The press is one of our most used functional patterns in our day to day life, especially in basic tasks like pushing open doors. The press primarily works our pectoral muscles (chest), our deltoids (shoulders), and triceps (that back of the arms.
Today we are going to take the opportunity to go over some of the best pressing exercises you can incorporate into your training routine. These movements are: the incline press, the push up, the overhead press, the bench press, and the push press. While there are plenty of other great pressing exercises you can choose to train, these are some of the basics that most people can do safely and efficiently.
The Incline Press
The incline press is a great movement, especially for this who are new to training. It’s fantastic because for new trainees because they are supported by the bench and can focus on the pressing aspect of the exercise. Because of the inclined angle it can be a good option for those who don’t yet have the mobility to access the overhead position.
To set up, start with the bench on a medium to low incline. Sit down on the bench making sure your feet are symmetrical and firmly pressing into the floor. On the bench, your hips, shoulder blades, and crown of your head should be making contact with a small space between the bench and your lower back. With the weight in your hands, start with the arms extend, lower the dumbbells down by pulling them down to your chest. At the bottom position, your elbows should be slightly out from your body but not straight out. Do not relax your muscles in the bottom position, keep tension across the muscles, and then squeeze the muscles of your chest to push the weight back up to the starting position. Perform the incline bench press for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
The Push Up
The push up is a movement that can empower like no other, being able to control your own body is a fantastic skill to have. This is a movement I like to use with trainees of all levels, from those who are beginner to those that are more advanced. Newer trainees can start by working variations of the push up that have their hands elevated to make the movement easier than working from the floor.
When setting up for the push up, you want to set the hands underneath and slightly wider than the shoulders. Your feet should be about hip width apart. As you descend, lower yourself down while staying stable through your trunk (engaging your glutes will help this.) Lower yourself to till at least your shoulders and elbows are at the same height, and if you can lower yourself all the way to the floor. To lift yourself up, press your hands into the ground and try to push the ground away from you. Perform as many sets and reps needed for your goals and needs – lower reps for strength and higher reps for hypertrophy and endurance.
The Overhead Press
The overhead press is a great option because it accesses a large range of motion – however, because of this, many trainees will also need to do some mobility work before being able to train the overhead press safely and effectively.
To perform the standing dumbbell overhead press, start by standing with your feet about hip width apart, keep your pelvis and ribcage stacked parallel to each other without allowing the lower back to extend. With the dumbbells at shoulder height (the rack position) have the elbows slightly in front of the torso with the wrists over the shoulder. Push the dumbbells upward, while keeping the wrists inline with the shoulders. At the top of the movement your hands should be stacked over your shoulders, your hands shouldn’t not be ahead of you nor behind you. Lower the weights back down to the starting position, do not relax your muscles at the bottom of the movement. Rinse and repeat. Perform this exercise for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps depending on your programming needs and goals.
The Bench Press
The bench press, specifically when done with a barbell, is a great way to increase your overall strength. It’s been a staple in many programs of powerlifters, bodybuilders, and general gym enthusiasts for many years.
To perform the bench press, set up on a flat bench by laying down on the bench, the barbell should be directly over your line of vision. Your head, shoulders blades, and hips should be your points of contact on the bench. Place your feet symmetrically and push your feet into the floor (there should be no “happy feet.”) Grab the bar evenly and use the knurling on the barbell as your guideline. Hands should be placed wider than shoulder width, use trial and error to find a grip position that works for your leverages. Unrack the bar, and with the bar starting over the shoulders, pull it down to your chest, without relaxing nor letting the bar rest on your chest. Squeeze the bar and push it back up to the starting position. Perform for as many reps as needed for your goals. The barbell bench press can work for a variety of rep ranges from 1-5 to 6-12 although I generally program it for lower rep heavier work.
The Push Press
I probably love the push press way more than I love the bench press. It’s a great way to develop upper body strength and full body power. By using power generated from the lower body, you can get really strong and powerful with this movement and move heavy weights with power and grace.
The push press is done by generating power from the legs with a dip, and then drive the barbell up and finish the press with the arms. To set up for the movement, you want the bar to be in the rack position with the hands placed evenly on the bar slightly outside shoulder width. Your feet should be about hip width apart. The first part of the movement is the dip, your going to do a shallow squat down while keeping the torso as vertical as possible, from there explode up and launch the barbell upward, finish the movement by pressing out with the arms. At the top of the movement, the bar should be directly overhead and stacked over the shoulders with the elbows locked out. Lower the bar back down to the rack position. Repeat.
Using a mixture of any of the exercises in this article you’ll be well on your way to developing and stronger and more muscular upper body.
If you need help getting on track with your fitness, please feel free to reach out via the contact page to get more information about coaching either online or in-person.