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5 Tips To Increase Your Z Press


Article By Kalle Beck


The Z Press is an effective assistance exercise for increasing your log press and general overhead strength, which is very important if you want to compete in Strongman.

The lift is effective, as it can’t be completed unless you learn how to effectively brace or “get tight” from the bottom of the lift, or else you will simply fall backwards.

I have used the Z press in my own training, and the programming for hundreds of clients programming, as an effective tool to increase the overhead press. There are a few key points to maximize the effectiveness of the lift in your training, which I constantly see overlooked in Z press videos posted all over social media.

First how to do a Z press


  1. Not resetting between reps


Is the hardest rep of your set your first rep? That’s probably because you are doing your reps touch and go, and not resetting at the pins/blocks. By doing so,  you are taking out the hardest and most beneficial part of the lift. Due to the awkward and unstable starting position of the lift, you have to get extremely tight in the lats, back and core to break the weight off the pins. This teaches you how to push through sticking points in your standing overhead press, and develop speed to power through them. Try to reset every rep on your Z presses, and notice how much harder they become.


  1. Using too low of a starting position


You might get grief from the Instagram coaches when you post a video saying “that’s not full range of motion”,  but by raising the bar height to a starting position right at your sticking point (most commonly right above your eyebrows) you will likely increase your log press and out press them at your next competition. It is important to remember the point of an assistance lift is to assist in increasing your competition lifts, not to appease the slew of experts with private profiles on what “true strength is”.  Try a variety of different starting positions and see what has the most carry over for you.


  1. Not using enough weight


This doesn’t mean to load as much weight as you can and grind out single after single.  It just means if you use too light of a weight, and lean back the whole time while lazily banging out rep after rep because the weight is not enough to put you on your back, you are missing out on the main training benefit of the lift. You can tell it is an effective weight if you have to brace very hard and push your upper body forward the entire time. A good guideline to start with is 60% of your standing 1 rep max for sets of 6-10 reps, but this will vary depending on your individual strengths and weaknesses.


  1. Bracing your feet against a wall or the squat rack


Again, this isn’t a Z press competition, and by pushing your feet against a solid surface you can lift more weight because you have added a lot of stability to the lift. This might give you bragging points on Instagram, but in the end you are only cheating yourself from the benefits of this assistance lift.


  1. You are not flexible enough


Another benefit of the Z Press is exposing glaring mobility issues, especially in the hip flexors.  While you should work on correcting these mobility problems, a quick fix to still get the benefits of the Z press it to elevate your bum up to a height that does not cause discomfort. My work around for clients is to sit on a 45lb bumper plate, and that generally does the trick.


The take home message from this article is to make assistance exercises work for you, and think about what you are trying to accomplish by adding them into your programming. What muscle groups do they target? What are your current weak points? You need to know the answers to these types of questions before adding or subtracting assistance exercises in your own programming. Don’t just add in random movements willy nilly because you saw some strong lifter do them in a video.


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