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Getting Started with Push Presses: A Complete Guide

Looking for a full-body explosive movement? Look no further than the push press. 

Push Press Explained

The push press is easy to master once you read how to do it and try it a few times. Once you have it mastered, it will be one of your go-to moves at the gym.

What is a push press?

The push press is a form of the overhead press. It is commonly added to workout routines when the person wants to build bigger shoulders.

This exercise is great at building stronger and more defined shoulders, even when you use light weights. 

With the push press though, you can use heavier weights easier.

This is because you will be using your lower body to give you momentum to push the weights up. The push press will increase your shoulder strength as well as the strength of your entire upper body. 

The move also naturally conditions your rotator cuff. If you have been hitting the weights hard and haven’t done much conditioning, this move will definitely help keep your shoulders in good condition. 

How to do a push press

Before starting with this exercise, it’s important to learn how to do it properly to avoid injury and other problems. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and grip the bar with your fingertips. 
  2. Keep your elbows pointing forward. 
  3. Rest the bar on the front of your shoulders. 
  4. Dropdown into a shallow squat. 
  5. Center your weight under the barbell. 
  6. Press up through the heels.
  7. Drive the bar directly above your head until your arms are straight. 
  8. Lower the bar down to your chest. 
  9. Maintain a neutral arch in your spine throughout the move. 

Dumbbell push press

This is the same move as the push press, but you will be holding a dumbbell in each hand.

It can be a little harder to do because you are stabilizing the weight in individual hands rather than all together. 

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep a dumbbell held over each shoulder with your palms facing forward.

Lower yourself into a shallow squat and then drive the shoulders up by pushing the weights overhead as you go.

Finish with your arms fully extended then return under control to the start. 

Tips for keeping the right form 

With any move when you are lifting weights, you need to ensure you are in the right form and aren’t performing the move improperly.

Following form tips can make sure you avoid injury. 

Don’t squat too low 

Many people make the mistake of squatting too low.

In some exercises, squatting low is the best way to perform the exercise and get maximum results. However, with the push press, squatting low isn’t ideal. 

You only need to squat low enough to give you an explosive movement. Bend your knees slightly and then drive yourself up with as much power as possible.

If you are using lightweights, you should easily be able to send the bar upwards without too much effort. 

Once you are comfortable with the movement, you can begin to add in more weights. As you find it easier and easier to press the weight up, you can add in more. 

Work on your grip 

With some press grips, you use a thumbless grip. With the push press though, you will need to wrap your thumbs around the bar.

This might seem weird at first if you are used to doing other presses, but you will find that the thumb grip is more comfortable with the push press. 

You should also keep your grip narrow and your forearms vertical underneath the bar. You should also grip the bar hard and keep your fingers stabilized. 

The main benefits of the push press 

With any new exercise, you are probably wondering about the benefits and why you should add this new move to your workout routine.

Let’s look at the main benefits.

Muscle growth in the upper body 

Along with your shoulders, you will see a strength increase in your entire upper body.

The large amounts of load and the drive from your upper body will begin to increase your body strength with noticeable results in your muscle growth. 

The different variations and the repetition schemes can also add in needed inclusions when it comes to the push press.

The different variations will contribute to more power, strength, and endurance. 

More athletic power 

While you might think the push press only adds to your shoulder and upper body strength, it actually is a total body exercise.

The explosiveness adds to your hip and leg strength. It also integrates a powerful hip extension. 

Easy to move onto more advanced overhead training 

If you are looking to add more jerk exercises to your workout routines, the push press is a great place to begin.

It is an amazing way to introduce jerk movements and eventually move onto more difficult movements. 

Any jerk movement requires a strong overhead position and stability. It also requires total body coordination and stability.

Proper load placement is also crucial to avoid injuries.

If you are a beginner or immediate lifter, the push press is amazing at preparing you for future workouts. 

Better overhead stability 

All variations of push presses will give you outcomes of overhead strength and stability. These two features are required for all fitness athletes.

The better stability and more strength will give you greater pushing strength and injury resilience. 

Mastery of a common movement 

Push presses are considered an Olympic weightlifting movement.

They can be found in almost all weightlifting programs because of their many benefits.

The hips, knees, and torso mechanics during the push presses are identical to the jerk. 

What about the jerk press?

As mentioned a few times above, the push press is a gateway to the jerk press.

Many people become curious about the jerk press and if they should start doing it alongside their movements of the push press. 

Push jerks allow you to push the greatest amount of weight because there are two bend knees rather than one. It can be used as part of a clean and jerk.

You will do the dip-drive and hip extension to get the bar moving, you will move under the barbell and landlocked out in a slight overhead squat. 

The lift is finished when you stand tall with the bar overhead. People with larger or longer arms find this movement easier than those with shorter arms.

You should always try to remember to drive the knees out when you are bringing the bar overhead. 

Otherwise, you might find it easy to drip in a bad position and potentially damage your knees and legs.

You will also start this left with your elbows slightly in front of the bar. 

Frequently asked questions

Everything you need to know about the push press and the many benefits. 

What muscles do push press work?

A push press is a type of compound exercise, which means it helps you focus on multiple muscle groups at once.

The exercise is considered an excellent option for people who are looking to increase tone and strength in the upper body. 

A push press works on muscle groups that are found in the following areas of the body:

  • Shoulder muscles
  • Chest muscles
  • Triceps

Some variations include dips together with a push press. In these cases, additional muscles will be engaged during the workout.

When a dip and drive method is used while performing a push press, then the hips and quadriceps are also activated. 

What are push presses good for?

Push presses are multipurpose exercises that can be useful when a person focuses on their upper body.

The workout is excellent for increasing muscle and physical strength in the upper body.

Additionally, a push press can also be used to assist in toning muscles in the shoulders, chest, and triceps. 

Is push press the same as shoulder press?

While there may be similarities between a push and a shoulder press, these two are not the same exercises.

A push press may provide more benefits when compared to a shoulder press. 

Due to the specific movement and technique used to perform a push press, people generally find that they can push more weight compared to what they are capable of with a shoulder press. 

The push press also provides activation of muscles in more than just the shoulders.

While a shoulder press primarily focuses on muscle groups of the shoulder, a push press also works on the chest and the triceps. With an added dip, the quadriceps and hips are also engaged. 

What’s the difference between push press and overhead press?

The movement itself is very similar. Both exercises require a barbell to be pushed in an upward direction.

There are, however, small factors that set the two workout techniques apart from each other. 

With a push press, a dip is included in the motion. By including this dip in the exercise, people generally find that they can gain better momentum and force when pushing the barbell.

In turn, heavier weights can be lifted, which results in more significant activation of hypertrophy. 

Have there been any studies done on the benefits of push presses? 

Yes, there have been numerous studies.

In the most notable study done by the Sports Medicine Journal, researchers considered several derivative exercises that are linked to overhead presses. A total of 13 previous articles, papers, and studies were taken into consideration.

The study concluded that weightlifting overhead press derivatives are highly effective at enhancing the individual’s overall performance and capabilities.

The researchers also state that these moves require movements in the ankles, knees, and hips that are very similar to certain types of sports. 

The researchers state that the use of these workout options may be an effective strategy for enhancing physical strength, particularly in the upper body.

Furthermore, researchers also report that the exercises may be considered as an option for improving coordination and balance. 

Final Thoughts 

Whether you have never heard of a push press or have been practicing them for a few years, following the right tips and trying different variations is great for keeping your workouts new and interesting.

The push press also has some amazing health benefits. The muscle-building opportunities in the shoulders and total body are also incredible.

Use the push press in your weekly workout routines for building upper body strength. 

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Kristen holds a bachelors in English from Louisianna university. With a longstanding passion for fitness, she owns and operate her own gym and is a certified jazzercise instructor.

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