From July until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game.
By Jessica Steurer (CF-L1)
The strict press is one of the nine foundational movements performed in CrossFit. It is a compound movement that develops upper body strength as well as midline stability.
First things first, make sure to maintain a neutral spine while moving the bar overhead. Tips for an effective set up for the strict press include setting your feet at hip width stance, elbows slightly in front of the bar, and hands are positioned just outside of the shoulders (see picture below). When the bar begins to move it will travel in a straight path over the middle of the foot with the torso/legs remaining in a static position.
Some of the most common faults coaches see when observing a strict press include:
1. Leaning back with the ribs sticking out (tip: tighten abdominals by pulling rib cage down)
2. Shoulders are not active/elbows bent at top (tip: press up to the ceiling and lock elbows out, while pushing shoulders down)
3. Bar arcs around face in an improper pathway (tip: pretend a PVC pipe is standing in front of you and you cannot touch it during the press)
Mobility & Stability Exercises to Improve the Press
It is critical to increase mobility before building strength. In other words, let’s say someone does not have efficient mobility in the shoulders, and is not able to get the bar close to their ears when pressing overhead, well continuously pressing a heavy load overhead would be building strength on top of inefficient patterning. So why not first tackle efficient patterning before loading on heavy weight?
If you are someone that struggles with getting your arms overhead or struggles with holding weight overhead, here are some mobility and stability accessory exercises that can be added into your workout routine.
Improving Shoulder Mobility
Wall Facing Slides
Set up facing the wall in a staggered stance, right foot forward left foot back, turning the left foot in. Make sure the lower back is not arching, and tuck the butt in (like a crunch). Slide the arms up the wall, gathering breath, and exhale at the top. Careful not to jam the head forward in front of the arms. This is a great prep exercise for the shoulders before overhead work!
Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion
Set up start with the feet about 6-8 inches off the wall. The goal here is to keep the lower back on the wall and no anterior tilt of the shoulders. Gather breath, keep ribs down, slowly start to reach the arms up to the wall. As you bring the arms back down, head maintains against the wall and spine remains neutral. Great prep exercise for the shoulders before overhead work!
Using a PVC pipe, hold both ends with straight locked arms with the pipe leveled at your waist line. Starting at the waist line, bring the pipe behind your head until you reach your hips on the other side while keeping the arms straight. Then repeat back and forth. I always like to use this stretch as a dynamic warm up to loosen up my shoulders!
Improving Midline Stability
Focus on not over gripping with the upper body, instead focus on the midline. The lower back begins on the ground, flex your knees to your hips, pull knees up to elbows, and then control the legs down as you exhale bringing the lower back to the ground. Goal here is to bring the legs as far down to the ground as possible without lifting lower back off ground!
This exercise will challenge the front of the stomach, with the breathing being the most important part. Start with a deep breath in to the belly, move the opposite arm and opposite leg out towards the ground, full exhale while pulling the ribs down with the lower back on ground, then reset back at the top to repeat opposite side.
A quote by Coach Greg Glassman’s that I love about all the different lifts we do at CrossFit regarding the abdominals states, “We don’t do abs, we do midline stabilization”
Last point, remember that during the overhead press it is crucial that the shoulder blades remain retracted. In other words, keep the shoulders back in the socket when setting up for your lift. The cue that I would give would be, “spread your upper back” as if I was pressing from the middle of your back outwards. If you start the lift with your shoulders slouched forwards or shrugged, the humerus can end up grinding against the bones of the shoulder girdle causing inflammation in the shoulder joint.