Putting heavy weights overhead is fun.
Not only is it fun, it is one of the best exercises for keeping your shoulders healthy, developing a strong core, and losing weight. Much of this is because standing overhead pressing is a full body functional movement that uses your body the way it is designed.
Horizontal presses (the most well known being the Bench Press) are also great lifts, but aren’t as natural as standing presses which are vertical. In fact, many people with chronic shoulder problems have seen great improvement by adding some overhead pressing to their workout program.
There are many ways to perform a standing press, but this article will focus on three of the most useful and important ones. It will also cover the different applications and why you should choose one press over another. These three can be done with a kettlebell or a barbell. But I will cover technique with a kettlebell because it is easier to learn (especially true for the bent press which can only be done one arm at a time).
So let’s jump right in and get started.
The Military Press
If you want more detail on this exercise I wrote an entire article dedicated just to it. It is one of the most important exercises that you can do to develop a strong, balanced, and resilient body.
It is sometimes referred to as the “strict” press because nothing should move except for your arm and the weight. In practice there is sometimes slight movement, especially when getting near a 1 rep max but it should be kept to a minimum.
This exercise is so fundamental that many people just call it the Press. When you hear the word “Press” by itself you should generally assume it is this exercise.
Why Use It?
This is an important lift for everyone. It keeps your shoulders healthy, improves overhead mobility, and develops your shoulders, chest, triceps and core. It helps you get strong and will use every muscle on your body in a balanced, functional way.
Check out this video of me demonstrating the movement.
The Push Press
When you are using a weight that is too heavy for a strict press most people's natural instinct is to dip the legs into a squat then push with their legs to get the bell moving and finish the press with their arms.
If you are supposed to be Military pressing this is cheating, but if you are push pressing this is exactly what you should do.
Why Use It?
Besides the obvious that you can move more weight, it also develops athleticism and coordination between your upper and lower body, as well as adds a power component to the lift.
This is one of the best exercises for athletes. And since it uses the lower body squat muscles more intensely it is also great for fat burning.
Check out this video on how to do it correctly.
The Bent Press
Unfortunately even many experienced weightlifters, coaches, and trainers have never heard of this lift. They expose their ignorance on the internet when they correct someone talking about this lift and tell them that they mean “Bench Press.”
Why Use It?
Besides allowing you to lift even more weight, the bent press will generally improve your Military Press and Push Press. But it doesn’t work the other way around which is one reason why if you want a time efficient workout the Bent Press is one of your best choices.
Old-time Strongman called this the “King of all lifts,” and it is a great way to bulletproof your body while building incredible muscle, strength, and mobility.
Want to learn how to do it? Check out this video here.
Pushing is one of your fundamental movement patterns, and vertical presses are an important variation to use if you want a strong and healthy body.
Almost everyone should learn how to do the Military Press, a basic lift and easy to learn.
The next level is the Push Press. If you want to increase your explosiveness, athleticism, or burn extra fat then you should also take the time to learn how to do the Push Press. And, it is relatively easy to learn once you have your Military Press and squat down.
If you are willing to invest more time learning proper technique and love weight training then the Bent Press is worth it. But this is something that not everyone will want (or need) to do.
Find what is right for you and make sure to incorporate overhead pressing into your training program!
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