Last week, I wrote about the bracing sequence as it applies to the deadlift. This week, I would like to touch on a few Strict Pressing tips. Just like the deadlift, getting organized properly will solidify your position and allow you to move more weight.
First off, I hear a lot of talk about wrist discomfort when supporting a barbell overhead, so I want to address this first. Here are three things that you can do, that might make the overhead position more comfortable for you.
1) Give your tendons and ligaments time to adapt. Tendons and ligaments are non-vascular, so they take much more time to adapt than a muscle (in a fully extended position). I know that’s not much immediate help, but understand that they will eventually adapt and the discomfort will decrease over time.
2) Wear wrist wraps to provide support. This literally takes some load off of your connective tissues, which helps a great deal.
3) Consider adjusting the position of the barbell when you are holding it. Personally, I try to keep the barbell as close to the heel of my palm as possible. As the barbell gets deeper into your palm, the lever increases which places more stress on your wrists.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get into the Strict Press. An ideal setup for the front rack position for a strict press should have your elbows underneath the barbell, yet slightly in front of it. When you press, you want to think about driving you elbows directly up into the barbell so that your forearms are perpendicular. If the elbows are way out in front, similar to a push press or front squat, you introduce an unnecessary step to accomplish the press. Also, the barbell should be resting right on your collarbone; as close to center mass as possible.
Before pressing, take a big breath, squeeze your core, draw it in, AND pull your shoulders slightly back and down (this braces your whole torso). This step is often overlooked, but it engages your lats. I consider our lats to be a core muscle because it wraps around your ribcage on your back, providing a rigid base to press from.
Next, tighten your hips and quads. Again, this provides a stable base to press from. Often times I will see athletes press and then become soft in the knees and hips. This causes them to lean back and arch their back in the middle of the press (not good). Keeping tension in your lower body is probably the most important aspect of pressing overhead.
The last two tips I have for you occur while you are executing the lift.
1) Drive through your heels. If your body weight shifts to your toes, the weight on the barbell will follow. The further away that the barbell gets from center mass, the harder it gets to press.
2) For larger sets, breathe at the top of the movement, when the barbell is locked out overhead. If you breathe while the barbell is in the front rack position it will compress your diaphragm. Take a breath (or two) at the top and hold it throughout the next repetition.
Try implementing these things, step-by-step, and you'll begin to see improvements in your Strict Press.