The barbell push press exercise is fantastic exercise not only for the shoulders, but for the full body!
Unfortunately the majority of guys stick to their strict overhead press and never properly utilize the push press.
"That's just a bad form overhead press"
"I'll leave that to the Crossfitters"
Both of these are comments I've heard when I've brought up the push press with training partners during a shoulder workout.
Now, if your goal is purely hypertrophy and time under tension (i.e. for 'enhanced' bodybuilding) then perhaps the push press exercise isn't for you... but if you just want to build overall explosiveness, get stronger shoulder and stack on some mass then I'd highly recommend implementing the push press into your regime at least every other week.
Benefits of the Push Press
Not convinced? Here's what you can expect from the push press...
Can Help You Beat Your Overhead Press Plateaus
Progression is never linear when it comes to the strict overhead press, there are times where you'll have a good few months of consistent strength gains on your overhead press followed by periods of struggling just to lift your usual weight. I speak from experience, I've been through this multiple times over the years, during these times my bench press and other key lifts have continued to rise while my strict overhead press stalled.
When this happens instead of using poor form to get the weight up on your overhead press I recommend learning to push press correctly, you'll find the explosive power you build combined with the overload you're able to apply to your shoulders (as you'll find you're able to lift substantially heavier on the push press) will help you break through your strict overhead press plateaus.
Swap out your overhead press for the push press for 2 - 3 weeks, then return to your OHP.
Fantastic For Building Maximal Power
If you're a bodybuilder the push press likely won't be a staple in your routine (I'd recommend using it to break plateaus as mentioned above) but if you're an athlete or take your chosen sport seriously the push press should absolutely be a staple in your training regime. Dipping down, pushing through your heels and transferring power through your hips to drive the barbell overhead is an excellent full body movement for building maximal power.
Engages The Entire Body
When most guys think of the push press they think it works a little bit of shoulders and not much else.
That couldn't be further from the truth.
Much like other key power focused exercises like the deadlift the push press, particularly when performed heavy engages your entire body.
Quads, hamstrings, shoulders, core - you name it, you'll be recruiting it when performing the push press with textbook form.
Easy To Learn
In comparison to other power and strength oriented barbell exercises such as the deadlift, snatch, clean etc. the push press is the easiest exercise to perfect.
Now, that's not to say this isn't a technical lift (we'll delve into detail in the common mistakes section later in this article) however it's much easier to coach in comparison - if you can squat and you can overhead press the transition between the two does not take long to learn.
Fantastic Foundation Exercise Before Learning Olympic Lifts
Utilizing the rack position, driving through your heels and hips while transferring power make the push press a fantastic starting point for those wanting to delve deeper into the land of Olympic lifts.
Push Press Exercise Form
Begin with your foot positioning just outside shoulder width.
Grip the barbell in a shoulder width position (in the rack position) with your elbows pointing forward and the Olympic barbell sitting on your fingertips.
Maintain a slightly lean back.
Ensure the barbell is rested properly on your shoulders and fingertips before proceeding.
Dip down ever so slightly (this isn't meant to be a full squat by any means).
Drive through your heels and utilize your explosive hip power to get the barbell directly overhead.
Lower the barbell back down to your chest in a controlled manner.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Common Push Press Exercise Mistakes
Not Paying Attention To Grip Placement
A grip too narrow or too wide and you've already set yourself up for a bad set - you must comfortably have the barbell in the front rack position, close to your body with your elbows pointing forward shoulder width apart.
Dipping Down Too Far & Fast
When you dip down you should only be dipping about a quarter of what you would normally do to perform a squat, you don't want to drive your hips backwards either - dip down 1/4 of the way with hips maintaining an upright position, failure to do so will result in a loss of power - the repetition will still work but you will not be able to lift as heavy as you could do because you're expending energy and power on the way up to correct this.
When it comes to the dip don't drop down too fast either as this will separate you from the barbell - you want to remain in contact.
Pushing Instead of Driving The Barbell
The overhead press is a strict pushing movement, the push press is a driving movement - ensure you're not prematurely pressing the barbell as you come up - as you return from your dip and explode through the hips you'll begin to drive the barbell upwards.
That's right - the driving of the barbell begins with your legs and hips - not your shoulders.
Incorrect Programming Into Routine
Don't throw the push press at the end of your workout.
Don't do sets of 25 reps of the push press.
This is an explosive power based exercise and should be performed in a relatively low rep range at the beginning of your workout.
Not Maintaining A Strong Core During The Exercise
You must maintain a tight core for the duration of the push press - you don't want to fall forwards or backwards while dipping down or driving your heavy barbell overhead.
Ensure your core is stabilizing your upright position the entire time.
Here's The Barbell I Use & Recommend...
I've been using one of these 'The Beast" 7 foot olympic barbells in my home garage gym for the last 6 years, it's affordable, high quality and gets the job done regardless of how many 45lb plates are loaded on it.
Check it out and invest in a high quality "The Beast" barbell here.