One of the best exercises for the upper body is the standing military press.
In fact, many years ago it was one of the measures of your upper body power. What separated the men from the boys was a standing 200lb strict military press. Unfortunately, very few trainees take advantage of the standing military press and settle for lateral raises instead.
Go to any gym today and you will be lucky if you see five trainees that can execute a standing military press with 135lbs. If are fed up with your microscopic shoulder development then it is time to work on your overhead pressing power and join the ranks of the big boys.
In this article, I am going to reveal five killer tips that will launch you on your way in no time to a powerful military press that will turn some heads at the gym. In addition, having strong shoulders is critical for sports such as basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Take advantage of these tips and watch the improvement in your athletic hobbies.
Military Press Variations
Standing Military Press
How To Perform:
Raise barbell to your chest with your hands shoulder width apart. Lock your legs and hips. Keep your elbows in, slightly under your bar. Press bar to arm's length overhead. Lower to your upper chest or chin (depending on what is comfortable). Some experts believe lowering the bar to your chest is too low and strains the shoulders too much. Can also be done seated or with dumbbells.
Seated Barbell Military Press
How To Perform:
Raise a barbell to your shoulders. Sit at the end of a bench, with your feet at about shoulder width, flat on the floor. Keep your chest high and your back straight. Press bar to arm's length overhead. Use a slow, steady motion, without swinging. Lower slowly to starting position. Can also be done standing or with dumbbells.
Machine Shoulder (Military) Press
How To Perform:
Follow directions on machine.
One-Arm Kettlebell Military Press To The Side
How To Perform:
Clean a kettlebell to your shoulder. Look at the kettlebell and press it up and out until it is locked out overhead. Lower the kettlebell back to your shoulder under control and repeat. Make sure to contract your lat, butt, and stomach forcefully for added stability and strength.
One-Arm Seated Kettlebell Military Press
How To Perform:
Sit on the floor and spread your legs out comfortably. Place a kettlebell in one arm in the clean position. Press the kettlebell up and out until it is locked out overhead. One of the major benefits of this exercise is that you cannot lean back and bring your pecs into the movement.
Two-Arm Kettlebell Military Press
How To Perform:
Clean two kettlebells to your shoulders. Press the kettlebells up and out. As the kettlebells pass your head, lean into the weights so that the kettlebells are racked behind your head. Make sure to contract your lats, butt, and stomach for added stability.
[ Attack your spindly legs ]
One of the biggest mistakes that many trainees make is over emphasizing upper body exercises such as the bench press and barbell curl and doing little if any work for the legs. Sorry, three sets of leg extensions and ten minutes on the stair climber is not going to cut it.
In addition to looking funny, trainees that avoid heavy legwork are selling themselves short with their upper body strength and development. After all, if you cannot even squat 200lbs what makes you think that you will be able to do a standing military press with 200lbs? Strong legs will give you a balanced physique as well as a solid foundation to press off of.
If you have weak legs then you will have a weak foundation that will make heavy overhead pressing impossible. If you have weak stick figure legs then get to know the barbell squat on a first name basis and attack the exercise with full intensity.
Do a maintenance phase for the upper body and get your legs up to par with heavy squatting. Forget about leg extensions and leg curls, emphasize the barbell squat and watch your upper body power increase by leaps and bounds.
Also, make sure that you do full range squats. No partials or quarter squats go rock bottom on each rep.
[ Train your wings ]
You will be hard pressed to find a champion bench presser that does not have tremendous lat development. In addition to stabilizing the shoulders, a pair of powerful lat muscles gives you a strong base to press off of. Forget about lat pull downs and cable rows, weighted chin-ups are your exercise of choice to address your nonexistent lats.
In addition, weighted chin-ups are a great complement to the standing military press.
|FYI: Bodybuilding.com writer Stacey Hammer holds the Idaho state record with 176lb bench and a 336lb dead lift in the WABDL 165lbs class.
They work antagonistic muscles that will lead to balanced development in the upper body. Try doing standing military presses and weighted chin-ups back to back in your workouts.
For example, do one set of overhead presses, wait a minute, do a set of chin-ups, wait a minute, do another set of overhead presses, and so forth. In addition to making your workouts more efficient, you will be sending blood back and forth to the working muscles for faster recovery and increased strength.
[ Use The Push Press To Get Comfortable With Heavy Weights ]
Much of weight training is psychological. If you attempt to military press a weight and it feels really heavy chances are you are not going to press it. I have seen trainees that can bench press 315 - five times, but cannot press 350 for one rep. Now they have the power to press the 350, however mentally they are not up to the challenge.
Here is what you can do to gradually get used to weights that you cannot strict military press. Add ten pounds to your current max on the military press and push press it overhead. With the push press, you use your legs to drive the weight to the lockout position.
Simply, squat down a few inches, reverse the direction quickly and use the leg drive to explode the weight overhead. Once locked out, hold it there for three seconds and flex every muscle in your body. Then lower the weight under control back to the starting position. Repeat for five to ten singles.
[ Build a Powerful Platform By Flexing Every Muscle ]
One technique that I learned from strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline, author of "Power To The People" is the importance of getting tight when lifting.
The more muscles you flex, the tighter you will be. The tighter you are, the more likely you are to overhead press a heavy weight safely with proper technique. I have seen many trainees that are loose when they press and this is a big mistake.
In addition to being much weaker, you are lifting in a dangerous manner. Work on getting your body as tight as possible. Focus on turning your body into a sturdy bench that you can press off of. Imagine that you are trying to press your feet into the ground as hard as possible. Make sure that you knees are locked out and that your abs are tight as if you are bracing for a punch. Now flex your lats and shoulders as hard as possible.
If you do not have high blood pressure or any heart problems, hold your breath as you press a heavy weight until you pass the sticking point and then breathe out slowly to complete the lift. Breathe in as you lower the weight back to the starting position and then hold your breath again as you press the next rep.
[ Train With Heavy Weights & Low Reps ]
Sure lots of sets of ten give you a nice pump and make you feel like a king. However, they are not going to do much to help you with lifting heavy weights. Try keeping the rep range between 1-3 for six weeks and focus on perfecting your technique. Do not make the mistake of compromising form or cheating to increase training load rapidly.
Make every rep as perfect as possible and constantly refine things. The more you practice the more efficient you will become. Take two to three minute breaks between each set so that you are as fresh as possible on each heavy set.
Well, there you have it. Five tips to take your standing military press through the roof. Apply these techniques for six weeks and get ready for the admiration that will follow with the increases and size and strength that you achieve.
About The Author
Mike Mahler is a strength coach and a certified kettlebell instructor based in Santa Monica, California. For more information on Mike's new DVD, go to www.mikemahler.com.
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