The push press is a powerful strength-training move that targets your shoulders, using a kickstart from your hips and thighs. Olympic lifters often use the move to complement their training, as it can improve technique and power in the snatch and clean and jerk. It's also a staple in CrossFit workouts.
Use an Olympic bar to do a proper push press. The standard bar weighs 45 pounds. Once you've mastered your form with the bar, add plates to increase the intensity.
Grasp the bar with an overhand grip; your hands should be about shoulder-distance apart, or slightly closer. Either pull it off a rack at chest height or clean it from the floor. Your grip should enable you to still drop your elbows under the bar, just below your wrists, so you have leverage to push the weight upward.
Hold the bar at chest height with your head slightly pulled back. Your wrists bend slightly back as the bar sits just at the collarbones. Allow the elbows to point out slightly to provide power for pushing up. Feet are hip-distance apart.
Dip your knees, hips and ankles about a quarter of the way into a full squat. Keep your torso straight up. The purpose of the dip is to provide power for the press.
Explosively push the bar up and overhead as you extend your legs and hips. Keep the bar close to the face as you drive it upward. The push comes from the momentum created by the dip of the legs. Return the bar to the shoulders to complete one repetition.
The push press develops overall body coordination, so your muscles learn to work as an integrated unit. You learn to apply maximal force in minimum time.
It's easier to learn and less technical than the jerk, which takes time to master. The push press requires no Olympic platform or specialized bumper plates. It'll also feed your ego as you can push far more weight than you can with a military press because you're using power from your legs.
The push press requires you to drive the bar up in a straight line. Your torso needs to be perpendicular to the floor, even as you dip. If you don't drive the bar straight up, physics will take it forward and will likely result in a failed lift. The heavier your bar, the more likely this outcome.
You need some guidance before trying your first push press. It may not be as technical as formal Olympic lifts, but it still requires attention to form. A professional coach who can evaluate your hand position, elbow bend and dip position will help you get the most out of the move.
Although some Olympic lifters swear by using the push press to develop power and get past sticking places in the clean and press, not all support it as a training tool. Pressing in Olympic lifts is illegal, and you'll be at a serious disadvantage if it becomes a habit.
The move can also be stressful on the lower back if you fail to brace your abdominal muscles. If your back bends as you push up, you risk losing power in the push and, more importantly, could risk your back health.