The push press is a versatile movement that can develop great amounts of muscle mass, strength, power, and overall athletic performance for nearly every athlete. In this article we will discuss five very specific reason why every strength, power, fitness, and sports athlete should be doing more push presses on a regular basis.
Below are five highly specific benefits of the push press, arguably one of the best upper body power and strength movements any athlete (weightlifting, CrossFit, formal sports, running, powerlifting, strongman, etc) can do to improve overall athletic performance.
Upper Body Strength and Muscle
Push presses can add quality slabs of muscle and develop strength to all levels of lifters, specifically in the upper body, hips, and quadriceps. The legs are used to power the movement at the onset, explosively producing enough force to accelerate the barbell vertically so that the upper body may then finish the lift overhead. This movement can be done typically with far more weight than a lifter could strict press, offering a simple and effective way to overload the overhead movement to build bigger shoulders, triceps, and enhance overhead stability and control.
Hip Drive and Athletic Power
Hip and leg drive are critical to power development in Olympic weightlifting, athletic sports, and human locomotion such as running, sprinting, and jumping. The usage of push presses in training have been found to provide similar benefits to jump squats in terms of power development, which can be very beneficial for increase force production, muscle contractions speeds, and the development of the stretch shortening cycle.
Strength and Technique for Weightlifting
The push press is one of my top assistance lifts for Olympic weightlifting. It teaches proper hip drive and extension, which is applicable to nearly everything we do as weightlifters. In addition:
- Reinforces proper dip and drive mechanics of the legs similar to jerks
- Reinforces a lifter’s abilities to dip to the correct depth every lift/jerk
- When push presses are cycled, it allows for development of the strength shortening cycle in the legs and hips, very applicable to power output and even catching power cleans (strength to decelerate crashing barbells)
- When done in a non-cycling fashion, the push press can be used to increase leg drive and upper body strength specific to jerking movements
- Can increase overall upper body strength and mass in the front rack position and throughout the overhead movement.
As you can see, the push press, when done in a variety of ways (cycled reps of not) can be individualized to fit the need of weightlifters, CrossFitters, or sport and strength athletes.
Overhead Performance in WODs
Better leg drive and overhead strength (seen by improvements from above), as well as greater muscle mass and timing of the shoulder to overhead movement will all increase your ability to move more weight smoother and/or move any load more efficiently. With many WODs, athletes must cycle loads shoulder to overhead in a variety of complexes. Regardless of whether or not the specific WOD includes a push press and/or barbell, the attributes built during the push pressing exercise (strength, muscle, proper hip drive and power, timing and usage of the lower body in overhead movements) will all result in better overhead performance in WODs (snatches, power cleans, jerks, handstand push ups, wall balls, thrusters, etc). Now, this is not to say they will fix bad technique and sloppy form with those movements mention, but that can surely aid in your abilities to withstand shoulder fatigue and general athletic weakness.
Segue into More Advanced Overhead Movements
Push presses are a great movement to develop total body strength and power that can be used in workouts and competition. When looking to move heavier loads overhead and/or increase overhead efficiency (such as in CrossFit WOD situations), the push press is a necessary and vital overhead movement progression (along with the strict press) when learning how to push, power, and split jerk. Without proper knowledge of how to time the dip and drive phases, use the legs for vertical driving of the barbell, and having strong lockout strength; all of these more advanced lifts will be elusive.