July 12, 2021 9 min read

Different workouts will strengthen different muscles. Weightlifters know that taking on heavier loads will also push them to be better and perform better.

However, what’s the difference between these weightlifting techniques that have very similar names? Or, is there any difference at all? The push press, push jerk, and strict press are all different pressing movements that use the shoulder muscles.

Close up bodybuilder doing barbel overhead shoulder press in a gym

Push Press

This workout uses the upper body and lower body to move the barbell overhead. You use the momentum from dipping your legs to move the bar from the shoulders to an overhead position.

This exercise should be done very fast, so don’t try to linger on each movement. This exercise also works with dumbbells or a kettlebell. The push press is mostly used to build muscle mass and boost performance.

How to do a Push Press

  • From a standing position, hold the bar across the top of your chest (your collar bones) similar to the starting position of a front squat.
  • Push your elbows in front of the bar
  • Bend your hips and knees while maintaining an upright position in your torso
  • Without pausing, lock out your hips and knees forcefully
  • The momentum from this will help you push the load overhead to lock out your arms

Push Press Benefits

After mastering the push press, you should be able to push about 30% more weight overhead than with the strict press. It also improves your power and speed because of how quickly you need to perform the movement.

While both the push press and the push jerk are effective in these areas, the push press is a bit more strenuous on your muscles. This exercise is also fairly easy to master, which lowers the risk of injury.

Effective Push Press Workout

  • Ten push presses (whichever weight you feel comfortable with)
  • Ten calories rows

You’ll want to do as many reps as possible for this workout. Both of these exercises are challenging to the core and shoulders, which is why pairing them together is very effective to train both.

Common Mistakes For Push Presses

The main mistake that most people make when completing this exercise is the dip motion, specifically, alignment in the dip motion. If you start to arch your back in the dip, you probably need to remove some weight before trying again. Your spine should be long and strong when doing the overhead press, and you’ll need to engage your core to maintain a strong alignment.

Also, you might find yourself going into a full squat rather than doing a simple dip. Your head, chest, and hips need to be perfectly aligned to do this exercise right. If you don’t do it correctly, it could put a lot of strain on your lower back. The strain on your lower back could make you disengage your core, and then you’re in real trouble.

Lifting the bar overhead before you’ve completed the dip is very common. You should keep the bar at your chest until your hips are fully extended. It might feel more natural to make it all one fluid motion, but it’s meant to be performed a certain way.

You can practice with an empty bar or dumbbells if you constantly find yourself eager to get to the next phase of the exercise before completing the previous one.  Make absolutely sure that you are standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.

You might want to spread them out a little bit because it feels more comfortable or easier, but you shouldn’t give in. You also need to keep your elbows relaxed, so they face the ground. Your hand placement should feel natural, at about slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. And, keep your palms facing away from you.

Push Jerk

The push jerk technique is only slightly different from the push press. This exercise puts you under the load to push it up above your head. The most crucial part of this workout is the jerk motion.

You have to do everything very quickly to perform the exercise correctly. By absorbing the weight when you dip down, you’re able to catch more weight and improve your strength. This workout also works with a kettlebell or dumbbells.

How to do a Push Jerk

  • Have the bar resting on your hips
  • Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Take a dip while driving the bar up to your chest
  • Once the bar is at your chest, take another dip to push the bar up over your head
  • Remain in a slight squat until the bar is fully extended over your head
  • Stand up to lock out your legs

Push Jerk Benefits

Push jerks are good at improving your coordination, power, timing, and speed. Another thing that is very good about this exercise is that it helps your Olympic lifting ability. This workout helps you push 30% more weight above your head when compared to the push press. It also uses your legs a lot more than the strict press, so your legs are getting a workout as well.

Effective Push Jerk Workout

  • 12 deadlifts (as much weight as you want)
  • Nine hang power cleans (as much weight as you want)
  • Six push jerks (as much weight as you want)

Try to keep the weight lighter for the deadlifts and increase the weight for the hang power cleans. Then, increase the weight again for the push jerks. You’ll want to be able to get through the first couple of rounds without taking a pause between each rep. You’ll want to do as many rounds as you can for whatever time you have.

Common Mistakes For Push Jerks

Execution is key in this exercise, so you’ll need to maintain the correct form throughout. Remember that you shouldn’t stand up fully until your arms are locked above your head.

You should keep your elbows out in front of you, relaxed to point towards the ground. It’s all meant to be one fluid motion, but don’t skip ahead because you’re eager. Take your time to perform each motion correctly.

Strict Press

Also referred to as the shoulder press and military press, this workout is made to improve upper body strength. It starts from the front rack position and requires you to push the bar to an overhead position.

The strict press is the basis for all pressing movements, including the push press and push jerk. You need great upper body strength to complete this workout, and it doesn’t have any momentum to help you move the barbell overhead.

How to do a Strict Press

  • Put the bar in a front rack position
  • Put the bar on your shoulders
  • Make sure that your grip is a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Keep your elbows below and in front of the bar
  • Stand with your feet at shoulder-width apart
  • Push the bar overhead, moving your head out of the way of the barbell

Strict Press Benefits

One great thing about the strict press is that you can do this workout without using your lower body at all; everything about this workout uses the upper body. This movement also helps train your core and midline to improve their strength. If you don’t have much of a core yet, it will also help develop it. There is such a thing as strict strength, and this movement helps build it and improve it over time.

Effective Strict Press Workout

  • Ten strict presses (whichever weight you feel comfortable with)
  • 15 kettlebell swings (whichever weight you feel comfortable with)

For this workout, you’ll want to do as many reps as possible in five minutes. The main focus of this combination of exercises will help train your midline and target your shoulder muscles. One thing that you can do to help with the weight of this workout is to reduce the strict press weight. You’ll also want to select a kettlebell weight that will help you do the sets without stopping.

Common Mistakes For Strict Presses

The biggest mistake for this exercise is using your legs. The strict press is meant to be strictly your arms and shoulders. Your legs and hips should remain motionless and uninvolved in the workout.

Another big mistake is hand placement on the bar. You might want to spread your hands out so that you don’t have to push the bar up as far, but that will only put some strain on your lower back.

Differences Between Exercises

One of the main differences between these exercises is the muscles that they use, another is the difficulty of the moves. The strict press to the push press to the press jerk all are increasingly more difficult to complete correctly and efficiently.

The strict press only uses your upper body to move the weight over your head. On the other hand, the push jerk requires the lower body to move the barbell over your head. Most people add more weight to the push jerk because it’s easier to complete the move with more weight than it is to do the strict press with more weight.

Another difference in these exercises is how much core they require for lifters to use when completing them. For the strict press, you only use your core to keep balance and correct alignment. For the push jerk, you need your core to engage in the dip movement to drive the barbell up.

The athlete is standing with a barbell above his head

Olympic Weightlifting Exercises

Olympic weightlifting has been around since the 19th century. All of these exercises above were and are used in the Olympics. However, if you want to train like a true Olympian, you need to know how to do all of the exercises. Many of these exercises are also very common in CrossFit. These exercises are meant to build muscle, increase explosiveness, and escalate strength.

Power Snatch

There are several different snatch variations, but this one seems to be one of the best at improving overall strength and fitness. This exercise is also very easy to do if you have limited mobility. Another plus of this exercise is that it limits the squatting volume. The power snatch improves your speed and technical development, too.

  • Stand with your feet at hip-width distance
  • Keep a wide grip on the barbell in front of you
  • Pull the bar over your knees, keeping the movement as smooth as possible
  • Launch the bar up to your hips
  • Push your elbows forward to move the bar up to your chest
  • Continue pushing the bar overhead
  • Move underneath the bar to catch it while you’re in a squat
  • Stand back up

Squat Snatch

The terms squat snatch and snatch mean the exact same thing and are interchangeable. This exercise uses a more advanced snatch movement than the power snatch. Better speed, timing, and mobility are required to complete the squat snatch.

  • Stand in front of the barbell with your feet hip-width apart and feet pointed slightly outwards
  • Grab the bar in a snatch grip
  • Pull the barbell up the front of your body
  • Straighten your knees, hips, and spine until the barbell passes your mid-thigh
  • Push your elbows out and up while pushing your hips out at the same time, driving the barbell up and over your head
  • Squat down to absorb the barbell
  • Once your arms are locked out above your head, stand up straight

Power Clean

The power clean will focus on using your traps, glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders. It’s a very good HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercise, and it strengthens your hips the most.

It also improves your overall athleticism, as well as your muscle mass, explosiveness, and coordination. This exercise uses a majority of the major muscles in the body, so it’s a great way to improve everything. These are the steps to complete a power clean:

  • Hold the barbell around the middle of your shins, with your knees slightly bent and your hands on the outside of your legs
  • Stand upright into a regular deadlift position
  • Jump up forcefully 
  • Shrug your shoulders
  • Use the momentum of the shoulder shrug to bring the barbell up to your chest
  • Absorb the weight of the barbell by landing in a slight squat
  • Stand back up straight

Squat Clean

This exercise is incredibly common and basic, but it’s a very good one to keep in your belt. It works out your hamstrings, calves, quads, and glutes. This exercise is meant for people who want to be more explosive, stronger, and overall fit. It includes the first half of a clean and jerk movement.

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and facing the bar
  • Grab the bar in an overhand grip
  • Stand straight up with the bar
  • Push your elbows outwards to force the bar up to your chest
  • Absorb the bar’s weight into a squat position
  • Stand up straight with the bar still at your chest

Front Squat

Front squats are a timeless exercise that uses your hamstrings, core, glutes, and quads. It’s much safer than its opposite, the back squat, and uses a different center of gravity than the back squat. While the back squat focuses more on your glutes, the front squat is better at putting more pressure on your quads.

  • Have the barbell in front of you in a rack position
  • Take a step back from the rack
  • Stand with your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart
  • Keep your core tight and your spine aligned
  • Sit back with your hips
  • Keep your elbows and your chest up
  • Lower into the squat until your thigh are parallel to the ground
  • Stand back up straight

Conclusion

These workouts are only slightly different on paper, but they can mean the world of difference in the weight room. You’ll need to fully understand what each one does so you can improve on the areas you want to.

The push press, push jerk, and strict press are all great in their own ways. You just have to find a way to make them work for you.


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