Crash Course – Z Press

by Chris on August 8, 2012

Today in the crash course series I want to show you a pressing variation that few have probably ever seen: the Z Press.

Overhead pressing seems to have gotten a bad rap over the past few years. I see coaches saying that only a handful of genetically superior lifters should overhead press and I’m calling bullshit. Overhead work is vital to anyone’s training if strength and more muscle are among your goals (hint: they should be). So long as you don’t have any specific contraindications to overhead pressing I say find a way to do it.

Anyway with that tangent aside here’s the deal with the Z Press. This movement is named for (in)famous strongman Zydrunas Savickas and it is as brutally effective as it is simple. Take a seat within your power or squat rack, yes on the floor, with your legs out in front of you. Have a barbell set on the safety pins about shoulder level and press from an unsupported seated position.

Like so:

The thing that makes this exercise so great is the positioning. Since you are sitting down and your back isn’t supported you have to keep yourself upright and not cheat by leaning back too far. This means that you have to use raw pressing strength in the shoulders and triceps to move the bar. Ever seen someone do a seated dumbbell military press on one of those 90 degree benches? It ends up turning into an incline bench press, which would be a great movement if that’s what you were actually trying to do.

I like to do Z Presses with a barbell in the power rack, as traditional, or with dumbbells either on the floor or seated on a bench with no back support. As long as you aren’t placing anything behind your back to keep you upright, you’ll get the job done.

Now go put something overhead.


steve August 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

that exercise looks like it would answer a lot of questions 1) how strong are you really
2)how good is your posture and 3) see if you have any shoulder impingements
there’s just no cheating involved
just 1 questions couldn’t see you leg arrangement.Are they supposed to be flat on the floor?looks like your using the posts for some kind of support or are your feet flat on the floor with knees bent.
looks like a real no nonsense exercise Chris
Steve T

Chris August 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm


Sometimes I stick my legs straight out and other times I will bend my knees a little. It’s really just based on how I feel at the time and comfort level. Either way you don’t want your foot hooked on anything for support.

Bob T August 14, 2012 at 10:48 pm

A true Savickas press is only done with the legs straight out… where it is impossible to dig the heels/feet into the floor. This makes it an exceptional difficult core exercise as well, while teaching the user to brace their core hard while the weight is driven overhead with NO leg drive. Which is why Mr. Savickas has the strongest overhead press in the world.

Another recommendation.. if the lifter is lifting heavy weight – for their bodyweight, over 65% – they may want a spotter for the first couple of times. Not to spot thier shoulders/arms.. but, to lend a leg behind their back, in case they start to fall backwards. And shorter legs will also tend to do this – the counterbalance is required when the heavy weight goes overhead.

Chris August 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Good points Bob. Thanks for dropping in.

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