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Fixing Bad Strict Press Form


#1

Since people in this forum actually care about their overhead presses...

While I've already gotten some great advice, I'm having a lot of trouble implementing it.

Here's a heavy (for me) single:

And a lighter AMRAP set, that shows my form breaking down:

There are two big things that stand out to me:
1. my low back arches significantly
2. as the weight gets heavier, I press the bar too far out in front of me

I used Z Presses for awhile, hoping that would help with the hyperextension. While I got better at Z Presses, they didn't translate well to helping my standing press.

A couple ideas I've gotten, but haven't done a great job at using are:
- work up to a heavy overhead squat once a week, and use this to help train positioning (via Alpha)
- use zercher goodmornings and/or reverse hypers (via CT) although I'm not really sure how to do these right
- keep the elbows more in front of the bar (via Alpha and T3hPwnisher)

Anyway, looking for feedback, advice, suggestions. I know there's a lot of room for growth.


#2

Do you have a belt you could wear?


#3

I’m not strong by any means but I’ve been working on similar issues lately. Stability is extremely important to finishing the lift with good form.

Try doing paused reps to focus on form. Unrack the bar and set your posture. Take a deep breath and stay straight, then hold your breath in while you do the lift. Either exhale at the top, or exhale at the bottom. Either way, pause at the bottom so you can get the next breath in. Never do a rep with your lungs empty

This help prevent too much of an arch because of your lungs being full and your abs braced. The arch causes a problem because it makes it more difficult to correctly push your head through once the bar clears your forehead which is crucial. I can always lock the weight out once I get it over and sort of behind my head, no matter how much of a grind it was. It may partially be instinct but I also think getting your head through improves your leverage for locking it out.

I would also add that pushing your head through is supposed to be a repositioning of the shoulder blades, but by excessively arching your back you have to flex your entire trunk forward to get your head through

It also indirectly helps the issue of you starting the reps with the bar too far in front. With the bar too far in front the upper pectorals have better leverage to initiate the push and that is what you keep training. So you arent optimally training your shoulders to initiate the lift which is really what you want to do


#4

No, I don’t have a belt. No reason other than I’ve just not bought one.


#5

Agree with Palm and Punisher Your “braced” position looks off, and this is preventing you from getting your body in line properly.

I had a similar problem. My “rigid core” was all lower back overarching, and no abs. Wearing a belt, and pushing my abs out and against it taught me how to stay upright, pull my ribs towards my pelvis, and really get tight. The proper way to brace.

I also did lots of sidebends, pull down abs on against a flex band, and Palloff Presses against a band in the half kneeling position. 1 arm presses in the half kneeling position were good too. The half kneel made me keep my back straight, and taught me how to use my glutes and obliques to stay upright, instead of just laying back and over arching to get stable.

Like you, my sticking point, or trouble area in the press is right in front of my face. The bar will slow down and drift away about nose level. I spent a few months doing partial presses in the power rack. Pins sets at chin, eyebrow, or top of the head level. Seated or standing. These helped a lot too. The bar starts on the pins, I would start to press, and nothing would happen. Then I would keep pushing and trying to get tight. Eventually I’d find the right position where everything was lined up properly, and the bar would go. This taught me how to push through and keep the bar close. Anthony Ditillo has several articles about presses in the rack if you’re interested.

Finally, I had to do Lots of upper back work. Pullups, with a hold at the top going slow and trying to keep my face close to the bar, like a press in reverse. Inverted rows are cool too. I pull my chin, nose or forehead towards the bar, trying to recreate the back/shoulder position of a press. Blast straps or TRX handles are even better for this.

Scarecrows, face-pulls, Cuban Presses, and all kinds of exrternal shoulder rotations are good for warm ups to get your shoulder blades back and down and your elbows forward and up.

Seated dumbbell presses and close grip benches are my favorite assistance exercises.


#6

Lorenz, bracing is an obvious issue. Get tight before you unrack and also make sure your glutes are engaged. They help support your lower back, etc., and I bet you’d see much better carryover from z presses with your glutes tight.

As far as the bar drifting forward, try Dick’s presses. Drifting was the main reason I’d miss presses so I added Dick’s presses on the recommendation of a pro strongman. They gave me the shoulder stability I needed to control the bar and press up.


#7

Oh this might be an easy fix - your form is terrible. The worst thing you can do is lean back like that and it seems like you are weak at the bottom, which is causing you to lean backward and turn it into an incline press. Here is what you have to do to fix this:

Push your gut out like you are about to get hit or tackled.

As soon as you tighten your core you press will go up straight. It will be much easier to push your head “through” the bar as your torso will be inflexible.

I think what will also help you is starting all your presses from a dead stop with the bar touching or as near as possible to your clavicle. A lot of people half ass this and dont go below their chin. If you can press from a dead stop you will do great.


#8

So a nearly unanimous conclusion that my bracing is off/wrong/bad.

Honestly, I’m a little confused. As far as I know, I am doing everything I should be to be properly braced, but if you all say that’s my problem, I believe you.

I get tight before I unrack, take a breath, and flex my abs and glutes through the whole lift. If you were to punch me in the gut, my abs would be the same. My breath is held through the whole lift. Every once in awhile, I end up getting a bit lightheaded because of the air pressure and have to kill a lift midway.

But obviously I’m doing something wrong. What is it, and how do I fix it?

I might be on the wrong path here entirely, but… If my hip and low back position is that far off when everything is tight, it seems like there’s some sort of muscle strength/tightness imbalance in the area.

Basically that my low back is much stronger than my abs, and my hip flexors are much tighter/stronger than my glutes and upper hamstrings. Which would indicate I need some stretching, and some dedicated ab and glute/hamstring work.

Does that make any sense?

I’m just concerned that “getting my glutes tight”, “tightening my core”, “getting my lungs full”, aren’t really going to do much for me since I’m already doing those things. And so, paused reps would still be from the same starting position.

I do see how half-kneeling reps might help. Anything else?

I don’t mean to sound ungracious, I just genuinely don’t understand what I need to do to improve from here.

As far as “pressing the bar forward”, thanks for all the ideas, between the Dick’s presses, dumbbell presses, etc.


#9

I would strongly consider a belt. I think this could be easily remedied with a mechanical solution, as the belt will simply not allow you to arch your back like that.

I think “flexing the abs” may be part of the issue as well. I never try to flex my abs, but instead try to push out my stomach as much as possible. When I flex my abs, I find that it makes me “longer”, and results in a back arch, whereas pushing my stomach out makes me shorter, and keeps my back straight.

A good drill for this is to lay down on your back and put a book on your stomach. Try to make it move by pushing your stomach out. This is what you want to replicate. A belt also goes a long way in training this skill.


#10

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I would strongly consider a belt. I think this could be easily remedied with a mechanical solution, as the belt will simply not allow you to arch your back like that.[/quote]

While Inzer (obviously) makes high quality products, they have a well deserved reputation of being a pain to deal with.

Would you suggest something like the Inzer lever (which I know you use and, I think, like), or would you suggest trying something like the Rehband Strongman support that Mike Jenkins was fond of suggesting? http://www.jackalsgym.com/store.aspx?prod_id=RH-SM-BELT

[quote]I think “flexing the abs” may be part of the issue as well. I never try to flex my abs, but instead try to push out my stomach as much as possible. When I flex my abs, I find that it makes me “longer”, and results in a back arch, whereas pushing my stomach out makes me shorter, and keeps my back straight.

A good drill for this is to lay down on your back and put a book on your stomach. Try to make it move by pushing your stomach out. This is what you want to replicate. A belt also goes a long way in training this skill.[/quote]

I will give this a try tomorrow or otherwise early this week and throw up a video here or on my log.

I know this sounds like a subtle difference, but I’m also going to work on making sure my upper hamstrings are tight and not just my glutes. My brief bit of reading about all this hip inbalance stuff suggests that may make a difference. CT’s suggestion of Zercher work, especially Zercher good mornings, is along the same lines.


#11

You could also try this. Stand up straight with a neutral spine, put your back against a wall if you have too. Now take a weight plate, say 35lbs, and bring it from your waist to directly in front of you. Now, if you want to make it more difficult walk while holding the plate out front, without arching your back like you are trying to twerk. That is what I mean by keeping your core tight,.


#12

[quote]LoRez wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I would strongly consider a belt. I think this could be easily remedied with a mechanical solution, as the belt will simply not allow you to arch your back like that.[/quote]

While Inzer (obviously) makes high quality products, they have a well deserved reputation of being a pain to deal with.

Would you suggest something like the Inzer lever (which I know you use and, I think, like), or would you suggest trying something like the Rehband Strongman support that Mike Jenkins was fond of suggesting? http://www.jackalsgym.com/store.aspx?prod_id=RH-SM-BELT

[quote]I think “flexing the abs” may be part of the issue as well. I never try to flex my abs, but instead try to push out my stomach as much as possible. When I flex my abs, I find that it makes me “longer”, and results in a back arch, whereas pushing my stomach out makes me shorter, and keeps my back straight.

A good drill for this is to lay down on your back and put a book on your stomach. Try to make it move by pushing your stomach out. This is what you want to replicate. A belt also goes a long way in training this skill.[/quote]

I will give this a try tomorrow or otherwise early this week and throw up a video here or on my log.

I know this sounds like a subtle difference, but I’m also going to work on making sure my upper hamstrings are tight and not just my glutes. My brief bit of reading about all this hip inbalance stuff suggests that may make a difference. CT’s suggestion of Zercher work, especially Zercher good mornings, is along the same lines.[/quote]

+1 on the belt. While you’re researching take a look at Chris Duffin’s how to squat video. It’s a long one but in the first 15 minutes he explains and teaches the mechanic of bracing better than anyone I have ever heard.


#13

Not a quick solution, but long term lots of upper back work is going to help with this. Face pulls, reverse flies, band pull aparts, etc. are going to help a lot. You don’t get much thoracic extension and this is forcing your lumbar to compensate. A stronger upper back will help with this.


#14

[quote]LoRez wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I would strongly consider a belt. I think this could be easily remedied with a mechanical solution, as the belt will simply not allow you to arch your back like that.[/quote]

While Inzer (obviously) makes high quality products, they have a well deserved reputation of being a pain to deal with.

Would you suggest something like the Inzer lever (which I know you use and, I think, like), or would you suggest trying something like the Rehband Strongman support that Mike Jenkins was fond of suggesting? http://www.jackalsgym.com/store.aspx?prod_id=RH-SM-BELT

[/quote]

I never delt with Inzer directly, but went through Houseofpain, which seemed to help ease things a little bit. It also helps to order a plain black belt.

That having been said, I’ve never used one of those strongman belts to be able to say one way or the other if it would work, but ideally you want something more than you can press your belly against versus rest your back on in this case. An Inzer lever belt is great, but you could even get a spud deadlift belt or just try out a cheapo weightlifting belt just to see how it works out.

If you really want to go cheap, look up proflexsports and find the " 4" Suede Power Belt (Sale)". The medium is sold out, but you might be able to fit the small, and it’s only $12. It says it’s a 12-14mm belt, but it’s really more like a 10. It was the very first belt I had, and it served me for a long time before I upgraded to a 13mm.


#15

Check out your 2nd video, the rep set. Pause the video at 28-29 seconds.

You kinda pause with the bar overhead between reps. Then you take a breath and get set. At this point you are in good position. You were resting, so your body went to the “strongest alignment.” Figure out how to maintain this position the whole time!

At the top, at 29 SEC, you look good. Then, as you lower the bar you sort of “slump” back.

Get rid of the slump! Do whatever you need to do to practice the good position and eliminate the lay back.

You may need to stretch your lats and activate your rhomboids before pressing.

You may need to use Thibedeau’s “Iso-Power Holds” to practice good positioning.

You could try chin ups between warm up sets of presses.

Definetly try a belt. I would recommend a cheap “sporting goods store” one to start out. Rehband stuff is expensive, and dudes usually wear a power-belt over top for more support anyway. A full size, stiff, wide Inzer belt may be a drastic change coming from no belt at all. If you like the cheap belt you can upgrade to a good one, and you won’t be out much.

Dumbbells are good. Your wrists and forearms can go where ever they need to, or to any angle, to allow your upper back to stay in position. This way you can actually use your shoulders and build some muscle. More delts may improve your press by default.


#16

FlatsFarmer: Thanks for pointing out things at that 29s mark. I think I understand.

After visiting several stores, I ended up with a 4" tapered valero belt. It will be replaced with something better, but just for the sake of argument.

I partially lost consciousness on 3 of the sets, using the belt. Not so much fun.

Clearly I’m doing something wrong.


#17

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:

At the top, at 29 SEC, you look good. Then, as you lower the bar you sort of “slump” back.

Get rid of the slump! Do whatever you need to do to practice the good position and eliminate the lay back.

[/quote]

Another thing I forgot: Don’t passively lower the bar. Tighten your lats and allow your shoulder to externally rotate a little as the bar lowers. Think of slowly pulling the bar down. This fixed a weird popping in my shoulder during the eccentrics but I also know it improved my stability


#18

I drew up a couple diagrams. Is this at all a useful way to look at things, or am I overcomplicating it by looking at it like this?


#19

I really really do appreciate the help. There’s so much different, new stuff (as in my body’s not experienced doing it), that it’s just going to take time to work through it all.

And it really pisses me off that I got lightheaded today, and didn’t really get the chance to work on much of those ideas.

If I were to summarize :

  1. Work on core stability throughout the full range of motion. I should be able to go from unracking to overhead, with minimal changes in my torso position anywhere, but especially the hips and low back should be locked in and stay locked in. This should stay the same no matter whether the bar is going up or coming down.

So: work on bracing, use a belt, hold my breath, get [even] better at using the glutes and the abs, practice with Z presses, half kneeling presses, isometric holds, pin presses, strengthen the abs in several directions

And straight up just “learn” what a properly braced core feels like.

  1. Fix my upper back so that I don’t need to lean back/push the bar forward to get it moving and around my head. Stretch, activate, and strengthen as necessary, in order to improve my ability to extend my upper back.

  2. Work on genuine vertical shoulder strength to get the bar moving, instead of relying on momentum from the hips and assistance from the chest, via various direct shoulder work.


#20

I really really do appreciate the help. There’s so much different, new stuff (as in my body’s not experienced doing it), that it’s just going to take time to work through it all.

And it really pisses me off that I got lightheaded today, and didn’t really get the chance to work on much of those ideas.

If I were to summarize :

  1. Work on core stability throughout the full range of motion. I should be able to go from unracking to overhead, with minimal changes in my torso position anywhere, but especially the hips and low back should be locked in and stay locked in. This should stay the same no matter whether the bar is going up or coming down.

So: work on bracing, use a belt, hold my breath, get [even] better at using the glutes and the abs, practice with Z presses, half kneeling presses, isometric holds, pin presses, strengthen the abs in several directions

And straight up just “learn” what a properly braced core feels like.

  1. Fix my upper back so that I don’t need to lean back/push the bar forward to get it moving and around my head. Stretch, activate, and strengthen as necessary, in order to improve my ability to extend my upper back.

  2. Work on genuine vertical shoulder strength to get the bar moving, instead of relying on momentum from the hips and assistance from the chest, via various direct shoulder work (dumbbells, dicks presess, others).