Push Jerk, Push Press and Strict Press – What is the difference?

The push jerk, push press and strict press all move a load from your shoulders to the overhead position, yet the way they are performed varies slightly between each movement and they serve different purposes.

The starting position for all exercises is the same, with the weight resting in the front rack position. Jerks and presses are most commonly performed with a barbell, yet it’s also possible to perform them with dumbbells or kettlebells.


The strict press, also known as the shoulder press, is a pure strength building exercise. It requires the athlete to lift a load from the front rack position (with the elbows below the bar) to overhead using only force provided by the upper body (by pressing overhead).

The shoulder press forms the foundation for all pressing movements, which include the push press and push jerk, as well as handstand push ups or the bench press.

All the power required to move the load overhead comes from the upper body in the strict press, there is no momentum created to aid the lift. The exercise starts with an engaged core and radiates this strength to the upper body extremities.

Unlike the push press and push jerk, where the lower body helps move the weight overhead, the strict press requires unequalled midline strength to drive the load overhead. It is the least technical of the three movements discussed, yet it arguably is the most important as it builds the foundation for the next two.

Without a stable core the strict press lift falls apart completely, with the hips, stomach and pelvis arching so as to push themselves ahead of the bar. Your torso should stay as static as possible and your legs and feet should not move.

Strict press setup

  1. Take the bar from supports or clean to a racked position.
  2. The bar sits on the shoulders with the grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
  3. The elbows are below and in front of bar, the stance is approximately hip width.
  4. Press the bar to a position directly overhead. The head must accommodate the bar.

Strict press benefits

Benefits of the strict press include:

  • Build strict strength
  • Develop and train your core and midline

Strict presses will allow you to move weight overhead without the help of the lower body.

Strict press workout

AMRAP in 5 Minutes:

  • 10 Strict Presses (75/55 lb)
  • 15 Kettlebell Swings (24/20 kg)

This couplet focuses on training your midline stability, as well as targeting your shoulders.

Scale: reduce the weight of the strict press and rest briefly on the front rack. Chose a kettlebell weight that will allow you to perform each set unbroken.


The push press introduces the lower body to the overhead pressing movement. The exercise is initiated with a dip of the legs and the momentum that these create coming upward is used to help thrust the bar from the shoulders to the overhead position.

In the push press, the hip flexors, glutes, spinal erectors and quadriceps assist the arms in driving the barbell overhead.

As you come back up from the initial dip use the drive to push the barbell up. This should be done quickly, with the load moving upwards in a straight line.

Push press setup

  1. Start with the load resting on your torso and your elbows slightly in front of the bar
  2. Initiate the dip by bending the hips and knees while keeping the torso upright, it should only be a couple of inches.
  3. With no pause at the bottom of the dip, the hips and legs are forcefully extended.
  4. As the hips and legs complete extension, the shoulders and arms forcefully press the bar overhead until the arms are fully extended and locked overhead.

Benefits of the push press

With the push press, you’ll be able to move as much as 30% more weight overhead than with the strict press. In addition to building strength, the push press will help you train:

  • Power
  • Speed

Both the push jerk and the push press are efficient ways to place a load overhead with help of the lower body, yet the muscular demands upon the shoulders and upper body are slightly higher in the push press than the push jerk.

Push press workout

AMRAP in 5 Minutes:

  • 10 Push Presses (95/65 lb)
  • 10 calorie Row

This couplet consist of two complementary exercises that challenge the midline and the shoulders.


The push jerk also moves the weight from the front of the shoulders to the overhead position, yet the athlete drops their body under the load to achieve this. The weight is therefore lifted using mostly the strength in your legs through the overhead squat.

The first part of the jerk is a push press, but crucially, a jerk is followed through immediately by a dip under the load. This second dip allows you to come under the weight and catch it with locked arms overhead, then standing up.

By dropping under the barbell to place it overhead, you minimise the distance that the load must travel, thus enabling you to lift heavier weights.

The push jerk couples speed and velocity.

The push jerk is the most complex movement of all three because of the timing and speed required to execute it with precision.

Push jerk setup

  1. The start is the same as the push press or strict press.
  2. You then dip and drive the bar up just like you would during the push press.
  3. Instead of just pressing, you press and dip a second time simultaneously, catching the bar in a partial squat with the arms fully extended overhead.
  4. Stand up to lock the bar directly overhead, with knees, hips and arms fully extended.

Push jerk progression

Benefits of the push jerk

A push jerk will allow you to move as much as 30% more weight overhead compared to the push press, as you use your hips to create upward momentum as well as dipping under the bar to receive it in a partial squat. With the arms locked out, the legs complete the lift.

Push jerks can help you train:

  • Timing
  • Coordination
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Moving heavier objects overhead
  • Olympic lifting proficiency

Intensity and efficiency are increased with the push jerk, allowing for more total volume at a faster rate.

Push jerk workout

5 Rounds For Time:

  • 12 Deadlifts (155/105 lb)
  • 9 Hang Power Cleans (155/105 lb)
  • 6 Push Jerks (155/105 lb)

The load should feel easy on the deadlifts, moderate on the hang power cleans, and tough on the push jerks. The load should be such that you can get through the first couple rounds unbroken.

10 Crossfit wods jerk liftSource: RX'd Photography
Lifting time!


In general, the main differences between the movements include:

  1. Muscles worked
  2. Increased power and speed
  3. Movement efficiency

From the strict press, to the push press and the push jerk, the movements become increasingly more athletic, functional, and suited to heavier loads.

With the strict press, only your upper body will assist in moving the weight, while on the other end, with the push jerk, the loads become so substantial that the upper body only contributes to a fraction of the movement, at which point the catch becomes very low and an increasing amount of the lift is accomplished by the lower body through the overhead squat.

The progression also increasingly relies on your midline strength: the shoulder press, your core is used for stabilization only. In the push press, your abs provide not only stability but also the primary impetus in both the dip and drive. In the push jerk your midline is called on for the dip, drive, second dip, and squat. The role of the hips is increased in each exercise.

Each exercise will enable you to drive overhead about 30% more weight than the previous.

Now add a new exercise into the mix: the split jerk.

5 Tips to Improve your Split Jerk Technique

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