May 01, 2006
The Press is the oldest barbell exercise in the gym but its value is underappreciated, Mark Rippetoe writes in part 3 of his series on the slow lifts.
If we use the term “press” specifically in reference to barbell exercise, we mean a standing overhead press with a bar in both hands. Anything that modifies this movement must be described with a qualifying term, such as a strict “military press” or a “push press” that is done with the help of the legs and hips.
We will not perform a strict military press, but it will be stricter than an old-style Olympic weightlifting press during which torso movement got so out of hand that the lift was dropped from the sport entirely.
The grip will be just outside the shoulders, wide enough that the index fingers clear the deltoids, not so wide that the arms drive out at an angle on the way up. The bar should rest on your shoulders with your elbows slightly in front of the bar. Your stance will be comfortable and wide, wider than a pulling stance and maybe almost as wide as a squat stance. Full details can be found in my book Starting Strength. The press is hard. You won’t be able to press what you can bench. You have to support with your whole body what the bench supports when you lie down to press. So you’re doing all the work instead of letting the bench do some of it. You’re supporting, balancing, and manhandling the whole load. This is how strength was, and is, built.