During 13.4 I had a few of my athletes ask about the push press. Most of them female and most of them concerned about getting the prescribed weight from the front rack position to overhead. The push press is slightly different than most movements utilized in CrossFit in that the first move is NOT the hips and butt moving backwards, but rather your knees traveling slightly forward. You also need to sure you have the proper grip on the bar and it is definitely different than a front squat.
Let’s look at the grip, first. The main difference between a push press versus a front squat is that your elbows are lower in a push press to help facilitate pushing the bar upwards.
These first two pictures show athletes performing a front squat, bar is resting on the athletes front rack and the hand is there only for balance and no pressure should be on the hands, all the weight of the bar is on the rack. Bar is in the fingers to help keep the elbows up and high and create that front rack across the chest.
The next two pictures are ready for a press. Elbows are lower, bar is firmly in the hands and this helps promote a push on the bar up and over the head.
Now that you have the bar in the correct position, how do you push press it overhead? To put it simply; it is a very quick dip and drive. You don’t want a deep dip and you want a very fast dip. This action will “bump” the bar off of your shoulders and help you press the weight overhead.
The big thing you want to think of is that your body is a piston and it moves up and down. Your torso is a cinder block and it moves up and down, quickly, to bump the weight overhead. You don’t want any tilt in your torso, you want it to remain completely upright. To accomplish this you want to dip by allowing your knees to travel towards your toes and then, quickly, extend those legs and squeeze your ass to push that bar off of your chest.
Notice that this athlete does not bend forward at all. Her knees travel towards her toes – but not past them – and then she drives the bar overhead. It is different than any squat and it is not a squat, it is a dip. Your hips should not travel backwards because then the bar falls forward and it would make you push the bar away from your body and make it very hard to hold overhead.
The picture below shows good form and then two versions of bad form.
In either of the bad form pictures you can see that the bar will be moving AWAY from his center of gravity if he pushes from that position. The first one the bar will fall off to the front of you and make it hard to hold and the second bad position will tax your back, horribly, during the movement.
The last thing you want to think about is keeping your midline completely stable and the best way to do this is to suck in your abs, tighten them up good, take a good breath in and hold and then dip, drive and push – FAST!
The push press is a GREAT way to build upper body strength and when done correctly you can lift a lot of weight and do so safely.