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How to Build More Muscle, Strength and Better Pecs with the Z Press

Build a more powerful upper body.

This extensive guide to the Z Press will teach you everything you need to know about the exercise and how to use it to build strength, muscle and a better body.

What is the Z Press?

The Z Press is a seated pressing exercise that works with zero drive from the legs and core.

This makes it a difficult movement that produces excellent results for dedicated athletes. It requires good hip mobility and core strength (to stabilise the load).

Why is it Called the Z Press?

Elite strongman Zydrunas Savickas invented the movement, so it has earned his name.

He is known by the nickname big Z, hence the name. Some lifters also refer to the exercise as the Savickas Press.

What Muscles does the Z Press Work?

The exercise works the following muscles:

  • Upper pecs
  • Front deltoids
  • Scapular stabilizers
  • Triceps
  • Abdominals, core and obliques
  • Erector spinae

The movement works many of the same muscle groups as the Overhead Press. However, the seated position eliminates a great deal of support from the lower body.

Muscular-shoulders-Sara-Sigmundsdottir Shoulder Exercises Ranked Worst to Best ur Shoulders Z Press
Build strong shoulders

The core muscles are used more for stabilising the weight and maintaining good posture, alongside the erector spinae.

The front delts, upper pecs, and triceps are used to propel the weight upwards. The triceps lock the weight out overhead.

Benefits of the Z Press

The exercise has many excellent benefits.

Enhanced Stability of the Scapular

The movement is performed from a seated position, making it inherently more unstable than its standing counterparts.

This means that the scapula are challenged and forced to work hard. This will carry across to other overhead and pressing based movements.

Build Muscle

The movement is a valuable addition to any hypertrophy plan on a pressing, shoulders or upper body day.

You will also build a solid upper chest and front delts.

Augment Strength

As a tough, compound barbell (usually) exercise, the exercise is an effective way to increase your strength.

Better Core Stability

The lift is a unique core exercise. It forces the lifter to adopt a position where the core (and lower body) cannot help to generate force, but they must work hard to balance the weight.

This will strengthen the core significantly.

Improved Overhead Pressing Technique

The seated position also leaves little room for error when it comes to technique.

If the bar is unracked too far away from the body it will be almost impossible to complete the rep.

There is no room to lean too far backwards or forwards either.

The lifter must use the upper traps, core, shoulders and upper back correctly in order to successfully manage every rep.

This insistence on good form will have huge carry over for all other pressing exercises.

Using the Lift to Warm Up

The exercise is also a great way to warm the shoulders up for sessions involving exercises such as Split Jerks, Push Presses, Front Squats and Wall Ball Shots.

Keep the weight to a minimum (or simply use the barbell) and aim for three sets of 10 reps.

How to Do the Z Press

Use these instructions to perform the exercise with correct technique.

You can do the movement inside a squat rack with a barbell, or on any floor with kettlebells or dumbbells.

Protein for athlete with barbellSource: WODSHOTS
Time for strength

With the barbell variation in the squat rack, set the safety bars slightly below (a cm or so) your front rack position.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Establish an upright torso. Dig the heels into the floor
  • Grip the barbell and shelve it into the front rack position. Keep the chest proud
  • Inhale and brace the core, grip, glutes and back
  • Keeping the elbows under the wrists, press the barbell upwards
  • Punch your head through the hole once the barbell has passed the head
  • Flex your triceps and lock the barbell overhead
  • Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position on your chest and shoulders
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips

Spent some time warming up your hips before you start to lift. This will help you feel more comfortable and stable during the exercise.

Think about compressing the ribcage downwards when you start the press. This will help to activate the obliques, core and abs. Once the bar moves upwards, try not to let the ribcage flare outwards.

Keep the core tight at all times. This will help to prevent the urge to lift the bar slightly out in front of the body.

If you lose balance then slow the movement down.

What Types of Equipment can you do the Exercise With?

The most common type is performed with a barbell.

They can also be done with kettlebells, dumbbells and even sandbags.

Z Press Variations

Try a different feel and switch up your programming with these variations.

  • Barbell Landmine Press
  • Barbell Overhead Press
  • Kettlebell Z P
  • Unilateral Z P

Z Press Alternatives

Test your strength and technique with these alternatives.

  • Single-Arm Kettlebell Sots Press
  • Barbell Sots Press
  • Double Front Rack Kettlebell Carry

FAQs

Got more question? Scroll down to find the answers.

What is a KB Z Press?

The KB Z Press is an acronym for the Kettlebell Z Press.

How much should you Z Press?

Start light as it is an advanced exercise.

Keep the volume on the conservative side and make sure to focus on optimal form and tempo. Be controlled and focused at all times.

What does the Z Press Work?

The exercise targets the upper back, upper traps, front deltoids, upper pecs, scapulae, triceps and core.

Learn More

Add these effective press alternatives to your training:

Or build leg strength with Nordic Curls and a better upper body with Chin Ups.

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