The strict shoulder press is arguably one of the best measures of functional upper body pushing strength. I like it better than bench press because it requires more midline stabilization than laying on a flat bench, and thus translates better to sport and everyday activities where we seldom lie on our backs to push heavy things. I think the single arm press is even better in this regard, but that’s a different conversation. Today I’d like to share 3 tips that I have used personally and with my athletes to greatly improve press technique.
1. Become a Statue.
Before you start pressing anything, squeeze your butt, legs, and abs as tight as possible. This removes any extra movement (wasted energy) from the kinetic chain and ensures that when you start pushing the bar, you will be doing so with the full support and stabilization of your midline, which is important considering you are standing up. This also helps support and protect the lower back.
2. Stare at something.
You should pick a point about 15 feet in front of you either on the floor or slightly above it, and fix your gaze on that point. If you lock your eyes here through the entire range of motion, you will be much less likely to commit the most common and detrimental of press faults, which is looking up and thus leaning back while performing the lift. Fixing the gaze also helps ensure that you move your head back in space to get it out the way of the bar.
3. Shave your head with the bar.
Common wisdom tells us that the closer you keep the bar to your face, the more efficient the press becomes. Taking this one step further involves pushing the bar back and over the head as soon as possible. Think about trying to shave your head with the bar. As soon as it passes your eyes, start pushing back. Once the bar reaches the middle of your body and is fully supported by the rest of your musculature, the weight will feel surprisingly light and you can likely finish the lift.