Push Press – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos and Instructions


Muscles Targeted: The push press is a foundational CrossFit movement that primarily targets the deltoids. It also engages the quadriceps, gluteus maximus and triceps as secondary muscle groups. This multi-joint compound movement is a great mass builder for adding size to the shoulders. It’s an excellent exercise that helps to build explosive power and strength for sports like football. The push press is a popular exercise to include in several different CrossFit WODs (workout of the day) since it helps to build size and strength in the upper body.

Exercise Instructions: When starting this exercise, make sure that your grip on the barbell is secure and positioned at about shoulder width. The elbows should be tucked in and positioned inward (not flared out). Your standing posture is very important during this exercise. Keep your back straight and your chest out. The push press involves two phases which include the upward and downward movement.

Upward Movement
While standing with a barbell in the rack position resting on your front deltoids, execute the upward pressing movement by slightly bending your knees while keeping the torso fully erect with your upper arms about parallel to the floor. The flex in your knees should position your lower legs just above a 45 degree angle. Do not squat all the way down to 90 degrees since you only want to bend your knees just a little. From this slightly squatted position, extend your legs while pressing the barbell upward. As your drive up, fully extend your arms and press the barbell to the top position over your head. While exerting the most force and pressing the barbell upward, breathe out and exhale.

Downward Movement
In this phase you will lower the barbell back down to your shoulders and flex your hips and knees as the barbell comes back down to the starting position. Make sure to lower the barbell in a slow and controlled motion. This completes one full repetition of the push press.

Things To Avoid:

  • Do not let the weight of the barbell get out of control. If you can’t control the barbell, you are using too much weight. Decrease the weight a little in order to execute the exercise correctly and safely.
  • Do not round your back or hunch your shoulders over. Keep your back straight with your chest out and your shoulders back.
  • The start of the push press does not come from the shoulders. It should originate from the legs and the hips before pressing the barbell overhead using the deltoids and triceps.
  • Do not lose your balance. Keep a stable and secure foundation at all times with your feet positioned at about a shoulder width stance.

Reps and Sets: While performing the push press, the amount of repetitions and overall sets depends on your overall level of fitness. For beginners, start with just the barbell (no weight plates) and do 10-12 strict reps using perfect technique. Once your form is spot-on, you can start adding weight to the barbell and decrease your rep range down to 8-10 reps per set (after warming up). Do 2-3 sets of this exercise. Advanced individuals can do 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps of the push press. Make sure to rest for 90-120 seconds in between sets in order to fully recover. You can include a few other exercises along with the push press as part of your CrossFit WOD. The push press is a fantastic exercise for building strength and size in your shoulders and this is the reason why it’s a foundational CrossFit movement.

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1 Comment

  1. Many thanks for this CrossFit push press exercise which is new to me. I will certainly add this exercise to my WOD to gain overall strength. I appreciate all of your help and guidance.

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