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Overhead Pressing with the Athletic Training Arms

Joe Kenn | Vice President of Performance Education

The truest test of upper body strength in its purest form is the Overhead Press! The ability to press tremendous amounts of weight overhead is far more impressive than “How Much Ya’ Bench?” There is a reason in the sport of strongman the overhead press in many variations is used as a true feat of strength.

Anecdotal evidence in training halls across the world have shown that overhead pressing has a far greater carryover to improving your bench press than vice versa. As their overhead press strength has improved, many strongman competitors have seen the bench presses increase over time with very little emphasis. We utilize the overhead press as a foundational movement in our Block Zero and Block One programs for modified long term athlete development for high school and college age athletes.

Variations of the overhead press are needed to help the athlete reduce the effect of the law of accommodation. The basic concept of the law of accommodation is: when constantly using the same exercises, the body adapts then stops making improvements. With the adjustable training arms, we can create many alternative movements to the standard barbell and dumbbell exercises that remain popular.

We have included three overhead press variations using the athletic training arms (ATA’s). These are great alternatives to the standard barbell or dumbbell overhead press.

Single Arm Lateral Push Away

The Lateral Push Away could be a solid recommendation to those athletes who perform the snatch. It would be a huge accessory movement in mimicking the shoulder position at the completion of the snatch and help strength the shoulder region in a very unique way. Also, the finishing angle is hard to mimic with a standard dumbbell or kettlebell, so a very good alternative for overall shoulder development.

Rack-Facing Front Press

The Rack-Facing Front Press gives the athlete a slightly different finishing position than a standard press. By finishing with the load out and away from the body, gives a little more emphasis on stability at the completion of the lift. It is important to brace the core and really emphasize the eccentric phase utilizing the variation.

Forward-Facing Front Press

The Forward-Facing Front Press gives the athlete the closest movement pattern to the standard overhead press.

Basic Technique Notes:

  • Adjust the ATA’s so the pivot arm is in line with the shoulder joint (as close as possible)

  • It is recommended that you use the safety arms as “blocks” for the starting position of the ATA presses.

  • Utilize a soft knee set up in the standing position.

  • Each individual may find a slightly different starting position under the ATA’s. Adjust foot position accordingly.

  • Stabilize the ATA’s overhead each rep.

  • On the eccentric, lower through the lats. Think of it as doing a lat pulldown, pull the ATA’s down to starting position.

The best part of the ATAs is the independent limb action. This allows both version of the front press to be done in several other variations. The ATA’s are a great addition to an athletic based training facility. Coaches continue to find different movement patterns that can be trained with the ATA’s.


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