4 Benefits of Z Press

In an earlier article we discussed the Z Press and the wide array of benefits that can come from performing such a functional and movement-challenging exercise. In that article, we also went over the specific reasons why lifters and coaches should integrate these into training session and what common Z Press variations can deliver the best results.

Therefore, in this article, we wanted to dive in a little deeper regarding the training outcomes and benefits of the Z Press to further challenge and motivate coaches and athletes to become more comfortable with this pressing exercise.

What Is a Z Press?

The Z Press is a pressing variation that works the upper back, traps, shoulders, and core to facilitate better overhead mechanics, upper boy hypertrophy, and control. The lift starts with the athlete being seated on the floor with the legs straight, either in front of the body, of split open into a “V” for extra stability. By doing so, the lifter must learn to stay upright, braced, and fully open the shoulder joint/chest or else the bar with not get into the proper position.

How to Do a Z Press

In the below video, the barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell Z Press are demonstrated. Note how the legs remain rigid and straight with the toes upright. This will help to increase quadriceps and hip flexor activity, necessary for pressing overhead (or any movement for that matter).

4 Benefits of the Z Press

In this section we will discuss four primary benefits of the Z Press, all of which are not dependent on the specific variation used (barbell, kettlebell, unilateral loss, etc) but rather dependent on the actual movement patterning as a whole

Shoulder and Upper Trap Hypertrophy

The Z Press can targeted the shoulder, upper traps, and upper back muscles very effectively, making it a great way to add quality hypertrophy work in for those body parts, while still staying functional in movement. This pressing variation forces a lifter to still stay balance in the anterior and posterior aspects of the shoulder and upper body, making it a great choice for athletes (who need to be mobile and balance for sport) to add quality hypertrophy training into sessions without becoming too rigid and/or lose movement/range of motion.

Pressing Strength

The Z Press builds quality movement patterning, muscle, and therefore can be used over time to increase strength and performance. By managing overhead pressing integrity and forcing lifters to be balanced in the shoulder and upper back/scapular stabilizers coaches and athletes can then translate the movement patterning and stability onto barbell overhead presses, jerks, push presses, and more.

Core Stability

Bracing and contracting the abdominals, obliques, and even erector spinae is necessary for this seated overhead pressing movement. The Z Press does not allow a lifter to compensate for poor overhead mobility or lack of scapular control like other movements that allow for excessive lumbar extension. Building stronger core muscles will not only boost overhead strength and performance, but also increase your ability to resist injury at the spine while lifting heavy.

Shoulder Health

Maintaining proper overhead pressing mechanics, balanced muscular development, and proper scapular control and strength can play a huge role in the longevity of the shoulder joint (and surrounding tissues and ligaments) for athletes and non-athletes alike. The Z Press can help bulletproof shoulders and help athletes and coaches get more out of their pressing programming.

Build Stronger Shoulders Now

Building strength is a long-term endeavor, however you can do exercises and other things to really accelerate your strength gains and muscle mass (and improve joint health and function). Check out the tips and articles below and get to work on building those boulders for shoulders!

Editor’s Note: Andrew Park, a BarBend reader, student, and climber based out of Grand Junction, Colorado, had the following to say after reading the above article:

“Shoulder strength and stability is a huge aspect of climbing and proper endurance and mobility exercises can make or break your performance on the wall. A great workout that I personally implement is the overhead shoulder press, usually with dumbbells, that are light enough to perform high repetitions in conjunction with a HITT training style circuit. A variation of the shoulder press is a Z-press that stabilizes the torso and provides no “bouncing” assistance when pressing, thus isolating the shoulders. I enjoy this workout as it targets the shoulders intensely, but also engages your trapezoids, back, and core.”

Featured Image: @machete_fitness on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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