T Nation

First Rep For Military Press

Does anyone else find that when going heavy on the military press the first rep requires a little boost from the legs and then the rest of the reps in the set are no problem without any leg drive to speak of?

I essentially 1/4 front squat the bar out of my rack and it feels immoveable. Then with a little leg drive (talking 1/8 of a squat or less, but definitely a little bounce) I can heave the bar up for a rep. After that my arms seem to get into a better groove or something and I all of a sudden have no problems knocking out 4 more reps cleanly with no leg drive.

I do a couple warm up sets of lighter weight to begin with. Too heavy straight off feels a little dangerous for my shoulders.

After that, when I start a heavy set, the only thing I need to do to start is clean the bar up to the starting position and get to rep’ing.

I usually push press it up into position.

Good to know I am not the only one push pressing the first rep…

If you watch the Rippitoe videos about the military press, you’ll see that he suggests throwing a little hip into the heavier lifts.

[quote]BoS wrote:
If you watch the Rippitoe videos about the military press, you’ll see that he suggests throwing a little hip into the heavier lifts.

How have I never seen those Mark Rippetoe videos before???

I am relatively certain that the stretch reflex is responsible for the phenomenon that you are describing. On the first rep, you are beginning from a deadstop, so there is no elastic energy stored in your muscles.

However, on subsequent repetitions during the eccentric portion of the lift elastic energy gets stored in your muscles which makes the subsequent concentric repetitions easier. This also happens in the deadlift, where the first rep has no stretch-reflex aid, while the subsequent repetitions do.

Now, depending on your goals you may want to try varying the manner in which you perform this exercise ie. one day doing all you reps from deadstops, while other days utilizing the stretch reflex to be able to handle more weight.

[quote]OlympicLifter wrote:

However, on subsequent repetitions during the eccentric portion of the lift elastic energy gets stored in your muscles which makes the subsequent concentric repetitions easier. This also happens in the deadlift, where the first rep has no stretch-reflex aid, while the subsequent repetitions do.

[/quote]

Isn’t the point of a deadlift to bring it to a “dead” stop?

Wait do military press reps start from the bottom or the top?

I don’t think it’s the elastic reflex. I can push press the first rep, bring it back down, hold for a second, and then go right back up with no problem.

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
I don’t think it’s the elastic reflex. I can push press the first rep, bring it back down, hold for a second, and then go right back up with no problem. [/quote]

Maybe you’re not putting enough weight on the bar if it’s so easy to get back up. It’s not heavy enough if you’re not struggling at least a little bit.

I was just comparing the first rep to the other reps. I try to put enough weight on the bar so I can barely complete the last rep.

Just watched a bunch of the videos. I think my problem is my elbows. I may be letting them get behind the bar when I unrack the weight. I’ll check that when I work out this evening.

[quote]JayPierce wrote:
I was just comparing the first rep to the other reps. I try to put enough weight on the bar so I can barely complete the last rep.

Just watched a bunch of the videos. I think my problem is my elbows. I may be letting them get behind the bar when I unrack the weight. I’ll check that when I work out this evening.[/quote]

This was my feeling too, that my shoulders/arms were changing position in at least some small way to allow for better reps after the first.

It is as if my arms are starting too far down and perhaps too far back when unracking for me.

Problem solved. Elbows. Thanks for the links, BoS.

Yeah, the elbow positioning definitely helped me improve my press form and I was able to get another 10 lbs on the bar easily from the sloppy version of the lift.

I go heavy every week.

  1. Deadlift the bar off the ground.
  2. Hang clean
  3. Full ROM, from my collarbones to damn-near lockout.
  4. Last rep, push press.

I get this sometimes if i don’t clean the weight-just take it from the racks.

For me relly gripping the shit out of the bar and tensing the whole body helps.

[quote]ukrainian wrote:
OlympicLifter wrote:

However, on subsequent repetitions during the eccentric portion of the lift elastic energy gets stored in your muscles which makes the subsequent concentric repetitions easier. This also happens in the deadlift, where the first rep has no stretch-reflex aid, while the subsequent repetitions do.

Isn’t the point of a deadlift to bring it to a “dead” stop?

[/quote]

That depends on the style. Some lower the weight slowly to just kiss the floor and do not unload the body but go straight into the next rep. Those who do it this way do have the stored energy Ukrainian is talking about.

The more common method that I think you are referring to, where the weight is set on the floor – for that matter it may have been lowered pretty quickly and even mostly dropped the last few inches – and the body is unloaded and the lifter so to speak re-sets himself for the next rep, this method does not have the stored energy effect for the next rep.

At least, not stored energy from the previous rep. Depending on the style, there can be a momentary storage of energy from the body exploding upwards and some stretch occurring before the bar and then the plates move, but that is different and unrelated to the overhead press.

I agree, stored energy is the principal explanation for Moon Knight’s finding. Another reason, but I think not as important, is neural warmup. As that weight is first felt, the nervous system may judge it “too heavy” and not fire sufficiently, without the leg drive, to generate that much force, but after having done the assisted rep, the weight is feeling more familiar and the nervous system is now convinced, “OK, generating this amount of force is doable, no problem.”

But, that is probably not worth as much off the start of a rep as the stretch effect is.