The Strict press is “a movement used to press a bar to a position directly above the head (CrossFit Journal)”.
We perform overhead movements every day so this blog might not just be beneficial for the strict press but also adjust how you are doing daily activities throughout your days such as lifting a heavy box above the head to put on a shelf. Similar motion, we want to avoid injury so correct positioning and bracing is the key!
Correct positioning is vital. Outlined in this blog we will see good vs. bad starting positioning and good vs. bad strict press to show you what the correct positioning and bracing should be to avoid injury.
The bracing sequence which should be used before performing strict press
1) Squeeze glutes
2) Squeeze abs
3) Elbows in front of the bar
4) Wrists locked out
Throughout the bracing sequence at no time should you lose tension otherwise you are using incorrect positioning and bracing, therefore, increasing your chances of injury. The heavier the load above the head the more important the bracing sequence becomes (CrossFit journal), just because I said that doesn’t mean when you’re warming up with an empty bar you don’t follow your bracing sequence.
The warm-up is getting you to activate this bracing sequence allowing you to lift heavier weights above your head keeping you free from injury as it is lifted in the correct manner. It is easy to see when someone is not engaging their core/glutes and you will see this in the pictures below, for example, your hips will tilt forwards, and your stomach chills out at the front too, not an attractive position if I’m honest. Take a look at our vs. pictures and see if you see any similar characteristics in yourself when performing a strict press.
Good vs. Bad beginning positioning of the strict press
1 – Good positioning
2 – Bad positioning
Good vs. Bad Strict Press positioning
1 – Good positioning
2 – Bad positioning
1 – Hyperextension of the lower back
This is a big NO-NO with strict press and to be honest any lifting. Allowing your lower back to go into hyperextension will load the lower back putting you at risk of injury. Lifting heavy weights above your head and allowing your back to be hyperextended will force the weight from overhead to be transferred to the lower back.
Why do we hyperextend?
People will hyperextend due to poor thoracic extension. Thoracic mobility is very important and a lot of us doing jobs, such as sitting at desks, will find they are very stiff and immobile in the thoracic region of our backs (mid-portion of our back where our ribs join onto). Poor thoracic mobility will limit your front rack position, making it difficult to get your elbows in front of the bar whilst keeping your wrists locked out. Overhead mobility will also be affected, hence why people fall into the habit of hyperextending the lower back to allow themselves to get the overhead positioning they want, due to their restricted thoracic mobility is limiting this. Therefore, Increasing thoracic mobility with benefit overhead mobility and front rack position!
2 – Losing tension in your midline
This plays a role in hyperextension of the lower back. When someone hyperextends their lower back they lose tension in their midline allowing their ribs to rise up. Losing tension in our midline, not squeezing glutes or core, will increase the chances of injury. Recruitment should be from the core to our extremities to allow us to move effectivity and efficiently. If we lose midline tension we load other areas of our body more such as our shoulders and back. Make sure we keep our ribcage locked down, squeeze our glutes and SQUEEZE YOUR ABS!
3 – Wrists are not locked out
Some people struggle to lock their wrists out. One reason why they may struggle to do this in a strict press is if they can’t get their elbows slightly in front of the bar so they will load their wrists to allow them to do this. Your wrists will definitely hate you for doing this. Hyperextension of the wrists is uncomfortable anyway let alone with weight and hyperextension. If you’re doing this you are asking for a lovely wrist injury. Increasing thoracic mobility will allow you to improve your front rack position.
4 – Not leading with your elbows
When performing a strict press you should lead with your elbows. Some people will let their elbows flare outwards and lose the external rotation of their shoulders. Elbows should stay as close together as possible and performing a strict press think lead with elbows first. Doing this will decrease niggling shoulder injuries such as shoulder impingement and will allow you to perform a strict press more efficiently. It is important that your elbows are slightly in front of the bar. If elbows are behind the bar, the barbell will be driven forwards in front of you causing the lift to be less efficient (The Press-CrossFit Journal). When performing a strict press the barbell should go directly overhead and be in line with the elbow joints such as the shoulder so the centre of mass is balanced. If not other areas of the body will get overloaded, such as the shoulders.
Avoiding these common faults will decrease your chances of injury and will also allow you to perform an awesome strict press. Personally, when I first performed a strict press I hated it! And I know Coach Tom knows my hate for this exercise. However, the more I try to work on my technique and overhead mobility, I hate to admit it but I am slowly beginning to like this exercise.
Things to work on to avoid common faults
• Improve thoracic mobility- use a foam roller/lacrosse ball to work into the tissues and mobilise
• Improve overhead mobility- pec release work, thoracic mobility work
• Improve external rotation of the shoulder
• Improve core and glute activation
Address your weakness and work on them, my main weakness was my thoracic mobility, improving my thoracic mobility has aided in my ability to actually be able to perform a strict press with no lower back pain, no wrist pain and I CAN NOW ACTUALLY APPLY WEIGHT TO THE BAR. For so long I just used a barbell as my technique was pants. So keep working at it and AVOID injury! If I can do it you can ☺
Remember to work from your Core to your extremities.
If you need help with your training, we have launched the ACTIVE Training Programme.
BSc Hons Sports Therapy MSST