Monday, 3 February 2014

The Push Press – Coaching Cues to Enhance Hip Extension

I have used the push press movement for over 25 years with my athletes in a number of settings and variations (ie. DB’s MB’s etc).  Having been introduced to it in 1986 at a US Weightlifting Federation Coaches Certification in Colorado Springs Colorado, it has become a valuable movement in developing power in my athletes.

Before I began using the push press, I utilized the simple standing front military press for a number of years.  When I finally started utilizing Olympic style weight lifting in my programs, it was apparent how much more the push press could provide an athlete from a power perspective.  Although the front military press is a great fundamental strength movement, as its also very effective for shoulder hypertrophy and to teach shoulder extension in a controlled setting, your athletes should also be using this exercise as a prep movement in early training phases to prepare your body for the increased power of the push press.  I feel it will help groove the movement pattern in a controlled fashion and thereby enhance the push press itself.

Whereby the front military is typically a controlled movement i.e. slower tempos 3:0:3 or 2:0:2.  The push press is an explosive full body movement that enhances the triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips that is so important in power production during training and sports competition.

Push Press Issues
Like any Olympic style movement, this exercise is very technical; there are some movement faults that should be monitored to ensure an optimal result.

The first issue that comes to mind is the placement of the bar.  It should be sitting on top of the clavicles as you come off the rack.  This can become a problem for many people, as they do not possess the shoulder or wrist flexibility/mobility to allow the start of the movement in the correct position.  Its beyond the scope of this article to talk about solutions to this common problem, suffice to say that not everyone can obtain the mobility necessary.  With that, I will allow for an elbows under the bar position or utilize dumbbells but only after I have exhausted all other possibilities regarding improving flexibility/mobility in the wrist and shoulder.  But only if the athlete can execute proper triple extension.

Another major issue has to do with the movement of the hips.  In any number of settings you might see either a hip dominant push press or a quad dominant push press.  For me, the quad dominant variation is not as effective, decreases power output and bar velocity, puts the lower back at risk and undue stress on the patellar tendon as the knees shift forward.  Let me explain…..

In a proper hip dominant push press you will see the hips drop back (with neutral spine) at the same time as the knee and ankle moves into flexion as the movement initiates.  Following this slight dip, the body will reverse movement, utilizing the stretch shortening cycle to enhance the upward bar movement.  When this is accomplished the glutes and quads will contribute to an effective movement.

Coaching Cues To Enhance Hip Movement

Here are 2 example video clips.  This is Mark Scheiffle of the Winnipeg Jets, training at the Gary Roberts High Performance Centre in the summer of 2013. 

In this first video you can see how Mark’s movement is not smooth or powerful. There is an uncontrolled rotation of his pelvis slightly tucking causing undue stress on his back, and the slight incorrect movement patterning of his legs.  The movement does not look clean or smooth.
The Correction
In attempting to correct this error, you can use a verbal cue such as “hips back”, “sit back” or “weight on heels as you drop” or with the use of a box, you can provide the athlete with kinesthetic awareness of where you would like his hips to be.  By using an appropriate height, and by cueing with the command, “Sit back just until you first feel the box on your glutes, and then reverse movement explosively” You do not want the athlete sitting down or pausing like you might in a box squat.  This will result in a weak stretch-shortening reflex response.

After he re-positions himself following the first rep,  you can see the movement in this second video is much more effective and the bar has more speed to it.

Like any Olympic style weight lifting movement, care must be taken to ensure proper patterning.  Allowing your athlete or client to progressive with this kind of a error will certainly result in injury over time and most importantly the opportunity to not reach optimal increases in power.

Technique before loading!