Push Press: How to Develop Explosive Strength and Power

The Push Press enhances shoulder strength and muscular development. Unlike many other overhead upper body exercises, the Push Press also utilises the legs. Therefore, heavier weights can be lifted in comparison to other overhead shoulder exercises that disregard the involvement of the lower body. It also:

  • Improves your ability to generate and control force
  • Strengthens your core, shoulder, arms, back and legs
  • Taxes your entire body


  1. Secure the bar in the jerk rack position with the feet at approximately hip-width and the toes turned out slightly.
  2. Keep the weight balanced on the heels while maintaining full foot contact with the floor.
  3. Bend slightly at the knees only, keeping the trunk vertical and the weight on the heels.
  4. Transition immediately at the bottom of this dip and drive aggressively with the legs against the floor to accelerate the barbell upward.
  5. As you finish the extension of the legs, begin pushing against the bar with the arms, keeping the knees straight and immediately drop back to flat feet.
  6. Pull the head back out of the way of the bar to clear a direct path, and push the bar into a fully locked overhead position behind the neck as you would in the jerk.
  7. As the bar leaves the shoulders, spread the elbows to move them under the bar as soon as possible, and bring the head forward through the arms as the bar passes.

When setting up for the Push Press, you should unrack the bar high and tight to your clavicle with the elbows just in front of the bar but pointed toward the ground. Not fully racked (like a front squat) but rather with a more vertical forearm to create leverage under the bar. The torso should be upright and vertical throughout the entirety of the movement dip, with weight on the heels.

crossfit girl emom workout push pressSource: RX'd Photography
Lock that lift out!


There are different cues and descriptions accounting for how to initiate the Push Press, but most often, this part is called the “Dip.” Effectively, you want to sink into your heels, bend the knees about 1-2 inches, and explode out of the bottom. Don’t sink slowly or get into a squatty type of mentality. Simply “bounce” the knee and start accelerating that weight up!

  • Chest up
  • Squeeze glutes
  • Squeeze quads
  • Flex abs
  • Tempo

Speed wins in the Push Press. You are not going to grind this lift out and you’re not going to see a slow tempo notation assigned to this lift. Bounce the knee, punch the weight, lock it out.


To finish strong, you should seek to throw your fists to the ceiling and drive your chest forward and down. Imagine it as “putting your head through the window”.  You can also drive your chest forward to help the movement of your head. Keep your eyes forward, don’t follow the urge to look at the floor, and you will be well on your way to perfecting this exercise and building explosive strength and power.

patrick vellner crossfit canadian athletesSource: twimg
The push press builds explosive power



A rotator cuff (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres Minor muscles) pathology of the shoulder is a highly overstated false consequence of the Push Press (or any overhead exercise for that matter), when appropriately implemented into the athlete’s training program design. It is usually an unsuitable program design or an excessively prescribed overhead exercise volume, not the exercise itself that may place the athlete at risk of injury. It has been demonstrated that during overhead pressing type exercise performance the rotator cuff is active, with the supraspinatus exhibiting the highest recorded EMG activity of the muscle group.


The gleno-humeral joint of the shoulder is comprised of two osseous structures: The scapula and the humerus. The ball and socket articulation of this joint is comprised of the head of the humerus and the glenoid which is actually a component of the scapula. The scapula also comprises the scapula-thoracic joint at the posterior aspect of the thorax.

During overhead exercise performance there is a relationship to both the shoulder range of motion and the gleno-humeral and scapula-thoracic joints “rhythm” to maintain the head of the humerus appropriately centered in the glenoid. Disruption to this “rhythm” over time may place the rotator cuff at risk of pathology.

crossfit female athlete performs push pressSource: RX'd Photography
Push Press time!

Overhead exercise performance with a bench backing will “pin” or “compress” the scapula of the shoulder between the bench backing and the athlete’s thorax including the athlete’s body and barbell weight. Joint compression is synonymous with joint stability resulting in a less mobile scapula. This likely will affect the natural and necessary required scapula movement and rhythm during the repeated overhead exercise performance thus setting the table for possible shoulder injury. The Push Press allows for free scapula movement and proper rhythm throughout the exercise performance.


Yes you read this correctly, lower extremity power development. The Push Press has been documented to produce greater lower extremity maximum mean power when compared to the jump squat exercise. Thus the Push Press exercise provides a time efficient combination of lower body power and upper extremity and trunk strengthening during the exercise performance. This exercise may not only be utilized in the athlete’s training, but may also be appropriately utilized at end stage upper and lower extremity rehabilitation as well.

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