Strict Press, Push Press, Push Jerk… What’s The Difference?

Shoulder press

Whether you’re in to bodybuilding, power lifting, endurance or just fitness in general, a set of strong shoulders is something that will always be desired. But doing lateral raises till the cows come home won’t make big, strong and healthy delts. Overhead pressing movements are the gravy when it comes to creating a great set of shoulders. Although many may choose to do them a bit differently, the strict press, push press and push jerk are the big 3 in creating strength, size and explosiveness in the delts.

Strict Press

The strict barbell press is a favorite among a lot of bodybuilders because of the rep tempo and how you’re able to fully break down the muscle through time under tension. Unlike the other two movements, the strict press is a lot more controlled and can be performed with variations of grips to hit different parts of the deltoids. It also only uses the delts and upper back to control the weight up and down, not the rest of the body. The strict press allows you to work on correct shoulder mechanics due to the controlled nature of the movement. If you’re looking for and overall mass-builder for the shoulders, look no further than the strict press.

strict press

  • Start with a barbell in a squat rack and take on a neutral grip in front rack position
  • Begin by retracting the shoulder blades and pressing the weight from in front of the head until the arms are fully straight at the top and behind your head
  • Slowly lower the weight back down and just touch your upper traps before beginning next rep

Sets and Reps: 4 x 10

Push Press

The push press really doesn’t differ from the strict press too much but it does allow for the use of some lower body assistance. During the strict press, the only body parts that are moving are the shoulder and arms; during the push press you are allowed some slight leg drive to really move the weight up and over your head. The grip will virtually remain the same but some tend to use a slightly wider grip – especially when going behind the head. Since the weight can go up on this movement, the shoulders will come less into play and the hip/leg drive will make up more of this movement to assist with the momentum.

push press

  • Start with a barbell in a squat rack and take on a slightly wider than shoulder width grip with barbell starting behind the head
  • Begin movement by dipping the knees slightly (no more than 45 degrees) and explode up by extending the legs and pressing overhead simultaneously
  • When pressing overhead, ensure that the bar stays behind the head and the scapula is strong enough to hold position at the top

Sets and Reps: 4 x 6-8

Push Jerk

The push jerk is one of the most explosive movements you’ll be able to find. Similar to the push press, your lower body will take on a majority of the brute in this exercise. Rather the shoulders doing a majority of the work, the lower body movement and placement will take on about 50% of the work and the shoulders making up the other half. The push jerk also improves athletic performance by the explosivity in the legs on the press up (improves balance, stability and jumping) as well as standing up with the weight in the finished position (improves shoulder/scapula strength and leg power). An all-encompassing explosive exercise, the push jerk is not one to skip or take lightly.

push jerk

  • Start with a barbell in a squat rack and take on a slightly wider than shoulder width grip with barbell starting behind the head
  • Begin the movement by dipping the legs, then exploding to full extension, and dropping under the bar as the arms push upwards
  • Land with the feet similar to the starting position, rather than legs split (one foot in front of the other) like a split jerk
  • With the weight stable overhead, straighten the legs to complete the rep and then lower the bar back onto the shoulders

Sets and Reps: 4 x 3

Take-Home Message

As you can see, different overhead pressing movements have all sorts of benefits for whatever fitness goal you’re trying to achieve. Keep your mind open on different lifts you may not be good at and those you’ve never tried!

Tyler Stark

Tyler Stark

Writer and expert

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