Strict Press 101

I love me some strict pressing. While typically barbell strict press, I also program is in with log, swiss bar, fat bar, dumbbell, and just about anything you can safely press overhead. I find its utility to be a bit higher than bench press, so if I am really having to consolidate training days, it’s the staple I recommend most people keep in. That being said, getting the most out of your strict press training does eventually come down to having skill and technique down as opposed to just pressing an implement overhead.

Set up: hands slightly outside your shoulders.  What we really want it for your forearms to be mostly perpendicular to the bar. Taking your arms out too wide or too narrow will shift the load to be a little more delt and tricep dominant respectively and can result in a weaker press.  Get a big breath before you unrack the weight and pull yourself under the bar.  In a strict press, you DO want the bar in the heel of your hand as opposed to front rack position. This is the primary positioning difference between strict press and push press.

From there, you want to externally rotate from the hip, squeeze the glutes, and brace your core. A common mistake on overhead pressing is not activating your glutes and/or shifting into a posterior pelvic tilt.  If you do not brace properly and engage your glutes, its common that your lower back disengages from properly bracing the movement.  Instead, it often acts as almost a fulcrum from which power is poorly and does not aid in the intentional, full body tension we want.

Now, a note on bracing:  a big mistake I see when people are attempting to brace is that they are simply taking a huge belly breath and allowing their rib cage to flare. This typically will also offset your mechanics and lead to subpar intra-abdominal pressure, then a pelvic tilt. Think about keeping your ribs stacked one on top of the other.

Now that you have a set up, flare your lats to create a solid foundation to press from.  You will get as many reps as you can with your belly breath, but if you are doing some considerably volume, you may want to get another breath. Do so by breathing at the top of the movement when you are settled.

Something to consider: strict press is going to be one of your weaker lifts of the core four (squat/bench/deadlift/strict press).  If you are taking yourself into some pretty high intensity, its important to make smaller jumps, as 10lbs here can feel like a 25lb jump on bench press.  Consider your jumps in terms of percentages instead of flat poundage.

Another something to consider: there is a LOT going on with the overhead press. Any overhead movement, done incorrectly, does carry an enormous risk of shoulder impingements. You absolutely CAN come back from impingements and prevent them so long as you respect the technical nature of the overhead press.  In terms of accessory work to help, Im a huge fan of pull downs / pull ups with a similar grip width as your overhead press. Additionally, I think some bracing work can help tremendously as well.

I hope that all makes sense! All of these tips can also be used for various forms of strict pressing, be is barbell, log, and axle with just a few tweaks.  If you have any questions about how to fix YOUR press, let me know! Happy pressing!

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