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Differences and Progressions of Strict Press, Push Press, and Push Jerk Exercises

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Strength training exercises involving overhead movements are key components of many fitness routines and athletic training programs. Among the various exercises, the strict press, push press, and push jerk are three popular options that target the upper body while also engaging the lower body. Although these exercises share similarities, they differ in technique, muscle recruitment, and progression. Understanding these distinctions can help individuals optimize their training and achieve their fitness goals. In this article, we will delve into the differences and progression of the strict press, push press, and push jerk exercises.

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Strict Press

The strict press, also known as the military press, is a fundamental exercise that emphasizes pure upper-body strength. It primarily targets the shoulders, triceps, and upper chest muscles. The strict press involves lifting a barbell or dumbbells from shoulder level to an overhead position, without using leg drive or momentum. By isolating the upper body, it places greater emphasis on the deltoids and triceps, making it an effective exercise for developing shoulder strength and stability.

man performing a strict press in the gym

Progression Tips

  1. Start with an appropriate weight that allows you to maintain proper form throughout the movement.

  2. Gradually increase the weight while focusing on maintaining a vertical bar path and engaging the core for stability.

  3. Implement progressive overload by adding weight or increasing the number of repetitions over time.

Push Press

The push press is similar to the strict press, but it incorporates leg drive and momentum to generate additional force, enabling you to lift heavier loads compared to the strict press. In this exercise, the lower body assists the upper body by using a slight dip and drive motion to initiate the movement. By recruiting the quadriceps, glutes, and core, the push press allows for a more explosive and powerful upward movement.

Progression Tips

  1. Master the proper dip and drive technique by maintaining an upright torso and driving through the heels.

  2. Gradually increase the weight while maintaining control and stability throughout the movement.

  3. Utilize progressive overload techniques such as increasing repetitions, sets, or weights to challenge the muscles and stimulate growth.

Push Jerk

The push jerk is the most dynamic and explosive variation among these three exercises. It involves an initial dip and drive motion similar to the push press, but instead of catching the weight with a soft knee bend, the lifter re-bends the knees and drops into a partial squat to receive the weight. The push jerk utilizes the lower body's power and speed to generate momentum, allowing for the most significant load overhead.

man performing a push jerk in the gym

Progression Tips

  1. Begin with a weight that allows you to focus on mastering the dip, drive, and receiving positions.

  2. Gradually increase the load while ensuring proper coordination between the upper and lower body movements.

  3. Regularly practice footwork and receiving the barbell to enhance stability and control during heavier lifts.

The strict press, push press, and push jerk exercises provide a progression of overhead movements with varying degrees of difficulty and muscle recruitment. The strict press isolates the upper body, emphasizing shoulder strength and stability. The push press involves leg drive and momentum, enabling heavier loads and increased power output. Lastly, the push jerk utilizes a dynamic dip and drive motion, incorporating the lower body's explosive power. By understanding the differences and progression of these exercises, individuals can tailor their training to their specific goals and continually challenge their muscles for optimal development and performance.

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Scott Ryan, BS, CSCS, CF-L1, CF-W, BFRC

A professional coach who specializes in Applied Functional Science, Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit L1, and Olympic Lifting. He attended New England College in New Hampshire obtaining a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Biomechanics. He has a passion for injury prevention and coaching, as he was a collegiate athlete who suffered sports injuries. His goal is to get athletes back to optimal shape as well as prevent future injuries.

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