When you want to build head-to-toe strength — and you want to look awesome doing it — there are few lifts that can compete with the hardcore nature of the log press. The unstable, unwieldy log bar will have your entire body working in overdrive to clean it off the ground, up your belly and chest, and heft it into the air. Meanwhile, the neutral grips inside the bar allow you to do all of this with your shoulders in a less compromising position than they would be with a barbell lift.
Whether you’re looking to compete in strongman or just to add another strength-building lift to your repertoire, the log press can set you on the right path.
It’s got a heftier buy-in than a regular barbell press. Whereas barbells typically weigh in at 45 pounds, eight-inch diameter log bars weigh 50 pounds; 10-inch log bars come in closer to 72 pounds; and 12-inch bars get as heavy as 134 pounds. Not for the faint of heart, the log press will not only showcase your strength — it’ll build it, too.
- How to Do the Log Press
- Benefits of the Log Press
- Muscles Worked by the Log Press
- Who Should Do the Log Press
- Log Press Sets and Reps
- Log Press Variations
- Log Press Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Do the Log Press
Learning the log press may seem intimidating, and not without reason. To lift the 10-inch bar alone, you’ll need to be comfortable pressing over 70 pounds above your head. But if you’ve got that covered, all it takes is a little know-how and a lot of practice.
While strict presses are also possible, this guide discusses a push press version, where you get increased engagement — and loading potential — from your lower body.
Step 1 — Pull the Log Off the Floor
Start in a deadlift position, hinged at your hips with bent knees. Position your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width and turn your feet slightly outwards. The log should be touching your shins. Grip the handles and pull your shoulder blades back and down. Drive through your legs to pull the log to your hips.
Form Tip: Tilt the log away from you by driving your wrists forward. You won’t scrape your legs and it’ll be easier to lap the log (see next step) as you can rotate the log into your hips.
Step 2 — Lap the Log
Once the bar is at hip level, squat down until the bottoms of your thighs are parallel with the floor. The bar should sit on top of your thighs, and your elbows should flare outwards. This position is referred to as, “lapping” the log.
Form Tip: Keep the log pressed firmly against your chest and stomach. If there’s any space between your body and the log, it’ll make the clean more difficult to execute.
Step 3 — Clean the Log
Though it’s called a “clean”, cleaning a log is mechanically different than the barbell variation. From the lap position, explosively stand up, driving you hips forward and rolling the log up your stomach and chest. As the log ascends, bring your elbows in and under the implement so that you end up in the front rack position.
Form Tip: You want your elbows up as high as you can get them, which means the bar will needs to sit on your upper chest and press into your neck. It’s not the most comfortable position, but it should last only but a few seconds.
Step 4 — Press Overhead
There are two primary ways you can lock out the log overhead. First, you can implement a split jerk, where you simultaneously drive the bar under head and dip under it by staggering your legs. The other option is the more standard push press, where you dip down a few inches and then explode up, using that leg drive to lock out your arms.
Form Tip: If you’re new to the log press, we suggest sticking with the push press option as it’s technically easier to master.
Step 5 — Lower With Control
Lower the log with control so it falls in front of your face (instead of onto your face). Catch the bar on your chest with a generous bend of your knees so your body can absorb the weight. Reset and repeat.
Form Tip: If you’re lifting a max effort press or are completing your last rep of the set, you can drop the log by letting your arms swing down in front of your body and dropping it onto the pads.
Benefits of the Log Press
The benefits of the log press are legion — as are the bragging rights you get when your lifting buddy films you crushing a new log press personal record. It’s not just about building more strength and power, either (though it is about that). The log press also puts your shoulders in a relatively stable position, making this a potentially more accessible form of overhead pressing than barbell pressing for those with shoulder issues.
Massive Pressing Potential
Unlike a barbell, the log bar has neutral grips. Since your shoulders won’t be in such a compromised position — that is, flared outwards — you’ll potentially increase the load you’re able to press by quite a significant sum. You can use that neutral grip to build your overhead strength even more than you could with your shoulders locked into the position a barbell puts them in.
Your body and muscles can therefore become accustomed to moving much bigger weights. As such, when you do go back to the barbell, you may well be able to handle pressing significantly heavier loads.
The log press may be an overhead press at heart, but it won’t only challenge your shoulders. This move also taps into your triceps, lats, traps, core, and even leg strength in a huge way.
You’ll build muscle across your entire body, particularly your upper body. When training the log press for hypertrophy, you’ll go a bit lighter than you will when you’re going for max strength. But either way, working under such an intense stimulus will challenge your muscles to grow.
Although the log press is an intimidating lift, keep in mind that you’ll be using neutral-grip handles. This means that your shoulders will be in a less compromised position than they are during a barbell press, where your grip is horizontally-oriented. So you can lift even heavier in a position that’s better for your shoulders — a win-win for strength and longevity.
Full-Body Power and Conditioning
If you’re using a push press or jerk to heft the log over head instead of performing a strict press, you’ll need to generate huge amounts of power throughout your entire body. Everything from your toes to your fingertips need to be working together in an explosive fashion to successfully complete this lift.
Because this move requires you to generate so much power throughout your entire body, you’ll get your conditioning work in, too. From pulling and rolling the log bar into the rack position to using a full-body leg drive to lock it out overhead, you’re being both explosive and controlling your form all over your body. With so many moving parts, even one heavy rep can make you breathless — stringing together multiple reps can become a solid part of your conditioning routine.
Muscles Worked by the Log Press
The log press taps into so many different parts of your body. Here are some of the big movers.
Since this is, at the end of the day, an overhead press, your shoulders might be the first thing that comes to your mind with this lift. Sure enough, the log press requires and will develop very strong and stable shoulders.
You can’t lock out heavy weights without some pretty powerful, well-developed triceps. In order to not let your triceps become a quick limiting factor to your log press, make sure you’re not neglecting them in the rest of your training.
In order to support the weight of the log overhead — and to help your shoulders out in the front rack position and with the end of the clean — you need strong traps. Without engaging your traps, you’ll have a difficult time setting up this lift properly and stabilizing it on top.
As you’re pulling the bar from the floor to your lap and rolling it up your body to set yourself up for the actual press, you’ll need your lats. They’ll help drive the pulling that begins this lift and — as they do in the bench press — will help you stabilize the lift during the pressing part of the movement.
Falling over during your log press would not be optimal, to say the least. To keep your body steady, you’ll need a strong core — which is exactly what the log press will help you develop. Your core will also help you transmit force from your legs to your upper body when you’re using your leg drive to hoist the log bar overhead.
Finally, the log press will help you develop powerful quads. Sure, they won’t work them to the same extent that barbell squats will, but you’ll still be squatting in unstable conditions to get up into starting position. Then — unless you’re strict pressing — you’ll need your quads to generate a whole lot of power through your leg drive.
Who Should Do the Log Press
The log press doesn’t mess around when it comes to how much power you need to generate to hoist it over your head. With a buy-in weight of at least 50 pounds (for the smallest type of log bar), you need to be able to efficiently translate all your body’s power and strength into pressing prowess. A lot of different kinds of athletes might want to develop exactly that.
Strongwomen and Strongmen
Athletes who compete in strongman competitions will almost certainly want to train with the log press.
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Not only is this often a competition lift in itself, but it also has direct carryover into other potential competition lifts, like the monster dumbbell press.
Weightlifters will likely want to stick to a majority of barbell lifts, since the technique with a barbell is so specific and different from the log pressing technique. However, both competition lifts for weightlifters involve developing tremendous overhead strength and stability. A weightlifter may be looking for strength-building, shoulder-saving variety in their training during the offseason. If so, the log press might be an effective — and fun — way to do so.
Unlike strongmen and weightlifters, powerlifters don’t overhead press in competition. However, many powerlifters might want to develop their overhead strength in the off-season for well-rounded strength. Overhead work can also help powerlifters develop stronger lats, traps, and shoulders, all of which are important for their big three competition lifts.
Because of the neutral grip provided by the log press, this might be a desirable overhead variation for powerlifters. It’ll be less taxing on your shoulders because of the grip orientation, which is exactly what you might need when you don’t want to set your shoulders up for failure during your bench pressing sessions.
You don’t have to be the biggest lifter on the block to benefit from — and enjoy — the log press. If you have access to one in your gym and are able to safely press it overhead, you might benefit a lot from the log press.
Not only will the training variety potentially add a lot of fun to your routine, but learning such a cool lift can be a great confidence-booster that keeps you coming back for more. Additionally, the neutral grip that the log bar provides might be great for non-competitive lifters who are looking for ways to press overhead without compromising their shoulders with horizontally-oriented grips.
Log Press Sets and Reps
Generally speaking, when you’re working with the log press, you’re probably looking to build max strength. That said, the log press has plenty of uses for hypertrophy and even conditioning.
For Max Strength
While you’re still learning the log press, work in the higher rep ranges before trying to max out and work in the lower, strength-building ranges. When you’re ready to develop max overhead strength with the log press, aim for three to five sets of two to five reps. You’ll want the weight to be heavy and approach failure — but make sure you’re able to maintain safe form throughout.
For Building Muscle
When you’re working toward hypertrophy with less involved, lighter lifts, you might be able to push toward failure with rep schemes between six and 12 to 15 reps. But lifting even moderately heavy with a log press might enable you to build a significant amount of muscle using fewer reps.
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Because so much of your body is involved and you can move so much weight with this lift, higher rep counts will build muscle but also cross into endurance and conditioning territory. You’ll likely be able to build a hefty amount of muscle with three sets in the five to 10 rep range.
Because the log press involves your entire body — literally from head to toe — and allows you to lift so heavily, you’re likely to get your heart rate up pretty high. Training the log press for conditioning will help you get stronger and more cardiovascularly fit all at the same time. How you approach this really depends on your experience and overall fitness level.
For some, you might consider eight reps to be more conditioning than you normally integrate into your training. For others, cranking out as many solid reps as possible in 60 seconds would be a more apt form of conditioning.
Log Press Variations
A log bar is such a highly-specific piece of equipment — but that doesn’t mean it can only help you complete one lift. Check out these log press variations to see how you can add even more spice to your log pressing life.
Log Viper Press
If the log press itself isn’t quite enough of a conditioning challenge for you, you might want to try the log viper press on for size. Instead of bringing the log bar back down to the front rack position between each rep, you’ll bring it back down beneath your chest.
Then, you’ll use your hip extension to take the bar in one swift movement over your head to lockout. It’ll look more like a snatch than a push press. This variation involves more hips and even more power than the original version, which you might love if you’re looking to develop as much explosivity as possible.
Strict Log Press
For the log strict press, you’ll be performing a log press — but without any momentum from your lower body. This takes the push or jerk element out of the move, which means you’ll be able to move less weight than you otherwise could.
But just because you’re moving less weight doesn’t mean it’s an inferior move. Being able to strict press build a great deal of core stability, not to mention places an even larger emphasis on your upper body muscles. Sure, they’ll be hefting less weight. However, without assistance from your lower body, it becomes entirely about how much your shoulders and upper body can move on their own.
Block Log Press
Want to eliminate the clean from the move? This way, you can focus solely on upper body strength and power without worrying about the awkwardness of the start of the move. In that case, start with the log on blocks just below your shoulders.
Doing this can serve as a great introduction to the move for beginners who haven’t quite gotten their heads around the awkward clean portion yet. It’s also a great option for advanced lifters who want to load up as heavy as possible for higher reps.
Log Press Alternatives
Don’t have access to a log? Not a problem. There’s another specialty bar that can help you press heavy overhead with a neutral grip. And if your gym doesn’t have any specialty bars to offer, you can still use a good old-fashioned barbell to get the job done.
Swiss Bar Press
While it’s not a log, the Swiss bar has one huge — and hugely important — similarity to the log bar. It comes with neutral grips, too. This means that you’ll be able to move weight overhead with your palms facing each other even if you don’t have access to a log bar.
This preserves the shoulder-saving aspect of the log press while still allowing you to put big weight above you. While it’s still a specialty bar, many gyms are more likely to have a Swiss bar than they are to have a log. In that way, this press is a great alternative for aspiring athletes without access to all the coolest strongman equipment.
Barbell Clean & Jerk
Because the implement is so different, the barbell clean & jerk requires different movement mechanics than the log press. So, it’s not a directly transferable skill. But, being proficient at one can potentially help you develop the body awareness to learn the other.
Plus, the barbell clean & jerk enables you to push a tremendous amount of weight overhead. If you’re looking to push a max amount of weight overhead without access to a log, this lift is an excellent option.
Looking to compete in strongman and strongwoman events? Learning the log press will be a crucial part of your journey, because you’re likely to come across it as an official event. Even if you don’t have aspirations to compete, you might be looking for a way to push big weight overhead without a punishing shoulder angle. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that this is one of the coolest-looking lifts around.
Frequently Asked Questions
Folks who are just learning strongman and strongwoman lifts often have a lot of questions. And questions are good — they mean you’re paying attention and are more likely to learn what you need to succeed. Here are some questions that a lot of people have about the log press.
Do you need to learn the log press for strongman and strongwoman competitions?
Unlike powerlifting and weightlifting meets — which always feature the same lifts and competition structure — strongman and strongwoman competitions or more unpredictable. They don’t always feature the same lifts and feats of strength. That said, many competitions do feature the log press itself or other overhead variations. So, it’s worth learning if you can.
What if I don’t have access to a log bar?
Maybe you’re trying to compete, or maybe you just want to learn the log press because it looks and feels so darn cool. Whatever your motivations, you don’t have to despair if you don’t have access to the exact equipment the lift calls for.
So many strongman events rely on lifters being able to adapt to moving extremely heavy, extremely awkward implements. If you don’t have access to a log bar, get creative in your training — maybe with a Swiss bar, or maybe with a (sturdy) implement of your own making — to practice getting big weights overhead.
How much do log bars weigh?
That depends. Different log bars have different dimensions and diameters, all of which have their own unique advantages for training. While eight-inch log bars weigh 50 pounds, their 10-inch cousins are closer to 72 pounds. And 12-inch log bars can get as heavy as 134 pounds.
Smaller bars allow you to train with a bigger range of motion. So even though they’re lighter, they might challenge you more since you have to push them through more time under tension due to the larger range of motion.
Featured Image: Dmitriy Khitrin / Shutterstock