chest shoulders and triceps), the Push Press has also been shown to produce greater lower extremity maximum mean power when compared to the jump squat, a commonly prescribed movement for improving lower body power (1). Again the Push Press’s benefit to work the body as a singular unit remains.

Practicing Full Body Tightness – One overlooked benefit of performing a proper Push press is the movement helps reinforce full body tightness. To properly perform the Push Press you need to squeeze your whole body, from your quads and glutes, to your hands holding the barbell.  If you are looking to build maximum strength, full body tightness is essential. Additionally, the Push Press helps practice full body tightness, while performing shoulder and elbow extension like in the Bench Press.

Rotator Cuff and Scapulohumeral Rhythm (aka protecting your shoulder joint and maintain a mobile scapula)- The rotator cuff is a serious of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. These muscles include the (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres Minor muscles) which aid in shoulder flexion, extension, as well as internal/external rotation. The rotator cuff has been shown to be active during overhead pressing. (2) In particular the Supraspinatus shows the highest level of activation. (2) Interestingly enough the Supraspinatus is also the muscle most associated with rotator cuff tears. The shoulder is made up of primarily two structures: the humerus and the scapula. The movement that occurs between these two structures is what is known as Scapulohumeral rhythm. When you perform pressing exercises with your back pinned to a bench (aka in the bench press and all its variations), your scapula is pinned disrupting this natural movement and creating an immobile scapula. The movement that occurs during the Push-Press allows for natural Scapulohumeral rhythm.
 

klokov-push-press_hook_grip

Your Ego – If all those reasons aren’t enough to consider incorporating some sort of Push Pressing into your programing, maybe this is. You can use about 10-15% more weight doing a Push Press compared to a strict press. While I’m not recommending using loads you cant’ handle (be smart), if someone has stagnated with the strict press the Push Press is a good alternative to help build back their confidence with pressing, especially with feeling comfortable with heavier weights.

 

 

References:

1. Lake J et al, Power and Impulse Applied During Push Press Exercise, J Strength Cond Res, 28(9): 2552–2559, 2014

2.Townsend H et al, Electromyographic analysis of the glenohumeral muscles during a baseball rehabilitation program, Amer J Sports Med, 13(3): 264 – 272, 1991

3. Getz JD et al, “Acromial morphology: relation to sex, age, symmetry, and subacromial enthesophytes”, Radiology, June 199(3):737 – 742, 1996

 

 

 

Beginner Strength Training: It doesn’t need to be that complicated

Of the myriad of people who approach me in the gym by and large beginner lifters mainly approach me. These are generally doe eyed beginners who meander around the gym typically with a gym buddy, who’s slightly bigger , from one isolation exercise to the next, doing an exhaustive amount of sets and pounding protein shakes and pre-workouts. Indeed, most of us were this exact person at some point at the beginning of our lifting/fitness careers. Whether it meant following the advice of the biggest gym bro we could muster up the courage to talk to (because being big means you must know what you’re talking about right…?), or religiously following the advice of fitness magazines and gurus, we have all made some mistakes in terms of our training particularly as we start out. With all the information available, it can truly be confusing and intimidating for a new lifter to figure out a program to hop on or a style of training to engage with.

Figuring out how to train, as a beginner lifter can be overwhelming

Well I’m here to tell you that for the majority of healthy injury free beginners, training does not need to be that complicated. First, let us first define what a beginner is. While there are many opinions about what constitutes a beginner, I personally use strength standards as a metric for defining a beginner. While strength standards are a murky generally overly simplified topic, for the sake of brevity I will use the following numbers to describe a beginner trainee:

 

Bench Press: Less than 1/2 of bodyweight

Squat: Less than 1x their bodyweight

Deadlift: Less than 1.25x their bodyweight

For example, a trainee who is 150lb is 5″10 benches less than 75lb, squats less than 150lb, and Deadlifts less than 185lb would most definitely be a beginner.

Beginner Training:

There are a multitude of training programs for beginners.  Most in my opinion are far to complex. On one end of the spectrum there is the adored beginner program Stronglifts 5×5 from Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength . Starting strength incorporates an unnecessary amount of volume, as well an intensity level that can be physically and psychologically crippling to new lifters. *Disclaimer I adore starting strength, in fact I think it is one of the best programs available to build raw strength and size. Additionally, Mark Rippetoe is a brilliant coach and thinker regarding strength training, however, for beginners I believe it is possible to make as much progress using stronglifts 5×5 in a fraction of the time in the gym, and ALOT less stress. On the other end of the spectrum, many beginners jump into a “bodybuilding body-part split” type routine, which is simply sub optimal for a variety of reasons. These programs typically have no progression patterns and are also unnecessarily high in volume and exercise variety. Ultimately, any good beginner program should be maximizing the following principle: PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD. Simply put progressive overload is adding more weight to the bar in a linear fashion. While there are various ways to progress (load, volume, density, tempo) moving more weight should always be your main goal as a beginner lifter. Why? Because the beginner stage is where you will make the fastest progress with the smallest amount of effort and organization. Additionally, your main goal as a beginner lifter should be to build a solid foundation of strength. Whether, you are looking to get really big, really strong (obviously), really fast, or just improve athletic performance, a foundation of strength is something you must build.

There are many ways to organize your training as a beginner. One simple way to organize your training as a beginner looking to gain muscle and strength would be the following:

M- Squat, Work up to Max Set of 8-12 reps @60% of 1rm

W- Deadlift, Work up to Max Set of 5-8 reps @60% of 1rm

F- Bench Press/Military Press, Work up to a Max Set of 8-12 reps @60% of 1rm

Each week add 10lb to your squat and deadlift, and 5lbs to your pushing exercise of choice. Add in some vertical and horizontal pulling, hamstring work, and some direct arm work and your solid.

There are several benefits of using this max effort single set style of training as a beginner. One, you can realistically continue with this progression scheme for several months without any difficulty meaning you could add literally 100 of lbs in total to all your lifts. Two, you’ll be in and out the gym in less than 25 minutes. Three, due to the low volume and frequency, you can use this style of training while in a caloric deficit yet continuously getting stronger. (*Side Note– Using this max effort 1 set approach is an EXCELLENT way to maintain general strength while in a caloric deficit at any level.)

Once you begin to stall using this method you can simply add additional sets AND STILL use progressive overload adding weight each week and trying to maintain a similar amount of reps in each set. However, at this point it would also be ideal to start looking into basic forms of periodization, which I’ll cover in my next post!!