Barbell Exercises: Push Press

The push press is a common exercise. It is useful with either dumbbells or a barbell and can be helpful in developing a wide range of muscles, including the pectorals, the abdominals, various shoulder muscles and more. This exercise is considered easy to moderate in difficulty.

The basic idea of a push press is to push a barbell full of weight from a position even with your upper chest to a position above your head. In order to properly do the exercise, you’ll need to engage your full body. This will help to ensure that you prevent injury and that you are able to glean the maximum benefits from the push press exercise.

Exercise Basics

This exercise is easiest to do if you have a mounted rack for your barbell. Place the correct weights on the barbell and affix them as necessary. It’s a good idea to begin with a lighter weight and work your way up to a heavier one. Approach the barbell and pick it up with both hands such that your palms are facing away from your body and you have an overhand finger grip. Your elbows should be bent alongside your body at approximately a 90 degree angle. Lift up the barbell and carry it a step or two back from the rack. This is your opening and resting position for the exercise.

To execute the exercise, take a deep breath in. As you exhale quickly, give your knees a slight bend and press them upward quickly. Ideally, your feet should not leave the floor; there is no “jump” component to this exercise. However, you will need to power the rest of your body from your legs. As you push up with your legs, allow the momentum to help you push the weight up above and in front of your head with your arms as well. Do not lock your elbows as you do so. Next, slowly bring the weight back to the resting position to complete the first repetition of the barbell push press.

Safety and Injury Prevention

The best way to prevent injury while doing this exercise is to ensure that you are working with a reasonable weight. Do not exceed the amount of weight at which you’re comfortable working until you’ve practiced the exercise. Be sure that you push up evenly with both sides of your body. It can also be helpful to have a spotter there with you to ensure that you don’t drop the weight. Never lift with your back, and always let your legs do the bulk of the work.


It’s easy to modify this exercise to include other muscle groups as well. Start with the barbell on the floor and lift it up from a squatting position to the resting position of the push press, then return it back to the ground at the end of the exercise (for a better mix of muscles worked).


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