This past Thursday, our CrossFit program tested their push presses, building to a heavy single, with the hope of achieving a PR. Hitting a PR is never a guarantee, especially if factors in your life outside the gym (sleep, stress, nutrition, etc.) are not going your way. Still, even if all those factors are dialed in, technique is hugely important, especially when it comes to a ballistic lift like the push press. We move through the bar path so quickly that there is little room for error. To maximize our chances of success, we need to make sure that we’re starting in the proper position. It’s extremely difficult to get from point A to point B if you’re starting behind and to the side of point A. Yet when it comes to the push press, from a coaching perspective, this is what we frequently see. It all comes down to your modified rack position.
When we set up for the push press, we want to be in a modified rack position. Just like in a full front rack, this means that the bar is on our shoulders, not our chests. To get it there, we need to drive the front of our shoulders up into the bar. This is NOT a shrug. However, in a full front rack, we want our elbows to be as close to parallel to the ground as possible. To get from a full front rack to a modified one, we want to “open” our elbows, by driving them a little more out to the side.
In this position, we have a solid shelf for the bar. If we keep the bar on our chests, when we initiate our dip, there’s a good chance the bar will slide down. This means we have a longer distance to lift the bar, and when we transition from the dip to a drive up, we now need to overcome the downward momentum of the bar. Maintaining a solid shelf prevents this.
If we go too far the other way and try to maintain a full front rack position, it’s not great for the overhead part of the lift. We’ll still get a solid dip and drive, but with our elbows oriented forward, it’s likely that we’ll turn the initial upward drive into a triceps extension. This causes the bar to travel out in front of us, which is not an ideal bar path. Opening our elbows allows us to drive the bar straight overhead.
Fix your start position in the push press, and you’re more likely to have a successful lift. See you in the gym.