Press vs Military Press

Discussion in 'Barbell' started by Geoff Chafe, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Lifts train movements and exercises train muscles.

    A Military Press is an excellent shoulder exercise. You are very strict and the shoulders are doing the vast majority of the work.

    A Press uses the whole body to move the weight effectively. It requires precise balance, timing and movement to maximize the movement. They are both strict presses by the definition of locked knees, but very different in execution.

    A Press is the best shoulder girdle Lift according to Bill Star. The reason why he used Bench as his upper body lift when selling his 5 x 5’s was because the Press had a bad rap at that time, and still does to the general population. Like the myth that the Squat is bad for you knees, when it’s actually the best lift for your knees.

    Press like a Bench is a whole body lift. Some say I don’t use too much arch or leg drive, but you are missing out on a lot of the benifits of the movement. The Floor Press or Leg Up Bench are valuable exercises, but train muscles like a Military Press.

    They both have their place. Lifts and assistance exercises are part of a strength program. I like to use the Press as my main lift and use MP for my back off and assistance work.

    This is not a Deadlift post, but I figured stirring the pot on the beloved Military Press may excite some people.
    damogari, Rif, ShawnM and 2 others like this.
  2. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts

    A good thread and a good distinction. I agree that both have their place. I don't like to mix the too exercises too much, I'll do either for a while and then change.
    Geoff Chafe likes this.
  3. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Antti Same goes for Deadlift. In my warmup and backoff sets I will Stiff Leg, and Deadlift my work sets.

    The Stiff Leg is mainly a hamstring and low back exercise, and the Desdlift is a movement and full body lift.
  4. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts

    I admit that I like the stiff leg too much so that I mix it in my routine with the usual conventional deadlifts, though they're not always done on the same day. It's such an awful lift that I can't resist doing it. I agree that it does hit me differently than the conventional deadlift, but I'm not sure I'd go as far as you do.
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  5. Anna C

    Anna C More than 2500 posts Certified Instructor

    @Geoff Chafe Could you define the difference between Press and Military Press? Are we talking barbell for both?
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  6. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Anna C You could Press or Military Press any implement.

    A Press uses hip drive and t spine extension.

    A Military Press is a strict shoulder press standing erect with little body movement and the head moves around the bar.

    Both versions have locked legs.
    Rif and Anna C like this.
  7. Anna C

    Anna C More than 2500 posts Certified Instructor

    OK, StrongFirst teaches what you are calling the Military Press, and for barbell refers to it as both "Press" and "Military Press". As I understand it, StrongFirst does not advocate any spine extension, layback, etc. as you might see in what you are calling a Press. Staying away from that helps ensure no lumbar extension in any version of the overhead press.

    Starting Strength calls both of these Press, but has used "Press 1.0" for what you are calling the Military Press and "Press 2.0" for what you are calling the Press. I've been practicing both and using these terms in my training log. "Press 1.5" is doing a 2.0 for the first rep and then immediately pressing the rest of the reps in the set without a hip movement (without the dead stop between reps).

    I agree - both versions are excellent for the shoulders, and a whole body lift.

    Do you shrug your shoulders at the top? I do, now.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
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  8. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts

    Do you think that the dead stop has any play between the two distinctions? When I try to do a strict press, as in minimal back bend and no hip action, I always prefer to stop the bar dead on my chest, and the bar will only ascend from that stop. When I use the hips and more of a back angle, I often like to get a bit of stretch reflex in as well.
    Geoff Chafe likes this.
  9. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo More than 500 posts

    Maybe people tend to show the military press all the love because there are other methods of training the additional aspects that come with the press? I would think some flavor of clean would be a more effective method of strengthening hip drive, and the bench press would hit the t-spine extension harder. I wonder also if the military press might have more "aesthetic" value - build up massive shoulders.

    That said, the press would enable you to get more weight over your head, which has gotta be a good thing. In the end, it does seem like there's some opportunity to cycle between them if you know what you're doing.
    Geoff Chafe and Anna C like this.
  10. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    @Anna C I've always liked this video of the press aka Olympic press. I'll admit it's not the best at showing the actual technique, but it scores a 10 on the coolness factor because Serge Redding presses 500 lbs.!

    Good article here by the late Bill Starr on the technique of the Olympic press: The Olympic-Style Press | Bill Starr

    I suppose if you really wanted to be technical about things, you should clean the bar before you press, although one clean and multiple presses would be acceptable.

    I think it is a cool lift and it is a bit of a shame that it is no longer part of Olympic lifting.
  11. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    I'm not 100% sure but I don't believe this was allowed in competition. Not saying it's bad - just saying that if you want to do the true old school Olympic press the bar is not allowed to move in the rack position - only the body may move. I do know that this is the current rule for the jerk. The bar may not move up or down. There are amateur lifters who power clean up to about chest level and then whip the elbows up which raises the bar to shoulder level. Technically this is an illegal move. If you clean the bar to the chest that's where you need to start the jerk which would be impossible as there is no support for the bar.
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  12. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    You know better than to post something related to Olympic lifting, especially if it's something old school like the Olympic press. This stuff always gets me excited and I just keeping posting stuff.

    Several coaches, Glenn Pendlay being one of them, really like the push press. It is a full body lift which uses more "body" than the press but still builds brute strength because the top of the lift should be "muscled up." It's more specific to the jerk.

    I would say that the act of "putting the barbell overhead" falls on a continuum. From what I understand of lifting history, the old school military press required the lifter to stand like a soldier "at attention," meaning that the heels had to be together with the feet turned out around 45 degrees. Hence the name "military" press. Most people today probably adopt a more natural shoulder-width stance. I've read recommendations of trying it with a slightly offset stance with one foot slightly in front of the other. This adds stability and may result in pressing a bit more weight. The continuum would look like this:

    "Strict" (heels together) MP | Shoulder-width stance MP | Offset-stance MP | "Slight" lean back press | Olympic Press | Push press | Power jerk | Split jerk | "High" Squat jerk | Deep Squat jerk

    If you've ever seen the Chinese lifters squat jerk they go down to the basement (below parallel). Pyros Dimas, at the end of his career, would go to about parallel. I tend to do a slight lean back press when the weight gets heavy, then finish with some push presses.
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  13. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Anna C What I call a Press is a Press or classically an Olympic Press. I am not the one calling it a Press. The Military Press classic technique is standing at attention with heels close together to increase instability and make the exercise harder.

    For me most of my extension comes from my upper back and the low back is minimized. The hips forward facilitates tight legs and glutes further protecting my back. Similarly to my Bench that is why I feel I get a lot of carryover. For Log and other odd object you are forced to extend the hips and T Spine because of the oversized and awkward load which the Press also helps.

    I do not intentionally shrug up at the top, although it does happen to me with tightness, fatigue, or loss of focus. I focus on back tension and with the shrug up I lose it and have to try to reset it. For me shrugging Up is an error I avoid.

    In Weightlifting I did shrug up. It is a part of classic technique. There are shruggers and non- shruggers. Depends on what works for you. Just as there are flippers and grippers. I do overhead pressing with a thumbless grip.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  14. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Antti No, starting from a dead stop is not a factor. I can still keep my rhythm with touch and go reps. I just depends what qualities and portion of the lift you want to strengthen.
    Antti likes this.
  15. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    No. I don't see why that would be necessary.
  16. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    People use the MP because it is lighter and easier. It requires less strength and coordination.

    A Clean is not comparable to a Press. It’s not a hip extension exercise you are just shifting your center of gravity and it aids in the pop off the chest.

    The T Spine in the Bench is a static hold. The arch facilitates using the chest effectively. The T spine in the Press is an active movement to complete the Press. When I do lockout supports I can Press the bar 3-4” by wedging under the bar, with locked arms, and using the upper back to lift the weight off the pins.

    In the Press the shoulders are still doing a lot of work. Using the arch uses more upper chest that is another reason a Press can be stronger than a MP. You are recruiting more muscle to share the load. Higher volume Military Press will help grow the shoulders. That’s what I use it for mainly. That is my point exercises work muscles. Lifts work movements. Some also will say lifts work joints.
  17. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    This is why it’s no longer a Competition Lift. It became to difficult to judge and had some very controversial calls. Guys became so flexible and strong they were able to bend the rules. I am neither, and my technique is not nearly as extreme.

    I am constantly trying to improve though.
  18. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

  19. WhatWouldHulkDo

    WhatWouldHulkDo More than 500 posts

    I assume by "easier" here, you mean in terms of technique - easier to get correct technique dialed in. I agree there, and that would certainly be another reason for MP to get more love in a place like this - better thing to put into a book for an un-coached athlete to work on by themselves. I've been teaching my 8 year old boy MP, since it doesn't require so much technique.

    I don't quite buy that. In my limited experience, nothing teaches you to develop an instantaneous burst of power like a clean, and that can be applied in a lot of scenarios. Granted, the drop and front squat portion doesn't have any connection to a press.
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  20. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts

    In general the clean, of any kind, is a fantastic exercise that does teach how to be powerful.

    But the hip movement in the press is different from that of the clean. If anything I'd say it's the opposite: the little push off the chest happens with a movement opposite to that of the clean. We push the hips forward and lean back, thus creating a path for the barbell, and then forcefully reverse the movement and thus initiate the movement of the barbell.
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