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Brian Stone
02-24-2009, 05:30 PM
I did a primarily Press / Push Press workout tonight. Let me start by saying that I'm new to these movements so I've been trying to pick up all I can re: proper mechanics from videos and articles (CFJ primarily).

Since done in that order, my question would be with regards to compression of the lower back. I found that my lower back began to feel very tight and sore sooner than my shoulders, which I found a little surprising. Granted, I expect there to be a great deal of compressive force generated by overhead loads (obviously), but I would have suspected that the surrounding musculature would withstand this to a reasonable degree.

How normal is this? Looking back, I didn't put any real focus into holding a deep breath prior to the lift, which was a mistake. Positioning of my hands may also be slightly off with regards to both bar grip placement as well as elbow / wrist alignment through the lift.

What kind of lower back stress should I expect, reasonably? Are there exercises I should be doing to obviate this pain in the long run by strengthening the area in question? I regularly do back extensions (daily) and deadlift probably about as often as I press, but these motions don't intuitively seem to translate to the type of stability that I seek.

I could go on, but that's enough for now. Thoughts / comments? Thanks in advance for any insight.

Dave Van Skike
02-24-2009, 06:07 PM
others with a more developed press will chime in but the first thing that comes to mind WRT strict press is your back is arched and your pelvis rotated back. (anterior tilt) this mean that when you reach the sticking point, you're bending back at the waist putting shear force on the lumbar spine...you will feel a lot of static compressive force but that's what the spine is pretty good at.

take a slightly wider stance and focus on squeezing your ass cheeks as hard as you can at the beginning of the press. keep your legs rigid and knees locked or close to locked. focus on keeping a level pelvis if you think of creating posterior tilt, you'll probably have it. Think of a hard deadlift or kb swing lockout....I'll see if I can find good article on the press to link over.

push press is of course slightly different, an Oly guy can help you there.

Brian Stone
02-24-2009, 07:15 PM
Dave, thanks. I decided to keep this separate and hold off any questions on the push press, since that is a different animal.

I think that I did have close to the lower spine / hip position you mentioned, which seemed to exacerbate the pressure on the lower back and was thus my primary reason for concern. (Incidentally, the dip phase of the PP made this even worse, but I'll wait on that discussion).

So, should I expect that reduction in the severity of this lingering stress is something that will lesson with time and my press strengthens? My main hope as that this tightness is not an area of concern, but it's several hours later now and I don't notice any lingering nagging pain in my lower back. If these are normal stressors on the musculature and "part of the deal," so to speak, then I'll just carry on.

Dave Van Skike
02-24-2009, 07:23 PM
Dave, thanks. I decided to keep this separate and hold off any questions on the push press, since that is a different animal.

I think that I did have close to the lower spine / hip position you mentioned, which seemed to exacerbate the pressure on the lower back and was thus my primary reason for concern. (Incidentally, the dip phase of the PP made this even worse, but I'll wait on that discussion).

So, should I expect that reduction in the severity of this lingering stress is something that will lesson with time and my press strengthens? My main hope as that this tightness is not an area of concern, but it's several hours later now and I don't notice any lingering nagging pain in my lower back. If these are normal stressors on the musculature and "part of the deal," so to speak, then I'll just carry on.

yes..totally. once you really feel this starting position, there should be no appreciable the lumbar stress and an big increase in sore abs, traps and lats...you should feel it in the supporting staff.

John Filippini
02-25-2009, 08:25 AM
Brian, I actually have a lot of the same issues with the press.

As I think Dave was alluding to, this is related to a form error, and is not the way that the press should feel. That being said, I've found that I think I have really weak abs, so when I do a heavy press right (i.e. don't feel low back tightness), I tend to actually get really sore abs from the strain of forcing myself to not bend back.

I've also never tried the glute squeezing thing, so that's definitely next on my agenda to try. Getting my press to not be dysfunctional has been a somewhat ongoing process for me.

Brian Lawyer
02-25-2009, 01:19 PM
Since done in that order, my question would be with regards to compression of the lower back. I found that my lower back began to feel very tight and sore sooner than my shoulders, which I found a little surprising. Granted, I expect there to be a great deal of compressive force generated by overhead loads (obviously), but I would have suspected that the surrounding musculature would withstand this to a reasonable degree.


I didn't read your thread further than the above comment. Coach Everett has a couple responses on a thread I started about activitating the Transverse Abdominus that I think may help your problem. I am paraphrasing but he basically said that for any pulling you want your back set in hyperextension but for any pressing you want your back set in a neutral position. Either way you want a big deep breath to expand your abs and then clamp down your ab muscles and tighten everything up. So how I think this may relate to your problem of lower back soreness, are you hyperextending your back when pressing?

Brian Lawyer
02-25-2009, 01:52 PM
others with a more developed press will chime in but the first thing that comes to mind WRT strict press is your back is arched and your pelvis rotated back. (anterior tilt) this mean that when you reach the sticking point, you're bending back at the waist putting shear force on the lumbar spine...you will feel a lot of static compressive force but that's what the spine is pretty good at.

This is also what I am referring to in my above response. You want to break at the hips, not hyperextend your back, in order to get that bar path clear of your face.

Dave Van Skike
02-25-2009, 02:07 PM
Brian,

Here's a great article on the press. Hopefully there's soem cues in there that resonate for you.

http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2009-01-01T20%3A53%3A00-08%3A00&max-results=7

Brian Stone
02-25-2009, 07:34 PM
Brian L, I checked out that thread. Interesting minutiae in there to an appreciable level of detail. Those minor things are exactly what I am looking for as I am reasonably confident I have the very rough basics of the lift down.

Dave, thanks for the link. I read another CFJ article on the press from Mr. Starr today that reinforced a lot of those things.

The next point is with regard to wrists specifically. Coach Starr says the following:
"Your wrists must be straight, not cocked; thatís most important. If you have trouble keeping them locked, tape or wrap them."

He stresses this point in both articles. However, the pictures provided of athletes performing the motion clearly show the wrists bent backwards, so that their knuckles large knuckles point toward them. "Straight, not cocked" wrists, particularly taped, in my mind illustrates the form that you would keep with your wrists if you were throwing a punch where the most force translates directly through your knuckles. Literally every picture I saw in the articles, however, contradicts this rule. Perhaps it's a misinterpretation on my part.


And lastly and perhaps incidentally is the ideal grip, namely thumb placement. Is this a matter of comfort / preference or is there an optimal grip for pressing?

Brian Stone
02-25-2009, 07:48 PM
To reply to my own question, I found a free CFJ article on the press by Rip:
http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/45_06_press.pdf

Aside from having such gems as these:
If youíre trying to relax after a strenuous day in the cubicle, go ahead and do your yoga class, finish up with some seated alternating-arm three-pound dumbbell presses on a balance ball, and have a nice smoothie. But if you want to get strong, itís probably going to involve standing with a heavy bar in your hands.
[...]
Pressing a bar overhead develops core strength, and somehow manages to do so without a Swiss ball

... the article also manages to state the following re: wrist positioning and thumb placement:

"The thumbs should be around the bar and the heel of the palm should be as close as possible to the bar, well down away from the fingers so that it is close to the bones of the forearm that will drive it up. In this position the wrist will be tight and flexed slightly back."

That wrist comment specifically seems slightly at odds with what Coach Starr stated, but in line with the aforementioned photos.

Thoughts?

Dave Van Skike
02-25-2009, 08:13 PM
Brian, I'm not sure they're at odds. rips advice on making sure the bar is right down and the heel of the hand in line with the vertical forearm is just a different way of saying it. pay no attention to the picture. wrap your wrist super tight and see how that feels with the hand almost vertical in line with the forearm. now replicate that without the wrap.


sorry if that's not super clear. I'm a shitty presser anyway. short answer, use whatever cue gets you a very vertical forearm and do not cock the wrist back like you're racking a front squat.

Craig Brown
02-25-2009, 10:03 PM
I actually don't think it is different from what Starr is saying...Rip I think has it stated in clearer terms. This position is the same for a KB press, that the bar is across the heel of your hand more than the palm? if you look at SS, page 156-157 Carrie's wrist position on 156? A lot of people try to press in that position the whole way up. Look at her wrists on 157...see? It's really just telling you to not hyper extend the wrists.

Brian Stone
02-26-2009, 05:17 AM
I don't have SS so I unfortunately can't check the referenced pages.

From what I can tell, regardless of how the wrists are cocked, my understanding is that the take home from all of this is that the bar should be resting on the heels of the hands so that the weight drives directly down through the forearms and does not create any shear force on the wrists. Does that sound right?

I can tell you the first time I tried pressing, I (probably incorrectly) replicated what I saw in the pictures re: hand positioning, and my wrists were not happy about it.

Dave Van Skike
02-26-2009, 07:30 AM
sounds like you've got it figured brian.

Brian Stone
02-26-2009, 07:31 AM
Yes, I believe I'm about as far as I'm going to get without steady and careful practice of the movement.

Thanks again to everyone for your help, comments, and advice.