Press Variations: Maximizing your Upper Body Strength

Below are some of my favourite upper body pressing exercises. By nature, I am not a very strong presser. I am much more of a puller (rows, pull-ups, lat-pull-downs, etc.).

As such, I have to work a lot harder to develop my pressing strength, helping to build my shoulder size AND integrity (in other words, my injury resilience). This is in part because of genetics, and in part because of YEARS of grappling, which is primarily a pulling sport (grabbing gis, wrists, legs, etc.).

Whether you are a police candidate, training for the POPAT or training for the PARE, or you are a veteran just looking for some new workouts, this one is for you.

Here are some of my favourite upper body pressing abilities and a workout to use them (scroll to the bottom to download the pressing workout).

1. Military Press

Most of the time, the bench press is considered the ‘king’ of pressing. In my opinion? I would rather hang with a soldier than the king. The Military Press is more athletic, dynamic, and challenging than the bench press. It is a vertical press that takes no prisoners.

  • Prescription: 8-12 Reps per side. Never fail, always keeping one rep in the tank.

2. Floor Press

An alternative to the bench press of, the floor press is my go-to for training at home and training beginners. Usually I recommend training this exercise unilaterally, at least at first, more for safety than any other reason.

  • Prescription: 3-5 reps per side. Never fail, always keeping one rep in the tank.

3. Incline Push Up

If you cannot do this ground-routes exercise, something is missing in your training. There is a reason I use the Push Up in all of my fitness assessments. The reason I use the incline push, rather than a push up from the knees, is because it allows your to integrate the whole body more effectively.

  • Prescription: 10-25 reps per set. The push up is as hard as you make it, so think about tightening the whole body (everything from the neck down).

4. 1/2 Kneeling Landmine Press

This one is a great intro to Landmine exercises… plus they are perfect for building bulletproof shoulders.

  • Prescription: 5-8 reps per side. Press towards the point where the wall meets the ceiling.

5. Band Press

Feel. The. Burn. Enough said.

  • Prescription: go for it.

6. Landmine Overhead March

This one is a static hold, but it still recruits all of the muscles that help stabilize the shoulders.

  • Prescription: 10-20 steps, holding statically overhead.

Training questions? Let me know:


Author: Mark Murdoch, Kinesiologist, Chiropractic Student. Have questions? Email me. I want to help!