When it comes to finding new ways to improve your overhead pressing technique, sometimes you’ve gotta Z it to believe it.
Joking aside, the Z press might be one of those moves not every gymgoer is familiar with, but it’s arguably one of the best variations for reinforcing shoulder press form, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., and fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM-CPT.
What makes it unique is that it’s done on the floor with both legs out in front of you — taking them completely out of the movement and allowing you to focus a whole lot more on core positioning. And of course, the Z press emphasizes pressing overhead without arching your back—especially important once you level up to heavier presses—when performed the right way.
How to Do the Z Press
So how do you do The exercise correctly? According to Samuel, the best way to start is by going single arm, using a kettlebell—this makes setting up much easier than the awkwardness of having to pull a pair of dumbbells from the floor or wrangling a barbell.
You’ll be sitting on your butt for the Z press. As far as leg placement, either a wide or narrow base works—it’s more about finding what’s comfortable for you, Samuel says.
Get the kettlebell into a tight rack position, keeping your forearm perpendicular to the ground and maintaining tension in your shoulder blades. “Here’s the strength of the Z press,” Samuel says. “Because our lower body is not part of the equation anymore, you get to think about making sure your abs are nice and tight.”
Once that’s set, drive the weight straight up, making sure to get a little squeeze at the top. Samuel says to think about stacking your joints in this position—wrist above your elbow and elbow right above your shoulder, before lowering the weight back down into the rack position.
The Z press makes a good first or second exercise in your shoulder or pressing workouts and can be done with either a kettlebell or dumbbell. Stick to about three sets of eight to 12 reps. Over time, you can try adding a heavier load to the move.
“It’s going to help you really reinforce good shoulder form as it’s going to help you build those shoulders,” Samuel says.
Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.
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