3 Tips To Improve Your Push Press (Press More Overhead)

So you’ve honed in on your strict press technique and are looking to move some big weights with the push press?

Push pressing is your next step up from the strict press both in terms of the weight you’ll be loading on the bar, and the number of technique cues there are to worry about.

With that in mind here’s 3 tips to help improve your push press and help you press more weight overhead.

(Looking to Train Your Overhead Press Specifically? Check out this program!)

1. Avoid “Leading With Your Knees” (Fixing the “Dip” Phase)

The most common push press error you’ll see across the board is the person who is “all knees” on the dip phase of a push press.

Initiating a push press with forward knee travel (and only forward knee travel) results in us losing balance forwards, leaves us with no solid base to press from, and can make weights feel dramatically heavier than they actually are.

Instead, think about your dip in the push press exactly the same way you’d think about initiating a squat. Except in this case, you’re only going to be doing a quarter squat.

The key difference here being that by mimicking a squat our knees AND our hips are going to break at the same time, not just our knees. This will help keep the bar balanced over your center line, gives us a much better base to press from, and you’re going to be ensuring you are utilizing all of your leg strength for this press.

Important to note: Just because we are mimicking a squat does not mean you are shooting for competition squat depth. A proper push press dip is actually rather shallow (think quarter squat…if that…). A deep dip will be detrimental to your press and should be avoided.

2. Knee’s Out/Don’t Crash 

Something I don’t think a lot of people are aware of is you don’t have to rush the dip phase of a push press.

Everyone is told this is an explosive movement so the immediate assumption is everything has to be FAST!! This is only half true. 

You should be exploding through your driving phase, where you are actually attempting to push the bar up. However, you don’t need to speed through your dip phase.

I see a lot of people “crash” into the dip of a push press, they lose the bar out in front of themselves, lose their upright torso position, their knees crash…everything…

It’s more important that your dip be smooth and balanced as opposed to fast. Control how quickly you drop into your dip based off a speed which allows you to maintain all of your proper positioning, instead of rushing through the dip. Additionally, keeping your knees driven out hard (like you’d think on a squat) will help with stability and your overall power down the line.

Once you’ve got a controlled dip that allows you to keep proper positioning THEN you can be as speedy as you want and explode up with the rest of the movement.

3. Don’t Think Of It as a Press in The First Place

Look…I get it…it’s called a push PRESS! 

Despite this, your overall pressing strength is not nearly as important as how much weight you can throw around with your legs when it comes to this movement.

Your legs really should be doing around 80% of the work here. Ideally you’ll be most of the way to lockout just off of your leg drive alone, and then your shoulders and triceps are there just to drive you the rest of the way home.

It’s going to be much more fruitful to your overall push pressing progress to spend a lot of time nailing down your positioning and technique work to allow you to utilize as much of your leg strength as possible, as opposed to trying to manhandle this weight with all upper body strength alone.

On the same vein, it’s going to be a good idea to start building up some beefy quads now (in addition to your regularly scheduled press work). All that solid technique isn’t going to be much use if you don’t have the lower body strength to match.

(For more on the push press check out this video!)


Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.