Essential to our CrossFit program are the presses - shoulder press, push press, and push jerk. Five rounds of 5x shoulder press, 10x push press, and 15x push jerk were the order of the day this past Wednesday. This was a tough weightlifting workout with a metabolic component that challenged all ten general physical skills: cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy. CrossFit's First Standard of Fitness states that one is only as fit as they are competent in each one of these 10 physical skills.
Clare and Holly begin their shoulder presses as Eric of the Ocean City Fire Department breaks up his sets.
The shoulder press, the basic pressing strength move, begins with the body's core locked and the legs positioned hip-width apart. The bar is held in the racked position at shoulder height with the hands gripping the bar such that the palms face away from the lifter and are positioned slightly wider than the shoulders. The lifter's elbows should be slightly in front of the bar, so that when pressing, the force is directed upward, and not away from, the body. Then, without assistance from the legs (i.e. no leg movement), the bar is pressed from the racked position to overhead in a straight, vertical path. The bar must not move around the head. Instead, the head must move back as the bar passes and then return to a position under the bar. The completed shoulder press occurs when the arms extend fully to lockout and the shoulders drive up into the ears (the active shoulder). The lifter then brings the bar back to the racked position to prepare for the next rep.
The progression through the push press and the push jerk enable the CrossFitter to harness the power of the legs and to develop the functional movements required to get more weight overhead quickly and efficiently. The set up for the push press begins like the shoulder press; however, this time the lifter bends the knees to dip the body into a 1/4 squat and immediately drives upward with the legs. There's no stopping at the bottom of this dip, just a quick harnessing of the eccentric contraction of the leg muscles to provide power to the lift. At the point of full leg extension, the arms, together with the bar, begin their movement to the overhead and locked position. After lockout, the lifter then brings the bar back to the racked position to prepare for the next rep. It is important to note that when dipping on the push press, there's no movement of the body out of the vertical plane. Any forward or backward inclination of the torso must be corrected!
The final press in the series is the push jerk. The push jerk utilizes the techniques developed in the shoulder press and the push press movements, but this time the lifter will jump and land in a partial squat with the bar overhead. It is this jumping and landing move that must first be learned without weight. The jumping position begins with the feet hip width apart. The lifter should practice moving the feet quickly from this hip-width position to the shoulder-width position (the landing position). The most common fault of landing too wide shows up often in new lifters and those lacking sufficient balance and flexibility. It requires immediate correction to avoid the development of a bad habit.
With the jumping and landing movement performed correctly, the lifter then adds the bar to the lift. The push jerk begins with a dip and drive, like the push press, but at the moment the bar begins to move overhead, the lifter jumps. While the lifter is in midair, the arms move to full lockout before the feet hit the ground. The idea here is to utilize the brief weightlessness of the jump to get under the bar as it travels upward. The lifter must "stick" the landing in a partial squat with arms extended before the lifter rises to a full, standing position. The lifter then resets the feet to hip width and brings the bar back to the racked position before beginning the next rep.
The shoulder press, push press, and push jerk should be practiced often to develop both strength and form. There's a lot more to doing these lifts than meets the eye. Watch others perform the lifts correctly, visualize yourself doing the movements, then go for it!