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Power and Skill Building Push Press Shoulder Workouts for Athletes

These push press shoulder workouts will help you develop powerful upper body strength and build power and muscle. There is a wide variety to choose from barbell complexes to partner WODs. Scroll through to the end to find more information on how to protect your shoulders and a selection of banded scapular activation exercises. 

1/4 MILE FOR HUMANITY

  • For Time
  • 400 meter Front Rack Lunges (45/35 lb)
  • *Every 10 lunges, perform:
  • 5 Push Presses (45/35 lb)

Perform the front rack lunges unbroken for the whole 400 meters. Every 10 walking lunges, perform 5 push presses in place until you finish the quarter-mile.

SCOTT LARSEN

  • Every 2 Minutes For As Long As Possible
  • Push Press (75% of 1 rep-max)
  • Handstand Push-Up
  • Start with 1 repetition of each, then add 1 one repetition to each movement every 2 minutes

When the clock starts, perform one push press and one handstand push-up. At the 2:00 mark, perform two of each, then at 4:00 perform three of each. Add one repetition to each movement every two minutes on the minute (E2MOM) and continue for as long as possible until unable to complete the required number of reps within the 2-minute round (similar to “Death By” style workouts).

THE BROKEN THRUSTER HILL

  • For Time
  • 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2 reps of:
  • Front Squats (205/135 lb)
  • Push Presses (205/135 lb)

Perform the given set of exercises starting with a volume of 2 and increasing at a rate of 2 reps per set until reaching 10 reps then decreasing at a rate of 2 reps until done, in the shortest time possible.

Score in this workout is based on the amount of time taken to complete the prescribed amount of work.

LEONARD RAGAGLIA

  • For Time
  • 20 Push Presses (65% of 1 RM)
  • 20 Burpees
  • 15 Push Presses (70% of 1 RM)
  • 15 Burpees
  • 10 Push Presses (75% of 1 RM)
  • 10 Burpees
  • 5 Push Presses (NULL% of 1 RM)
  • 5 Burpees

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. The load of the Push Press increases every set while the repetition decreases.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of push presses is completed.

LADDER UP

  • AMRAP in 7 minutes
  • 1 Pull-Up
  • 2 Push Presses (75/55 lb)
  • 2 Pull-Ups
  • 4 Push Presses (75/55 lb)
  • Continue with this pattern, adding 1 Pull-Up and 2 Push Presses each round.

On a 7-minute clock, perform as many repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written. Athlete must complete 1 Pull-Up and 2 Push Presses in the first round. Continue with this pattern, adding 1 Pull-Up and 2 Push Presses each round.

Score is the total number of repetitions completed before the 7-minute clock stops.

JACK – Push Press Shoulder Workouts

  • AMRAP in 20 minutes
  • 10 Push Presses (115/85 lb)
  • 10 Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1 pood)
  • 10 Box Jumps (24/20 in)

On a 20-minute clock, complete as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the total number of rounds and repetitions completed before the 20-minute clock stops.

Tips and Strategy

Prior to the start, athletes should create a rep scheme they can manage for the entire 20 minutes—and fight hard to stick to the plan. This will ensure a consistent pace, and therefore a better overall score. Here’s an example:

10 Push Presses: 6 + 4
10 Kettlebell Swings: Unbroken
10 Box Jumps: 6 + 4 *rest on top of the box after rep 6

Intended Stimulus

This relatively long triplet (a workout with three movements) should feel tough yet doable. The load should feel relatively light for the Push Presses and the swings. The box height should feel easily clearable.

This workout has three different movements that all require fairly different skills, which makes major muscular fatigue and burnout less of an issue. Pick a strong pace from the beginning and hold on tight to that pace. Remember: The more times the athlete breaks up the Push Presses and Kettlebell Swings, the more they need to pick the load back up off the floor.

Scaling Options

Reduce the weight on the Push Presses/Kettlebell Swings and the lower the box height as needed so each set of exercises can be performed smoothly. The reps should either be completed unbroken or in a max of 2 sets.

Intermediate
Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
10 Push Presses (95/65 lb)
10 Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1 pood)
10 Box Jumps (24/20 in)

Beginner
Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
10 Push Presses (65/45 lb)
10 Kettlebell Swings (1/.75 pood)
10 Box Step-Ups (20/15 in)

BETTY

  • 5 Rounds For Time
  • 12 Push Presses (135/95 lb)
  • 20 Box Jumps (24/20 in)

WILLIAM JOHNSTON

  • EMOM in 5 minutes
  • 5 Push Presses (185/135 lb)
  • 5 Strict Pull-Ups

KEVIN REILLY

  • EMOM in 12 minutes
  • Odd Minutes:
  • 5 Push Presses (155/105 lb)
  • Even Minutes:
  • 5 Deadlifts (155/105 lb)

Each push press should start from the ground.

WILLIAM LAKE

  • EMOM in 10 minutes
  • 2 Overhead Squats (135/95 lb)
  • 2 Push Presses (135/95 lb)

BIG CLEAN COMPLEX – Push Press Shoulder Workouts

  • 6 Sets for Max Load
  • High Hang Clean + Hang Clean + Clean + Push Press
  • High Hang Clean + Hang Clean + Clean + Push Jerk
  • High Hang Clean + Hang Clean + Clean + Split Jerk
  • One set consists of all 12 reps

Each set consists of 12 reps, without dropping the bar (if you must drop after the overhead movements, it’s allowed – just be quick to get back on the bar). Complete 6 total sets. Rest as needed between sets and try to increase weight after each set. All cleans must be full/squat cleans (power cleans are not allowed).

Score is the maximum load successfully lifted during one set from the 6 total sets.

BRUCE GARY

  • For Time
  • 40 Double-Unders
  • 40 Box Step-Ups (24/20 in)
  • 40 Push Presses (75/45 lb)
  • 30 Double-Unders
  • 30 Box Step-Ups (24/20 in)
  • 30 Push Presses (75/45 lb)
  • 20 Double-Unders
  • 20 Box Step-Ups (24/20 in)
  • 20 Push Presses (75/45 lb)
  • 10 Double-Unders
  • 10 Box Step-Ups (24/20 in)
  • 10 Push Presses

JONATHON HOLMANN

  • For Time
  • 15 Strict Presses (NULL% of 1 rep max)
  • 15 Push Presses (NULL% of 1 rep max)
  • 15 Push Jerks (NULL% of 1 rep max)
  • 1 rep max Strict Press

Each repetitions begins from the ground.

Source: Physio DetectiveSource: Physio Detective

GIROUARD – Push Press Shoulder Workouts

5 Rounds for Time (in a team of 4)

Round 1:

  • 25 Deadlifts (NULL/70 lb)
  • 15 Thrusters (70/50 lb)
  • 5 Push Presses (70/50 lb)

Round 2:

  • 20 Deadlifts (NULL/70 lb)
  • 15 Thrusters (70/50 lb)
  • 10 Push Presses (70/50 lb)

Round 3:

  • 15 Deadlifts (NULL/70 lb)
  • 15 Thrusters (70/50 lb)
  • 15 Push Presses (70/50 lb)

Round 4:

  • 10 Deadlifts (NULL/70 lb)
  • 15 Thrusters (70/50 lb)
  • 20 Push Presses (70/50 lb)

Round 5:

  • 5 Deadlifts (NULL/70 lb)
  • 15 Thrusters (70/50 lb)
  • 25 Push Presses (70/50 lb)

Complete five rounds of the exercises as quickly as possible in a safe manner. This is a four-person-team, “task-specific” workout. The purpose of this workout is to develop cohesion and combat fitness under fatigue conditions through shared hardship, challenges, and competition.

This workout requires four team members to perform the prescribed work together. If performing the workout with gym equipment, use barbells, and other available equipment. But this workout was designed for military units, so it was originally intended to be done with two .50 cal ammo cans for deadlifts, one 25mm ammo can for thrusters, and one 25mm ammo can for push presses.

Each team member has a specific exercise to perform: he will be doing deadlifts, thrusters, push-presses, or waiting at the rest station. Once each athlete has completed his required reps of the exercise at each station, the team rotates together so that each athlete is at the next station. This rotation will continue until each soldier has successfully completed five rounds of each exercise. The first round will end when each soldier returns to the station he began at. Rounds 2 to 5 are executed in the exact same order, with different repetition requirements for the deadlift and push press. Spotting is not permitted at any time.

JOHN TIERNEY

  • For Time
  • 20 Push Presses + Front Squats + Thrusters (45/25 lb)
  • 15 Push Presses + Front Squats + Thrusters (75/45 lb)
  • 10 Push Presses + Front Squats + Thrusters (NULL/65 lb)
  • 5 Push Presses + Front Squats + Thrusters (135/95 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. One repetition is equivalent to one barbell complex of push press, front squat, and thruster.

Score is the time on the clock when the last set of the barbell complex is completed.

SHANE ORTEGA – Push Press Shoulder Workouts

  • For Time
  • Buy-in: 2 mile Run

Then, 21-15-9 reps of:

  • Push Presses (NULL% max)
  • Burpees Over the Bar
  • Cash-out: 2 mile Run

This workout, as originally written, called for “heavy push presses” but did not specify an Rx weight. WODwell set Rx at 80% of the athlete’s 1-rep push press. Scale as needed.

FIRING SHOULDERS

  • 6-5-4-3-2-1 Reps for Time
  • Strict Presses (165/105 lb)
  • Push Presses (165/105 lb)
  • Push Jerks (165/106 lb)

Perform the given set of exercises starting with a volume of 6 and decreasing at a rate of 1 until done, in the shortest time possible.

Score in this workout is based on the amount of time taken to complete the prescribed amount of work.

THE CHIEF IS DEAD – Push Press Shoulder Workouts

  • Five AMRAPs in 24 minutes
  • AMRAP in 4 minutes
  • 3 Power Cleans (135/95 lb)
  • 6 Push-Ups
  • 9 Air Squats
  • 12 Deadlifts (135/95 lb)
  • 1 minute Rest, then Repeat (5 times total)

Complete as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 4 minutes, then rest 1 minute. Start each 4-minute cycle where you left off on the previous cycle. Repeat for a total of 5 cycles. Count total rounds and reps completed.

Source: RX’d Photography

ANNABELLE – Push Press Shoulder Workouts

  • For Time
  • 50 Russian Kettlebell Swings (24/16 kg)
  • 104 Goblet Squats (24/16 kg)
  • 50 Russian Kettlebell Swings (24/16 kg)
  • 104 Kettlebell Ballistic Rows (24/16 kg)
  • 50 Russian Kettlebell Swings (24/16 kg)
  • 104 Kettlebell Push Presses (24/16 kg)
  • 50 Russian Kettlebell Swings (24/16 kg)
  • 104 Goblet Squats (24/16 kg)
  • 50 Russian Kettlebell Swings (24/16 kg)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the time on the clock when the last set of Russian Kettlebell Swings is completed.

Movement Standard

Kettlebell Ballistic Row: Similar to Bent Over Row, hold the Kettlebell on one hand and bend your upper torso 45 degrees down. Push the Kettlebell down close to the ground and pull it up to your hips and switch hands.

ASSAULT LIFT PYRAMID

  • For Time
  • 3-6-9-12-15-12-9-6-3 reps each of:
  • Power Cleans (135/95 lb)
  • Front Squats (135/95 lb)
  • Push Presses (135/95 lb)
  • Calorie Assault Air Bike

Scapular Health

WHAT ARE MY SCAPULAE?

Your scapulae (scaps for short) are the foundation of your shoulder joint and these flat wing like bones help to anchor your shoulder to your torso. Any exercise where you move your upper arm utilises your scapulae in some way and any weakness in the 17 different muscles that connect to it will translate into weakness in the movement. They are an incredibly mobile bone, tilting and rotating to accommodate the wide range of movement of the shoulder joint.

scapular health diagram of the skeleton
Anterior view of the Scapulae

HOW TO TEST YOUR SCAPULAR HEALTH

Here’s a quick test for you: grab a small straight object like a pen or toothbrush, one in each hand and stand up straight, shoulders relaxed. Are your objects pointing straight ahead or inwards? If they’re pointing in towards your body, I’m sorry to say you probably have far from optimal scapular function.

Our modern lives of sitting in chairs and hunching over keyboards has weakened the muscles in this area causing poor shoulder mobility and stability, which can spell disaster if you’re an active CrossFitter. But not to worry because in this article we are going to show you how you can strengthen the surrounding muscles so you can hit new PRs and stay injury-free.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

FOR PERFORMANCE

Of your overhead reach, the muscles around your scapulae are responsible for roughly the final 60 degrees. Everybody knows that a strong overhead pressing or jerking position involves having your upper arm behind your ear, your glutes switched on, your abs tight and your ribcage pinned down. So if you struggle to get the bar directly overhead without having to break good form and flare out your ribcage – compromising safety as well as strength – your scapulae could be the problem.

scapular health snatch liftSource: Stevie D Photography
Good scapular health will help your snatch lift

Scapular strength is also fundamental for the snatch and overhead squat. When you’ve got the bar overhead in that wide grip, scapular and lat activation help to put your shoulders in a strong position and stop them rolling forward. As well as being an incredibly dangerous position for your shoulders to be in, inwardly rolled shoulders will shift your centre of gravity forward, bringing you onto your toes and often resulting in a failed lift.

You may be surprised to learn that even for a mostly lower body movement like the back squat good scapula function can help. If you can’t squeeze them tight to stabilise your back when you’re high bar back squatting, your torso is less likely to remain upright and the weight could pull you forwards onto your toes into a weaker and potentially dangerous position.

FOR INJURY PREVENTION

There is no way around it, Crossfit requires strong shoulders and good scapular health. From overhead squats to toes to bar, weak shoulders will lead to sub-par performances and possibly injury.

Poor shoulder position caused by weak or inactive muscles around the scapulae can stress tendons and ligaments around your shoulder girdle. This stress accumulates slowly, over weeks, months and even years. You may not notice these little micro injuries as they occur, but eventually that one final overhead squat with poor form could be the final straw that broke the camel’s shoulder.

If your scaps can’t move properly to get into strong positions, other parts of your shoulder such as the rotator cuff will have to try and compensate and move in ways that they are not designed to do so. This can result in rotator cuff tears, impingement, bursitis rotator cuff tendonitis/tendinosis and labrum injuries to name a few.

scapular health female crossfitter snatchingSource: Stevie D Photography
Take your scapular health seriously and you will help prevent injury in the long run

But don’t worry it’s not all doom and gloom, we’re here to show you how you can get scaps of steel!

HOW CAN I STRENGTHEN THEM?

Resistance bands are a useful tool to achieve this aim. Here are some examples of great scap strengthening exercises that you can use them for:

FACE PULLS

Use a band that provides a moderate resistance and perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

ITYs

Named after the shape your body and arms make when you perform the exercise. Use a light resistance band for this and perform 10 reps in each position I,T, and Y before resting, do 3 sets in total. Its also worth noting that these can be done with light dumbbells while lying face down on an elevated bench.

BAND PULL APARTS

Excellent for strengthening scapular retraction, aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

BAND DISLOCATES

Don’t be put off by the gruesome name, these can be really beneficial for shoulder health and mobility.

Crossfit doesn’t feature a lot of heavy rowing movements (the rowing machine is mostly quad dominant) so athletes tend to develop weaker lower and mid traps around the scapula compared to their dominant upper trapezius muscles which are constantly worked from exercises like cleans and deadlifts. To balance out your back strength, include barbell or dumbell rows in your training. Rowing movements are great for your shoulder and scapular health as well as having a strong carryover to weightlifting.

Also, always being mindful of the position of your scaps during a WOD can go a long way to improving their function and save you from injury.

When doing pull-ups, toes to bar, push ups, ring dips, bench press or almost any upper body exercise, make sure you are actively pulling your scaps down and back and soon this stronger position will become second nature.

SCAPULAR HEALTH: MASSAGE AND RECOVERY

Finally, it’s important to mention that massage can really help to unglue tissues around your scapula. Spending years in bad shoulder positions can cause the muscles to stiffen and knot, so to help them activate properly use a lacrosse ball, tennis ball or ‘peanut’ and place it in the area between your scapulae and spine. Apply some gentle pressure by leaning against a wall or lying on the floor and move the ball up and down this area and wherever you feel a few lumps or knots, keep the ball in there until you feel it start to loosen. Spend five minutes on the left and right side and after you’ll feel like you’ve got a brand-new set of shoulders.

Incorporating these exercises into your training, either as a warm up or post-WOD accessory work will only take about 30 minutes a week but will go a long way to making you a stronger athlete and keep you Crossfitting for years to come.

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