By Josh Thigpen Author Of The Cube Method For Strongman
I have a strongman class that I coach here in the Houston area and I can tell you there are a few things that I have found to be a universal truth when it comes to the overhead. I find myself repeating these 3 principles more than any other in my classes. Although I have long arms and a build that doesn’t seem conducive to pressing, pressing has always been a strength for me. At one point I was able to press a 400 pound axle for 5 reps and won many overheads in competition including the viking press at a giants live show. Recently a couple of injuries have made pressing tougher these days, but I definitely have something to offer on pressing events. In my experience, if you incorporate these 3 things into your pressing your overhead will be greatly improved.
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1.Don’t let the elbows drop. This is the main reason for missing a press assumimg strength isn’t the issue. When I coach elbows up, I don’t mean you have to hold your elbows in a high position, I mean don’t let the elbow drop when you bend the knees to incorporate leg drive. Again and again athletes dip down on a log or dumbbell and the elbows go with it. On a log, this means the log will roll down your chest when you try to press it. On a dumbbell, it means the dumbbell will shoot out to the side and not straight up. On a block press or axle, they will shoot out in front of you. I recently filmed myself pressing a dumbbell and every rep I missed was because my elbow dropped, every single time. Every single press I got, my elbow had stayed in position. Now this can be confusing if you don’t film a lift or have a coach who sees it. You may not understand why you are missing the lift, but it could be something as simple as this. Start filming your pressing and take a look to see if the elbow is dropping, it can literally mean all the difference. The way to keep it from happening is to first be conscious of it. Practice over and over without any weight dipping and keeping your elbow in place. Sometimes the reason for the elbow dropping is tight lats so make sure your lats are rolled out and stretched prior to pressing.
2.Explode up onto the toes. If you can use legs why not use all of them? Don’t press flat footed, explode up and get that last bit of power from your calves. One of the greatest examples of this is Mateusz Kieliszkowski. There is a picture out there of him pressing a world record dumbbell and he is literally jumping and leaving the ground with a 315 pound dumbbell on his shoulder.
The same principle applies on an axle or log or viking press or just about any other press. Now that doesn’t mean you have to literally leave the ground on every press, but definitely utilize your calf power. For some this comes more naturally than for others. Those who played sports or are naturally athletic, subconsciously know to come up on the toes, while others have to work on it and drill it in to make it happen consistently. Whichever one you are, get everything out of those legs you can.
3.Press back- this particular cue is primarily for the log although, it does apply to a block or axle as well, but you have to press back. A log that isn’t pressed back will end up out in front of you. Because of the diameter of a log it’s starting position is already in front of you so failing to press back will only make that worse. In order to press back you also have to be leaning back in the rack position. Those who are new to the log may not be used to this lean, but it is necessary to keep the log centered over your hips to keep it from rolling. When pressing you then lean back, get out of the way of the log and literally press back and behind you. I encourage my class to press to the wall behind them in order to give them a better idea of how to press it. Having trouble pressing back can again be caused by tight lats so keep them loose!
Of course it is always true that you just need to get stronger, that will always be the case. However, if you are strong enough to press a weight but aren’t transfering that strength properly into the implement, the strength may be useless. So remember these three technique cues, dont let the elbows drop, explode up onto the toes, and press a log back and it might just lead to some new pressing pr’s!