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3 Surprising Exercises for Greater Pressing Strength

sandbag training

One of my biggest fears as a coach is that people read what we describe and think, “cool, but that’s not for me, I can’t do that!” Especially because we put such a focus on overhead pressing strength which really concerns me. Every week we get emails from people saying “I want to DVRT but I have bad shoulders, is it for me?”

I get it, the worst thing that someone who has pain or has been in pain wants to do is be BACK in pain! At the same time, we know what it is like. I tore my rotator cuffs bench pressing in high school (I should say bench pressing especially badly) and Jessica had her chase for the Olympics in swimming ruined by tearing up her shoulders. So, we get people thinking that overhead pressing strength may not be for them!

pressing strength

Watching Jessica to not only press overhead pain free now, but doing so with good weight is truly inspiring. 

Before how we get into how we can make things better, let’s answer why overhead pressing strength is such a point of emphasis. It isn’t about being “hardcore”, “old-time”, or anything like that! Rather, overhead pressing tells us a lot about what we do and don’t do well!

-It is a measure of upper body mobility and stability. Not being able to go overhead is a health issue, not a fitness issue.

-We get a sense of true core stability. Much of pressing you will find out has to do with the core.

-Pressing overhead teaches you how to connect your body as physical therapist, Gary Gray says, “from toes to nose.”

Where Most People Go Wrong In Overhead Pressing Strength Training

If there are two places people INSTANTLY go wrong with trying to train their pressing strength it is trying to hammer going overhead all the time and hard, as well as thinking they are using their shoulders to press the weight and NOT their entire body!

When people come to our DVRT live courses they think that we are going to hammer overhead pressing strength drills. They are often surprised at the amount of time we spend showing how doing other drills well can help build the qualities of greater strength and better movement while still training hard. Here are some powerful examples.

Front Loaded Squats

I have long written that getting into kettlebells in the early 2000’s really help redefine my view of strength and movement. Before that time, I would have approached training upper body workouts in the same misdirected way as I described. In fact, before that time, I rarely focused on overhead pressing strength. Like many, I thought it was how you hurt your shoulders and I was told that you didn’t need to, if you focused on benching and pulling exercises you would be good.

That worked till I tried pressing my first kettlebell overhead and I felt weak as sin. Just having a hard time of figuring out how to stabilize my body and control my core was a big deal that threw me for a loop. So,  you can imagine how surprised I was to be told to do way more kettlebell front squats.

I had done barbell front squats for some time so what could be the big difference? Holy crap! It was a HUGE difference on my core and really exposed some weaknesses. Since your lower body and core are so important to your overhead pressing strength it makes sense building up both would help!

No, I’m not talking about dipping and doing a push press, but your lower body and core is where your overhead pressing strength starts! Why Ultimate Sandbag Front Loaded Squats? If you thought kettlebell front squats were challenging on the core, we just raised the bar! No, I’m not talking about using some 15 pound Core USBs for Front Loaded Squats, I’m talking going heavy!

pressing strength

That is because with Ultimate Sandbags, as we go heavier we also BIGGER! The dimension of the Ultimate Sandbag pushes our hands forward so the need to create more tension and the stress on the core and the lower body goes through the roof!

DVRT Master, James Newman, explains where many people go wrong in front loaded squats. 

Go Horizontal

Many may be surprised to hear me say that floor presses are generally a waste of time. Having been someone that did them, I can say so because you take out the lower body and core in the press. There are far better ways to teach the building blocks of building up shoulder stability, BUT combine it with the core and lower body. Going into horizontal positions are important ways of building these qualities.

The answer is a drill we have discussed A LOT! That is the Bird Dog!! A drill that people have been using more, but they miss how accessible it is to anyone! This is due to how many progressions we have and these not only lead to our plank lateral drag, but they teach us how to stabilize our shoulders and integrate them with the natural chains of the body.

Sarah Rippel shows how foundational we can start because teaching how to use the ground with the hands, correct positioning and alignment are key for success!

I break down where so many people go wrong in using these progressions and what the REAL intent to our DVRT Bird Dogs is all about!

Press Out to Press Up

One of the many DVRT exercises that are misunderstood,  Press Outs tend to be something VERY different than most people think when they just see them online. “Oh cool, fun new core drill”, many think and it is an awesome core drill, but that’s not really the goal!

We use our Press Outs to teach how to press above the head. Especially when we use a half or tall kneeling position we really discover how important the feet, lats, core, and even grip are to our success in not only being successful in overhead pressing strength, but how we do so without actually feeling our shoulders!

That means these Press Outs are perfect for people with problematic shoulders and you often see the look of utter shock as people see how they can press without hurting! As DVRT Master, Cory Cripe describes below, so many of the benefits are in the details.

Our goal is to make you feel like a bad ass. That is in the form of being the best version of yourself. Helping you see that you are capable of achieving way more than you may have ever imagined!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to really transform your fitness and those of others with our DVRT live certifications. Train with Josh in Southern California coming up fast and see how we truly bring strength to life. Check it out HERE 

sandbag workouts