Overhead unsupported pressing movements are extremely functional. All persons much reach up at some time or another. Maybe you are reaching for something above your head in a cabinet or maybe you must place an item high above. Either way practicing a pressing movement is critical to maintaining this ability for the long haul. There are several pressing movements that may be used. The bent press, the military press, the side press and the bench press are all common examples. I focus primarily on the bent press, military press and the side press. I find the bench press essentially useless in terms of the mechanics of daily living.
One of the best exercises historically is the bent press. It is a fantastic full body press that allows the individual the ability to lift more weight above the head with one hand than with any other press. In the famed “Textbook on Weightlifting” Arthur Saxon describes his admiration of the Bent Press through these words:
“Strength, stamina, and science all enter into it in equal proportions, and the man who would make a success of the lift, a striking success that is, must necessarily be a firstclass all-round lifter.”
Saxon, Arthur (2011-07-03). Textbook of Weightlifting (Kindle Locations 263-265). . Kindle Edition.
Therefore I have dedicated myself to the bent press. I have previously used the “Power to the People” approach to lifting with the bent press instead of the side press and I am currently performing the bent press with a kettlebell in my current exercises. This exercise requires intense focus and should be performed safely at all times. One should start with a lighter weight and practice regularly while learning the proper form.
For many individuals the military press or the side press are excellent starter exercises which will help to strengthen the body while working up to the bent press. The side press is simple to learn and does not require any individuals to spot the lifter.
I do not train the bench press in any form at this time. While it is a common lift which many believes demonstrates an individuals strength it has near to 0 practical use. How often are you found lying on the ground with a need to press something upwards. Furthermore the bench press requires a spotter and external equipment. All of these things make it a negative in my book, however if you have an olympic weight set at home you could easily train the floor press at home without the use of a spotter.
Adding a full body pressing movement to your routine will allow the individual the ability to increase ones pressing strength while focussing on the full body tension that assists in the safe lifting of an item as well as the ability to lift that item through a phenomenon called “Hyperirradiation.” Hyperirradiation is the tensing of your entire body in order to form a solid foundation in which to perform your lifts.
“This full tension of the thighs and buttocks is of utmost importance because it provides a solid base for pressing” – Englishman George Kirkley
“Keep every body part tight during the entire movement” – Ernie Frantz
A full body pressing movement that is performed from a standing position allows the lifter to develop full body tension while developing real world strength and synergy throughout the lifters body.
“Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline suggests performing sets of 5 for as little as 2 sets per side. “Enter the Kettlebell” by the same author suggests performing the kettlebell clean and press by performing sets of russian ladders. From 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 reps. Upwards of 5 sets. Any of these options are adequate. In fact instead of changing up your exercise and performing several different exercises in an attempt to create the famed “muscle confusion” all you need to do is perform the same or similar exercise with different weights and rep ranges. All exercise routines reach a plateau at one time or another. However most individuals change their routines far to early and too often in order to be fully effective.
While performing a pressing movement one must remember these items.
1. Increase tension throughout the body prior to performing the lift.
2. Maintain proper form throughout the exercise in order to protect the shoulder.
3. Lock the press out fully overhead.
4. Be mindful that the lift is not complete until the weight has safely reached the ground.
Kettlebell Clean and Press