When it says "Press", does that mean a military press, bench press, incline press or shoulder press? What kind of press is it asking for?


This question seems to come up more than you could imagine. So lets take some time, and describe what is a "Press" and why it is called just a "Press"?

By definition, a Press happens when a lifter is standing up right and the bar is resting on the anterior deltoid, the lifter presses the weight overhead to lockout using his shoulders and arms. The legs must be locked and no hip movement is allowed.

The reason it is called a Press and not a Shoulder Press is what else would you use to Press the bar overhead? Your mind? It is like referring to a Squat as a Leg Squat. What else would you squat with? Hopes and dreams? Now you can see how funny it sounds to say Military Shoulder Press. But to define it, I assume Military would be a reference to standing upright, the shoulder would refer to what you use to press the bar, and the press...well you get it.

In a not so long ago forgotten time, the Olympics used to have 3 movements for Olympic weightlifting, the Snatch, Clean and Jerk and the Clean and Press. That is right fans of Olympic weightlifting, they used to let the guys do a press, it looked like a standing bench press with the angle of the back. If you search back in the CrossFit Football archives you can find a sweet picture of Coach Burgener doing a press. And in 1972, it was eliminated it from competition.

Here is a video of Serge Redding lifting 502 lbs in the Clean & Press.

If you pause the video at 50 seconds, you get to see Serge Redding leap into the air in celebration. If anyone argues that Olympic Weightlifting does not have carry over into the vertical jump needs to take a look at this video. To see a man of his size leap straight legged into the air is impressive.

Here is a link to an article Bill Starr wrote about The Press



John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and creator of Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year starter in the National Football League and NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early and retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL and other professional and Olympic athletes. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete and the CrossFit Speciality Seminar: Sports Specific Application. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie or at Power Athlete.

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Posted in CrossFit Football, FAQ, Lifting Weights, Talk to Me Johnnie, The Power Athlete | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

19 Responses to Press

  1. Josh

    John – I had intended to ask you a Press question after today’s 5RM, so I’ll just do it here….I rack the bar across my delts for push presses and jerks, but for the press, I tend to have the bar across the top of my chest, with a little lean back. The reason is that pressing right off the delts bothers my elbows and, more importantly, I can’t press as much that way (feels like all tricep at the bottom). I know Rip suggests a rack on the delts, so I’m curious how important you think it is. Should I go all the way back down and build it back up the “right” way?

  2. Eric Lepine

    On the subject of Reding, thought this might be of interest… Pulled it off
    the Supertraining group, from back in the “Golden days”…

    Serge Reding By Tommy Kono

    At the 1971 World Championships Belgium’s challenger to the
    superheavyweight title, Serge Reding, got off to a flying start with
    a world record Press of 502 1/2 lbs but an old arm injury flared up
    and a “shot” in the wrong spot rendered his right arm useless so he
    could not continue in the competition.

    A month and a half later when his arm had regained its full strength
    and he was able to train normally, an international match was
    arranged against Alexeev in Brussels, the hometown of Reding. The
    packed audience was in for a disappoint meant when the “supposedly
    sick” Russian champion made only a token showing by Pressing 308 lbs.
    Reding was more than disappointed for he was in grand shape to take
    on Alexeev. Yet, even with the competitive “fire” gone, Serge tried
    to exceed all of Alexeev’s world records … and almost succeeded in
    doing just that.

    At the 1972 European Championships an injury to his right calf
    prevented him from performing well even though he was in good shape
    prior to the injury.

    Reding seemed to be beseiged by bad luck but I thought for certain
    that in the Munich Olympics, with careful planning from his coach,
    that the balance would swing over to the other side and he would come
    up with some terrific lifts, surprising everyone.

    With the above thought in mind, months before the Olympic Games, I
    decided to interview Reding but circumstances prevented the Belgian
    lifter and myself from getting together and so I arranged a list of
    questions for his coach and friend Andre DuPont since we had occasion
    to see each other more often.

    The following is an interview with the Belgian national coach DuPont
    about his lifter Serge Reding prior to the 1972 European

    TK–Andre, could you give us a brief background of Reding’s early

    AD–He was born December 23, 1941 in a neighborhood of Brussels
    called Auderghem, but he spent most of his childhood in the Belgian
    Andrennes. He is an only child and his parents are not exceptionally
    big or strong. In fact, they are on the thin side. When he was young
    he wasn’t active in sports but loved taking walks in the woods. When
    he returned to Brussels at 17 years of age he took up gymnastics.

    TK–When, why and how did he get started in weightlifting and could
    you give us some of his early results?

    AD–He turned to weight training in February, 1959 because he was
    already weighing 198 lbs. at 5’7″ and his gymnastic coach thought his
    big legs were not suited for Olympic-type gymnastic training. When he
    first started training his approximate lifts were 132 lbs. Press, 121
    Ibs. Snatch and 154 lbs. Jerk. After 3 months training under Mr.
    Wittenbol, his first coach in weightlifting, he entered his first
    competition and he made a total of 507 lbs. with 154, 154, and 198.
    From then on he progressed as follows:
    1959–595 (270 kg.)
    1960–854 (387 kg.)
    1961–military service
    1962–898 (407 kg.)
    1963–970 (440 kg.)
    1964–1069 (485 kg.)
    1965–1146 (520 kg.)
    1966–1157 (525 kg.)
    1967–1129 (512 kg. He stopped training for 4 months.)
    1968–1223 (555 kg.)
    1969–1257 (570 kg.)
    1970–1323 (600 kg.)
    1971–1289 (585 kg.)
    1972–1367 (620 kg.)

    TK–Serge is not tall but with his huge girth which is all in
    wonderful proportion he looks so impressive. I often marvel at the
    way he continues to add more muscles on his frame each year without
    getting sloppy looking or fat. What are his measurements?

    AD–He stands 5’8″ and at the bodyweight of 303 lbs he has the
    following measurements:
    Chest, normal–56”
    Arms; straight 18 1/4″, flexed– 20 1/2″
    measurement around his shoulders–65″
    Hat size– 7 1/2
    Shoe size–8 1/2 (European size 43).

    TK–What are his best Olympic lifts made officially and in training?

    AD–Officially he has made the following lifts in one contest or
    another: Press-502 lbs.. Snatch –385 lbs., and Jerk–500 lbs. His
    best train ing lifts are: 485, 374 and 485 which shows that he is a
    competition lifter and not a “gym” (training) lifter. (Note: these
    training lifts were made prior to June, 1972).

    TK–I’m curious about his strength in some of the basic exercises for
    singles and for 3 repetitions. What information can you give us in
    regard to his records in the squats and other supplementary

    AD–His best Front Squat for a single is 617 lbs. and 573 lbs. for
    three repetitions. He`s done 705 for one repetition and 617 for
    triples in the regular squats. On a 45 degree incline he has Pressed
    396 lbs. for a single and for 3 reps, 363 lbs. Although he doesn’t
    work on the Bench Press nor the Dead Lifts he has done 463 lbs. on
    the Bench and 771 lbs. on the Dead Lift.

    TK–The foregoing questions were all in the line of weightlifting but
    can you give us some information about his general physical condition
    as regards stamina. endurance, etc. and other athletic ability?

    AD–Reding has a normal pulse rate of 78 beats per minute and his
    blood pressure reading is 130 over 90. His best record in the
    standing broad jump is 9’5″ and high jump 4’11” which is performed by
    taking 3 steps and taking off on both feet. During his general
    preparation program he runs cross-country once or twice a week but he
    prefers sprints over long distance running. His record in the 100
    meters sprint is 13 seconds.

    TK–What is his daily routine and does he have a profession?

    AD–His day starts with his waking up at 7:30 and he works from 9 to
    4 at the National Library as a Librarian. Then his training starts at
    6 p.m. and lasts between 2 to 3 hours. He goes to bed about 10:30

    TK–What about his diet?

    AD–He eats 5 times a day with no special diet aside from powdered
    protein supplement which he takes with his breakfast.

    TK–Andre, besides being a good personal friend of Reding’s, you’ve
    been his coach for a number of years and help him to plan his
    training program. Can you generalize his yearly training plan?

    AD–His yearly training plan is in two periods and the first period
    is broken down into three stages:
    I. General Preparation –2 1/2 mos.
    II, Specific Preparation –1 1/2 mos.
    III. Competition Preparation–3 1/2 mos.
    The second period is shorter but still contains the 3 stages:
    I. General Preparation –3 weeks
    II. Specific Preparation –3 weeks
    III. Competition Preparation–3 weeks
    After these periods comes one month of “active” rest.

    TK–Could you explain the general concept of the weekly training plan
    and in what areas he concentrates most?

    AD–Serge trains 5 to 6 times a week with approximately 3 heavy days
    where he trains about 3 hours per training session and 3 light
    training days which last from 1 1/2 to 2 hours per session. During
    the General Preparation period concentration is on developing more
    basic power rather than technique. During the Specific Preparation
    period the concentration is still on Power as compared to technique,
    but of a more explosive type power training. Naturally during the
    competition period more emphasis is placed on technique while
    retaining the power developed from the previous stage.

    TK–Does he have a favorite exercise or lift which he prefers to
    practice over any other?

    AD–He likes the Squat exercise a lot. On the three Olympic lifts he
    has no special preference since switching over from the split style
    to the squat style Snatch. In the past his Snatch was the poor lift
    so he spent a lot of time on this exercise but after mastering the
    squat style Snatch he works on all three Olympic lifts with equal

    TK-How often does Reding take massage and sauna baths and can you
    comment on the isometric movements which I saw him practice before
    the World Championships in Lima, Peru?

    AD–Serge doesn’t like massage and never takes sauna baths. In
    regards to the isometric movement, he does only one pull movement
    isometrically and this is performed only during the competition
    preparation stage.

    TK–What does he do on his spare time? Does he have a hobby?

    AD–He likes to read and as a form of relaxation he likes to see

    TK–Last year while in Brussels Alexeev told Oscar State and me that
    he believed that Reding can total 1487 lbs. (675 kg.), with 529 (240
    kg.). 407(185 kg.), and 551 lbs. (250 kg.) in Munich for the
    Olympics. When Oscar and I asked Alexeev what he would do at the
    Olympics, he replied, “Oh, a little more.” What do you and Reding
    think about his comment?

    AD–Serge hopes to be the best. He and I think that he can total 1487
    but not in Munich for it is too early for such a total. We don’t
    think that Alexeev can do so much.

    TK– Does Reding intend to continue in weightlifting competition
    after the ’72 Olympics? What are his plans afterwards?

    AD–If he does well in Munich he intends to continue lifting. In the
    other case, he doesn’t know. His eventual plan is to open a sporting
    equipment shop.

    The road to an Olympic title can be an extremely rough one and for
    this Belgian superman it proved to be even more so. He had made
    personal records of 507 lbs. Press, 396 lbs. Snatch, and 507 lbs.
    Jerk in Belgium before coming to Munich which proved he was in the
    best shape of his life … and free of injuries!

    In the Messegelande training hall in the Bavarian capital I witnessed
    Reding’s effortless Clean of 484 lbs. and without the slightest knee
    kick pressed it aloft even easier than his clean! He snatched 374
    lbs. and Jerked 507 lbs. without any difficulties during his tapering
    down sessions. He was truly in great shape and ready for the big
    battle against Alexeev, Patera and Mang!

    Then, during the Olympics, on his final warm-up lift backstage just
    before his first attempt Press, in shouldering the 463 lbs. for his
    Press something freakish occurred. The 55 lbs. (25 kg.) plates slid
    off one end of the collarless bar when the bar sagged on impact with
    his chest, throwing the uneven load to his opposite wrist causing
    searing pain in his left wrist! As he was the next lifter on the
    platform it was much too late for a doctor on duty to do anything for

    Reding went out gallantly to start with a 495 lbs. Press which was
    loaded on the bar but he failed to clean the weight. In spite of
    great pain he managed to clean the next attempt but the pain was too
    intense when he tried to Press the weight.

    All those months of sacrifice and careful planning had ended without
    a lift even being made in the Olympic Games.

    What lifts could this Belgium superman have made had he not suffered
    these injuries! That we’ll never know but if he continues to train I
    am positive that Alexeev will not be able to remain so supreme.

    I personally hope that he will continue to train hard and compete for
    no great champion ever had a smooth climb to the top. I’m equally
    positive that the pendulum for Reding will swing over to his side if
    he perseveres.

  3. Matty

    “Remember, Alexeyev still has one more lift to go…”

  4. Stephan

    Johnnie – Should I fake my orgasms?

  5. Julius

    That video is a good example of why the press was dropped from the Olympics.

    Look at the 39 second mark.

    There’s an obvious hip and knee movement, yet the lift gets 3 white lights.

  6. Julius – Really? I never saw the knees bend or the hips unlock. And I have watched it a few times. You can have forward displacement in the hips but they must stay locked. A 502 lbs jerk is impressive let alone a standing press. What is more amazing is Redding was 5’8″ 303 lbs and had a size 8.5 shoe. It is amazing he didnt fall over with all that weight.

  7. Matty

    a 500 lb clean is VERY impressive, and these guys each had to do it 3 more times for the Clean and Jerk portion of the competition.

  8. Matt S

    Yep, he definitely got a boost from some knee bend. Pretty easy to spot. Amazingly impressive still, that he is lifting more than my squat, no matter how what 🙂

  9. You guys are crazy, his knees do not bend. To really press any weight, you have to lock your hips and knees and get some form of hip displacement. Usually by driving your hips forward and shooting the weight off your chest. His lift is legit. I think you guys are understanding the rules, it does not state that your lower body should be motionless, just hips and knees locked and you can get a lot of momentum by pushing your hips forward and turning it into a decline bench.

    If you saw someone at your gym press with that technique, you would call a “no count”?

  10. Nate


    1. Never when you masturbate (You probably lie to yourself enough.)

    2. Never when you’re drunk ( Does not really matter what the gal thinks.)

    3. Only if you bang an ugly chick sober and have an epiphany mid thrust, then the you can either abort (resulting in never talking to her again) or fake it in hopes of banging her later when you’re drunk.

    4. For sure when banging your sister or mom, which I am sure you do often.


  11. Brad

    The press is legit, he does it olympic style (bill starr had a good article on it on rips site), from that angle makes it look like a knee/hip bend but it’s definitely good.

    I love the oly lifts because they’re fun, but I still believe that vertical leap is genetically determined and arguing oly lifts helps it because all oly lifters have huge verticals is like saying playing basketball makes you tall because all basketball players are tall.

  12. A power clean/power snatch is just a vertical jump with weight in your hand.
    In college if my strength coach thought someone was not training or fucking around he would test your vertical jump, if it went down he knew you were not training and punishment would follow. There is genetic predisposition in having a monster jump vertical jump, but I would say if you can clean 502 lbs pretty easy and press it, I would say you are able to generate a shit load of force and that can be used to propel your butt up in the air.
    And I thought basketball was the reason those guys are so tall.

  13. Josh

    A 502 clean (looked like a power clean), and press is completely inspirational and bad ass!!!

    And there should be no question among anyone that people can improve there vertical leap with weightlifting, or even psuedo weightlifting like just power cleans….

    Common people! Use your noodles!!

  14. Brad

    So the guys who were over-training/under-recovering also got punished when their verticals went down? Hmm, makes sense. Exactly, so someone who has the genetics to clean 500lbs is going to have a huge vertical and you’re not going to be able to take someone with poor genetics to a 500lb clean either, so it seems like a chicken and egg debate here. Make fun of the analogy, but it’s the exact same logic.

  15. Brad – Yes. Over-training is not an excuse for poor performance.

    If you dont train your vertical will go down. I have tested this myself.

    Take some with a 150 lbs clean to a 250 lbs clean and their vertical goes up. This I have seen as well.

    But what you are saying is someone with a bad vertical jump will never be able to generate enough force, enough foot speed or have the strength for a strong clean.

    That is pessimistic.

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  17. Eric Lepine

    @John and Brad…

    I certainly think no one would disagree with you John that taking someone from a 150-lb clean to a 250-lb clean would likely result in the athlete’s vertical jumping ability increasing. Same thing with increasing one’s jump squat as well (with fewer technical shortcomings too might I add)…

    However, I would also agree with Brad when he says that being an Olympic lifter, albeit usually meaning you will display a better-than-average vertical, does not necessarily entail that Olympic lifting is THE reason why these athletes do have crazy hops. As you might recall (or might have heard) from tests ran on athletes from the Mexico ’68 Olympics, Olympic lifters displayed the best vertical, broad jumps and 30-m times of all the athletes tested. I think this more relevently shows that elite-level Olympic lifters, as a group and generally speaking, do make it to the top of their sport specifically BECAUSE of their physical, biomechanical and physiological attributes. No doubt at all their training augments those capacities, but I think one also has to be careful when claiming that Olympic lifting alone will guarantee vertical jump gains… I REALLY wish it was that easy 🙂

    If you don’t train for a while, your vertical might go down, granted, but it might also go up, especially if you just went through an over-compensation phase, and then take a bit of time off. I’ve experienced it myself many times. Your vertical could also go down if you wnt through a maximal strength phase without as much emphasis on reactive ability, rate of force development or eccentric strength. Or how about a phase incorporating more conditioning? Your vertical would then likely be lower and in these instances, your college strength coach might be doing his athletes a disservice.

    But, I do admit, I am just playing the devil’s advocate here, and I also imagine your coach had a specific goal/idea in mind when submitting his athletes to this test at a certain point in time namely, “you should not be fucking up at this point and you should be a powerful beast!!!!” Right!?!?!

    I’m not a complete pessimist, and do believe one can make amazing vertical gains when they know what they’re doing. However, as Brad mentioned, ultimately, your final vertical is genetically predetermined, just like everything else, by things such as tendon stiffness, fiber type, fascicle lengths and pennation angles, among other things. Some of these you can change, to a certain degree, but other elements, really, are just about having chosen the right parents 🙂

    Which brings me to my final point/question: is it one of the goals of CFFB programming to increase and maitain one’s vertical jumping abilities at all times?

  18. One_ill_KevinJ

    John is right on this one. 500+ lbs. off the ground with explosion translates to leaping ability. The genetic gift of leaping, on the other hand, is really a combination of neurological and muscular gifts. Some people can just will their body to produce force so quickly.
    For instance, even though my vertical leap is approaches the upper 30’s, my ability to leap consistently in that range over the course of an entire game isn’t there (yet). Training your body to explode in the multitude of circumstances and positions that you find yourself during an athletic competition is another step in the process. The explosive base upon which you build, however, is achieved through explosive lifting.
    This is a little dated, but it’s an interesting look into high level training with an already-explosive athlete. it was made when Jeremy Maclin was still in college (M-I-Z! by the way): (SFW)
    The middle box on the bottom of the screen will read “training” when you roll over it and contain the video.

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