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Strict Press

May 16, 2023 | Joel Runyon

To test your pure overhead pressing power, the strict press will be your go-to. Also referred to as the shoulder press, this overhead movement will benefit your shoulders, core, back, and even the lower body.

Most commonly, the strict press is performed with a barbell although you could also do it with dumbbells or kettlebells. If you’re just learning the movement, it may be beneficial to use dumbbells or kettlebells as you don’t have the added complication of moving the bar in front of your face.

How to do a Strict Press

To begin: place your feet in a hip-width stance. If using a bar, place the bar on your shoulders in the front rack position. Hands grip the bar just outside of shoulder-width apart and elbows are slightly in front of the bar.

Think about pulling the rib cage down and the bellybutton in towards the spine to lock down your back and engage your core. Keeping the torso and legs static, press the bar up from your shoulders.

Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor as you apply force into the bar. It’s important not to overextend through the low back as well.

As the bar travels upwards, it should stay in a straight line and centered over the middle of the foot. To keep the bar moving straight, you have to pull your face slightly back and out of the way of the bar.

The lift is complete when the bar is locked out overhead with the arms fully extended and biceps by the ears. Return the weight to the shoulders in a controlled manner.

This is one rep.

Strict Press Variations

As stated previously, you can use dumbbells or kettlebells to complete this movement. The mechanics of the lift stay the same – although you will not have to worry about moving your face out of the way of the bar traveling upwards.

You can also do a variation of this exercise while seated. This may help you not overarch your back as you press up on the bar.

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Joel Runyon

Joel is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE® and MoveWell. In addition to free fitness resources on Impossible Fitness - you can buy performance apparel and supplements on