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strict press

The Strict Press: Benefits, Variations and How To Do

The strict shoulder press is definitely one of the best shoulder exercises ever. It’s great for gaining insane upper body strength and packing a lot of muscle mass in your deltoids. But what’s so good about the strict press? Well, it isolates and targets your whole shoulder area. Not many exercises are capable of doing that. Also, it’s an incredible exercise to develop your overhead pushing strength and your overall strength in general.

Benefits of the strict press

It works your whole upper body. The strict press might primarily target your shoulder muscles, but it’s actually an incredible overall upper body exercise. While performing this exercise, you are also putting a heavy load on your traps and triceps. Not only that, but you are also working out your forearms, abs, and your core muscles. 

It’s the best exercise for your delts. Your shoulder muscles are composed of three muscles: the front deltoids, the side deltoids, and your rear deltoids. The strict barbell press is an all-around shoulder exercise, meaning all of your shoulder muscles are activated while lifting. Most of the shoulder exercises target only one or two of those muscles, so this is hands down the best exercise to work your shoulders as a whole.

Core activation! One of the greatest benefits of the strict overhead press is that it activates all of your core muscles and puts them to work. Because you are standing while you execute this lift, your abs and all of the small core stabilizing muscles need to work overtime to stabilize your body and maintain your posture. Also, the fact that your feet are close together while lifting means your core has to work even harder to keep you balanced.

It increases your strength and size. Like many barbell exercises, the strict press can be done with heavy weights. It is one of the heaviest lifts you can do for your shoulders. Meaning you can work your shoulder muscles much harder. Which will help you build a lot of mass and strengthen your delts and upper body. 

Great for your other lifts. Adding the strict press to your workout routine will help you increase many other lifts. Mainly it will impact and boost lifts and exercises that utilize the same or similar muscles, such as the bench press, jerks, and any other shoulder exercise. Also, it will indirectly affect many other bigger full body lifts because the this overhead press trains your core muscles.

Great for resolving your muscle imbalances. The barbell strict press will help you resolve any imbalances you have in your shoulders and other upper body pushing muscles. In time, it will help you strengthen your weaker arm or shoulder since you use both arms for this lift.

How to do the strict press

Strict Press

It might not seem so, but the strict shoulder press is a very technical upper body movement, and proper form is crucial. The exercise is often done with large weights and it involves the whole upper body, so having bad form while doing it can lead to some serious injuries. Here is a step-by-step guide to the strict press:

The setup:

  1. Take a hip-width stance. Your feet should be under your hips.
  2. Fully grip the bar, wrap your thumbs around it.
  3. Your grip should be a bit wider than your shoulders. So keep your hands right outside your shoulder. (If you aren’t flexible enough for this then you can use a wider grip.)
  4. Your elbows should be slightly in front of the barbell. 
  5. The bar has to rest on your shoulders.

The lift:

  1. Keep your spine neutral and your core tight.
  2. Keep your head, legs, and body straight. 
  3. Press the bar straight up. Do not dip or try to generate more power from your hips or legs, only use your shoulders to push.
  4. While pushing, move your head slightly back and out of the way. This is done to allow the bar to move in a straight path over your head. 
  5. Completely extend your arms and lock your elbows. 
  6. At the top, pause for a second and then slowly lower the bar back into the starting position. 

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your heels on the floor the whole time.
  • Do not trust with your hips or legs.
  • Keep your core and abs tight for the entire lift.
  • Always try to maintain a straight bar path.
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon.
  • When lowering the bar give in at your knees and hips to absorb the shock.
  • Start with lighter weights. Add more weight once you are more familiar with the exercise.

Strict press Variations

There are a few different variations of the strict shoulder press depending on what equipment you use, or how you perform the exercise.
Let’s start with the equipment. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t have access to a barbell for your strict shoulder press. The lift can be done just as well with other equipment. You could use dumbbells, kettlebells, a medicine ball, or even a weightlifting plate for it.

Although this exercise is usually performed standing up, it can be done while being seated as well. The main difference with the seated and standing overhead press is that while you stand, you will use more of your core muscles to stabilize your body.

A neat way to increase core involvement in the seated version is to use a large exercising ball as your seat. It will work your core extra hard, but never use large weights for it. Always be cautious while doing this because the exercise ball adds a lot of extra instability to this lift, so the risk of injury is much higher.

If you want to mix things up and try some different approaches, then here are a few possible variations for the strict press:

Dumbbell strict press

Strict Dumbbell Press

The dumbbell strict press is one of the most common shoulder exercises you can see in the gym. As the name implies, you use a set of dumbbells for this variation. Using dumbbells for this lift will activate more of your front shoulder muscles compared to using a barbell. Otherwise, the two variations are very similar.

One-handed strict press

One handed strict press

This is done by using dumbbells, or kettlebells. Just like with the two-handed dumbbell overhead strict press, this puts more focus on your front deltoid muscles.

As the name implies, you perform the lift by using only one arm at a time. This variation will put extra pressure on your core muscles, in order to stabilize your body.

Seated strict press

Seated Strict Press

Perform the shoulder press by sitting on a bench or an exercise ball. This variation will work your core stabilizing muscles less. If you want to activate your core more, you should use a bench without back support or an exercising ball.

In Conclusion

The strict overhead press is a fantastic exercise for both building mass and strength in your deltoids. It’s somewhat of a compound pushing movement that involves your whole body. Because of that, the exercise is beneficial not only for your shoulders muscles but also for your pushing strength and your core muscles. Which in turn will have a positive effect on many other lifts and exercises.

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