This week at CrossFit Central, our athletes are crankin’ on the CrossFit Total.
If you don’t already know, the CrossFit Total is comprised of 3 lifts: The Back Squat, the Shoulder Press, and the Deadlift.
In each of the lifts, the athlete is attempting to set new 1RM maxes that will be summed and Totaled (Get it?) for a resulting score equal to the pounds lifted. The Total is the way we test an individual’s overall strength, which I’m sure you probably guessed by the selection of the exercises, right?
It’s funny, though. As I watched my athletes take on each lift, I realized that the lift that they were having the most trouble with was the the shoulder press – by far the most simplistic lift…on the surface, but we are about to dive a bit deeper to uncover why the press is the hardest movement to improve on. You ready?
Alright. So to start us off on the right foot here, I am going to show you a video. This is pretty much the way I teach the press, minus a couple points that we will hit a bit later. Watch this and you’ll be up to speed.
Seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, let’s quickly make a checklist of the basics:
1. Grip right outside of shoulders(make sure it’s symmetrical)
2. Unrack the bar by creating a platform with your anterior delts(front of your shoulders)
3. Set your feet at hip-width, squeeze your butt, quads, and abs as tight as possible. This creates a rock-solid foundation to press from. VERY IMPORTANT!!!
4. Lift your elbows so that your forearm is completely vertical. Basic rule here is that your forearms need to point in the direction you want the bar to go; straight up and slightly back.
5. Take a quick, deep breath just before initiating the press.
6. Drive the bar straight up keeping it close to your face and forehead.
7. Once the bar has cleared your forehead, press slightly backwards while also driving your upper-body under the bar.
8. Lock the B#tch out!!!
So now that we have a basic understanding of what needs to happen to succesfully perform a quality press, here’s the one major idea that I want you to grasp:
We have discussed this before, but when performing any lift, the athlete has a specificed timeframe in which he or she can make the lift. Any slower and the bar will stop dead in it’s tracks and leave you in no-man’s-land, wondering what the hell just happened.
Here’s the deal. Once you have set up and you are rock-solid in that position, you must maintain it as you punch that bar towards the ceiling…making it a point to keep the bar path as close to your face as possible! This deliberate effort to move quickly will ensure that that nasty little thing called GRAVITY doesn’t catch hold of that bar – closing that window of possible PRs.
So, next time you hit some presses, focus on the details of your setup, the bar path, and especially your speed!!! You will find that the press, when done with these things in mind, is not as simplistic as you originally thought….BUT, you will also realize that there is a ton of POWER and STRENGTH hidden in those details!!!
Travis Holley is a CrossFit Level II Coach, has a B.S. in Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Northern Colorado, and has 3 years of experience coaching a wide variety of individuals ranging from young athletes to grandparents, and everyone in between.