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What Is a Push Press?

author image Kevin Rail
I am very genuine and magnetic on camera, and have made numerous videos on my own for clients and other organizations that I'm affiliated with. I also have a degree in Sport Management, and multiple certifications to back up my validity. I've also been featured in three different exercise infomercials and had a speaking role in a National Lampoons movie.
What Is a Push Press?
A loaded barbell is used to do push presses. Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

The shoulders are one of the major muscle groups in the body because of their large size. They consist of the trapezius muscles, commonly referred to as the "traps," and the deltoids, which are located on the sides, front and back of the shoulders. Every time you elevate your upper arms or lift them over your head, all of your shoulder muscles are working. A push press is an exercise that can target all of your shoulder muscles and also incorporate your legs.


The push press is a compound exercise. Exercises that are compound utilize more than one muscle group and more than one joint range of motion. This in turn recruits a high amount of muscle fiber as opposed to isolation exercises that only recruit one muscle and one joint. The joints involved with a push press include the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles.


Push presses are used to build overall strength and power. Football players and people who participate in sports involving explosive movements use push presses on a regular basis. Being that they can build mass due to their high muscle recruitment, people who are "hard gainers" often resort to them to put on extra size.

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Push presses are done after an adequate warm-up is performed to get the body loose and reduce the chances of injury. Five to ten minutes of light cardio and some dynamic stretching is efficient. Dynamic means "in motion." which is specific to the movement of the body when you are exercising. Spinal rotations, arm swings and arm circles are all examples of dynamic stretches.


Proper form is very important when you do a push press. To do them, start with a loaded barbell on the ground. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bend down and grab the bar with a shoulder width grip. Start by lifting the bar up to the top of your chest. While holding it there, do a half squat, explosively come out of your squat and drive the barbell above your head until your arms are fully extended. Simultaneously lower the bar back to the top of your chest and lower into a half squat. Return to a standing position and repeat.


Push presses should be done with low reps and high sets with the heaviest load you can handle. Six to eight sets and four to six reps is an optimal range. You should also take two to four minute rest periods in between each set to fully recover. As far as frequency goes, the push press can be factored in with other compound exercises such as bench presses, deadlifts and squats. You can do this type of workout two to three times a week on non-consecutive days. This will allow adequate recovery between workouts.


When you do the push press, keep your core engaged as you lift the weight above your head. This will help stabilize your spine and reduce the chance of injury. You can also do the push press with dumbbells instead of a barbell.

Expert Insight

The push press is an advanced exercise. If you have never worked out before, it is a good idea to get your doctor's clearance before attempting any high intensity exercise. You should also start out light with this exercise and gradually increase your weight by 5% each week.

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