In the world of weightlifting, coaches and athletes have a plethora of snatch, clean, and jerk variations, each of which can be used to address specific weakness and/or faults a lifter may possess. In an earlier article, I discussed the behind the neck split jerk and why nearly every lifter (any level) can benefit from performing them either on jerk-emphasis days or within overhead complexes.
The behind the neck push press is another similar movement that coaches and athletes can use to develop stronger and healthier shoulders, overhead positioning, and even upper back strength. Additionally, the behind the neck push press can drastically improve jerking performance and even one’s ability to stay braced and packed (upper back) while heavy squatting.
In this article we will discuss three reasons why weightlifters can benefit from behind the neck push presses, and how they can implement them into their current training routines.
The Behind the Neck Push Press
This movement starts in the same back racked position as the behind the neck jerk (jerk grip) and employs a dip and drive phase with the legs to accelerate the barbell in a vertical path. Similar to the front racked push press, this exercise ends with a lifter fully erect with no re-bending of the hips, knees, or ankles, but rather a strong locked-out finish of the elbows.
Here is a quick training clip of the legendary Donny Shankle doing behind the neck push presses at 157kg (345.4lbs) for five repetitions.
1. Upper Back Strength
While this exercise offers similar benefits as the standard push press, it also can help to fully develop the upper back, traps, and posterior shoulders, all of which are highly critical in lockout stabilization and packing of the upper back (most strength lifts, such as the back squat). The behind the head starting point in the lift also allows lifters to potentially overload this pressing movement (when compared to the front racked push press), allowing for increased strength development over time. Both push press variations (behind the neck and front racked) can offer athletes unique strength and muscular development and should be trained regularly to maximize overhead performance.
2. Overhead Performance
Shoulder stabilization is critical for joint integrity, force production, and optimal performance overhead in the snatch and jerk. This push press variation can improve stabilization AND increase shoulder range of motion, all while strengthening the muscles and connective tissues that are loaded during jerks (split jerks, power jerks, and squat jerks). Lastly, because lifters may be able to do more loading from behind the neck position (barbell is placed directly over the hips), these can help to overload the triceps to increase overhead lockout strength and stability.
3. Jerk Dip and Drive Mechanics
Lastly, this exercise delivers the exact dip and drive mechanics that are employed in jerking movements. This exercise can be used to help beginners develop a vertical bar path (as well as help intermediate and more advanced athletes continue to progress with heavier loads), overhead mobility, and ingrain jerking mechanics, as well as strengthening the muscles needed.
While push presses and jerks are common staples within most weightlifting programs, I have found the behind the neck push press to be a highly beneficial movement to overload the push press movement. By having the ability to overload, a lifter can move through a strength plateau, learn to stabilize heavier loads overhead, and most importantly, fully develop the upper back, traps, and shoulder muscles and connective tissues that may have went unnoticed if always trained from the front racked variation.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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