Behind You Stands A Symbol of Oppression; An Empty Barbell, Where A Thousand Men Have Languished Under The Name of This Exercise, The Press, Who Has Been Held Up To You As The Shining Example of Strength.

The Dark Knight Rises will always be relevant to me. So . . . just go with it.

A while ago I talked about the entire process of Squatting and Benching. Yes I capitalized those words because fuck you thats why. The first thing we can talk about is grip. When most people Press it is usually way too wide. The forearm should be perpendicular to the bar. That’s 90 degrees. Not angled in and NOT angled out. Better external rotation can be achieved with a perpendicular grip. With that said, just because you are gripping it where you are supposed to doesn’t mean that external rotation magically happens. Justin talks about this HERE. That should give you a visual of what to do with your grip and your elbows. You should also have an erection by now as well. It’s hard to explain the grip via writing so just watch the link I have provided. Moving on, The elbows have to be cued. So some of you have your own cues. I just say to myself “Elbows in” or “Elbows”. Remember if you know the meaning behind the cue you can shorten it to one word. If your cue is “Anal”, but you know what that means (elbows externally rotated) then you can yell anal to yourself all day. With a compact wrist and the elbows in the drive from chest/chin (depending on anatomy) will be much faster and easier. That’s assuming you haven’t been Pressing with internally rotated elbows. Remember that you can get strong doing it the wrong way, but you can get even stronger doing it correctly. After all, you want to be able to break backs don’t you?

Only if Batman knew how this was gonna turn out.



Now before you even begin to Press you have to have a slight lean at the hips. This is NOT overextension of the spine. Your whole body leans back. The easiest way for me to describe this is it’s almost like stretching your hip flexors. Keeping your back in extension you lean your hips forward. This obviously happens at the beginning. This sets the bar up for a vertical path with nothing in its way. Your huge dome and chin and now out of risk from getting hit. This lean is also important for something that happens later in the lift. So as you are pressing the bar you want to keep it as tight to your face as possible. This is achieved by aiming for your nose. A nice cue to say is “Nose”. The bar gets pressed back in a vertical fashion instead of out in front of you, which is bad news bears. Once the bar starts to clear the face/forehead the next thing you are going to do is “Punch” your body “Under” the bar. At this point you are no longer leaning and you are physically driving yourself under the bar. This will get rid of the lever arm between the bar and your shoulder. From there you are just pressing it out for the last few inches.

Now we are at the top of the press. When you are at the top you should continue to "Reach" the entire time. This little reach/shrug causes upward rotation of the scapula. This little movement clears the shoulder up for any impingement that might occur. This is also when the breathing happens. There is a big breath for the first rep when you take it out of the rack. When you have completed a rep the breathing then happens before you lower the bar. This might take a few days to get used to bar considering the bottom of the Press is like the bottom of the Squat you don't want to re-breath when you are rebounding. At the top it is a quick exhale-inhale to regain whatever air you have lost during the rep.

Now for the “Rebound”. The rebound is best described as bouncing your triceps of your armpits. This is almost, if not, the same reflex that happens at the bottom of the squat. For some of you this may get tricky. Because if you remember all the leaning and shit you did before you now have to reverse it on the way down so you are set-up again for the next rep (Not the best grammar). Just like you would on a Deadlift.

This is a quick how-to guide to Press. Now the easiest way to learn is have a coach with you that knows what he/she is doing. I hope this can be of some help to those of you that wanted this write up. I can’t promise that you will Press as much weight as you want to, but with patience and perseverance you can conquer all of your goals. Everyones different. People are stronger than others. Hell I fucking hate tall people because I wish I was taller. So remember to play the hand you are dealt.

If I left something out feel free to ask or to correct me.

10/18/12
Bench: 335×5/320×5/305×5
Dips: BWx5x5

10/16/12
Squat: 475×2
Power-Cleans: 220x3x5
Rounded Back Extensions: BWx10x3

10/15/12
Taking a deload on bench as well.
Bench: 315x3x3
Close-Grip: 275x3x3
Pull-Ups: BWx10x3

Leave a comment ?

31 Comments.

  1. great write up AC, thanks again! My only question is, after the first rep when you go to the bottom are you hitting the bar on your upper chest/right beneath your collar bone? Or is the bottom where you rebound your triceps off your lats and that is your bottom?

    I probably wrote that really weird sorry if I’m not clear. Basically where is the bottom of the press for you?

    My “anal” cue that helps me is remembering “elbows” at the bottom, I used to have a tendency to let them flair.

    The bar starts as high on my chest as I can get it. This is usually where it will hit on the rebound as well. Jam them in on the warm-ups and work on it during the work sets. Over a few weeks you will be A-OK.
    –A.C.

    • same here, high on the chest. A friend of mine touches it on his collar bone/esophagus and because of that he makes a loop around his head.

      • Thanks AC and kincain! I worked on rebounding off the lats last night and I was going for a press PR and got it thinking about these ques/tips.

        Thanks again for the solid write up!

  2. Thanks, dude. Your press is beastly.

    It’s one of my favorite things to do, besides self wallow.
    –A.C.

  3. can you describe what your abs are doing? That’s my biggest issue and has led to back pain that i think may never go away haha. Obviously your abs are “tight” and “engaged” but I have found there are different ways to tighten. For example, sucking the belly button in helps me keep my pelvis from tilting and thus overextending, but this seems hardest to keep engaged and if wearing a belt it makes the belt feel loose. When I squat my cue is to push my obliques outward into the belt, and I do the same with deadlift…and it works for both those lifts. I don’t want to overthink it but I’m curious if i just have extremely weak abs or if maybe i’m not using them the “right” way during the press.

    I’ve never actually ran into this problem myself or with anybody I have trained with/coached. I don’t think you are leaning correctly on the Press if your back is hurting. My belly is isometrically contracting. I don’t use a cue for my “abs”. You may be over thinking this and just not performing the lift correctly. Can you email me a video?? Acis70sbig@gmail.com Getting a visual will be easier.
    –A.C.

  4. Hey man,

    Thanks for the clear-headed write up. Quick question: as I’m breathing with the weight overhead, sometimes I feel a little unstable. Is this something you just get used to?

    The breathing should be as quick as possible. You shouldnt be up there for more than a second. People make fun of me because I sound like a sprinkler when I lift. You may have heard Chris do it in his videos. This is us keeping most of the air in our torso during the lift.
    –A.C.

  5. I both love and hate the press. Just as I both love and hate training in general. The press though, seems especially magical and mysterious in that you can press a certain weight solidly for sets of 5 one week, but you can’t get more than 3 reps with just a few more pounds the next week. I find a similar phenomenon with a 3RM; add five pounds and you can barely squeeze out a single.

    Am I alone with this experience?

    Maybe your programming is weird. It depends on a lot of factors. Maybe you didn’t sleep/eat/rest/hydrate enough. You see where it all comes to play?
    –A.C.

    • Absolutely not alone. I think more than any other lift, the press has very little room for errors in form. One elbow flare, one inch too far out in front of your face, etc. and it’s a guaranteed missed lift. I get so damn frustrated with it.

  6. Thanks for writing that up. Detailed but to the point.

    I have a hard time getting syked up to go heavy and still remembering to use good form. I pressed 175×1 today. I could have easily gotten a second rep but I didn’t lean back so the bar floated out foward to clear the chin and it was over. Fuck.

    Also, I still haven’t seen TDKR…

    It takes time. It’s a skill to be (as lame as this sounds) syked up and controlled. See the fucking movie already man. Fuck.
    –A.C.

  7. Nice write up on the press. Squatting is always capitalized, if you have to ask why you don’t squat anyways.

    F U for your hate of talls. I hope Honey Boo Boo and her mom ruin your day in Statesboro, jerk.

    Funny thing, her and her mom went to the bar I work at (I was working) and it was talked about on CNN. Trust me, they have already ruined my fucking day lol
    –A.C.

  8. Another great write-up. The small details and cues have made a big difference in my lifting form.

    I have a question about the scapulas in the lift and hope this makes sense. When you start off in the press position in thoracic extension, the scapulas are slightly retracted with everything tight, right?. But, when you press up, do you try to keep them slightly retracted as you press up and eventually finish with the shrug or do you let your scapulas loose while maintaining a tight back and just let them float up as you press before finally shrugging up with the bar?

    You guys are thinking waaaay too much. If you are worried about your scapulas retracting/elevating/protracting during the lift, then you are doing it wrong. You can’t press and keep them retracted. Just Press the bar dude. You’ll be ok as long as you keep your spine (all of it) in extension.
    –A.C.

  9. Hey AC, I’m gonna be competing in my first meet soon. The singlet you had at nationals was pretty sweet. Where’d you get it?

    Pretty sure Amazon. It’s an Adidas so just google it.
    –A.C.

  10. Thanks for the write up. What are your thoughts on using a false grip? I switched a few weeks ago and am pressing around 10% more with it.

    Well it’s probably forced the bar into a better position over the forearm, in your case. I use a closed grip because I think false grip is dangerous. To each his own.
    –A.C.

  11. Squeezing your glues hard helps too. It promotes a more forward pelvic position and also makes over-extension of the spine less likely. Just a cue that has helped me. “Anal” is not a bad one for that…

  12. Hey AC, when you were more focused on benching did you just bench twice a week every week?

    Right now I really want to drive up the bench and I usually do two weeks of benching twice and pressing light in between. After the two weeks I’ll throw a week where I press twice and bench ones.

    I’m doing TM btw

    I just benched every week yeah.
    –A.C.

  13. Have you seen the new way that Rip teaches the Press? http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/platform_learning_to_press_2.0

    It’s interesting

    Just watched it. Already talked about it with some friends. I think its a little hazardous to teach that to beginners. Hyper extension kinda rears its ugly head. Just like how Willey mentioned that his low back hurts. This type of method will only make it worse for him. Although it is a different type of press and there are multiple ways to do it. Justin/Rip/Myself trained me how to press with my current style so I like mine how it is.
    –A.C.

    • Yeah, I certainly wasn’t saying you should change your current technique. Clearly it’s working just fine

      Sorry if I came off that way. Didn’t mean to.
      –A.C.

  14. Alright so I hit 165×5 (3 sets) weighing 185 on sunday. However, on my last rep of my last set, it was a LONG struggle (my roommate was with me and said it was well over 6 seconds long), but I finally locked it out. However, I was shaking like a madman trying to keep the bar stable without moving my feet, and as a result I feel like I hyperextended my lower back a bit.

    I feel like I do this a bit near the ends of reps in general, but never too badly that it hurts. How the hell do I cue myself to not do this? I don’t want to make a long term injury out of this.

    Maybe cue yourself “Squeeze” to keep your trunk tight. I could help more if I could see it. Next time can you video???
    –A.C.

  15. This isn’t related to the press but I had a general question: what kind of shoes do you use? I have been lifting in Vans old school type shoes. They have a totally flat sole, hard rubber, not too high (maybe 1/2 inch?) and good grip. I’ve been having a little achilles tightenss, probably from hitting parallel on squats (low bar, back squat) without a shoe that has a raised heel. Suggestions? Thanks

    VS athletics or Adidas. I personally wear VS’s.
    –A.C.

  16. Hey AC, where do you work? Not here in New Orleans huh?

    I work at a bar in Statesboro. I’ve got one more semester then hopefully I’ll get a job in Louisiana at Southeastern.
    –A.C.

  17. how big do you think batman’s press is?

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