Z Press vs Overhead Press (Which is Better?)


Z Press vs Overhead Press

Both the Z Press and Overhead Press are popular choices for building strength and power in the upper body, specifically the shoulders. But, they have some key differences that can make them better suited for different goals and training styles.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each exercise, comparing their benefits, technique, and potential drawbacks. Whether you’re a beginner looking to add some variety to your workouts or an experienced lifter looking to fine-tune your training, this article has something for you.

So let’s dive in and see how the Z Press and the Overhead Press stack up against each other, starting with the Z Press.


Z Press


Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Rack (or partner to hand you the bar)

How To

  • Sit on the floor in front a rack, legs straight out in front.
  • Brace the core and unrack the bar (or have a partner hand it to you).
  • Make sure you’re posture is good and your core is tight before trying to press.
  • Press the bar to full extension overhead.
  • Lower the bar back down to under the chin and repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

The Z Press demands some hamstring flexibility and core stability to maintain the body position while pressing. Deficits in either of these areas will greatly hinder your ability to be able to do Z Presses.

Once the bar crosses the top of the head, ‘pull the head through’ so that you’re pressing the bar directly over the ears.

Strength Trivia: The Z Press got its name from legendary strongman Zydrunas Savickas who made the lift popular.

Benefits

A few of the benefits of the Z Press include:

  1. Increased upper body strength: The Z Press can be a challenging exercise which can help to increase strength in the shoulders and triceps.
  2. Increased core stability: The Z Press requires a high level of core stability to maintain proper form, which can help to improve overall core strength and stability.

Overhead Press (aka Front Press)


Female Athlete Doing a Push Press

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Bumper Plates or Iron Plates

Instructions

  • The grip should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Elbows should be under bar.
  • Torso should be erect.
  • Move the bar off the rack.
  • Keep your chest up.
  • Push the bar up to full elbow extension.
  • As soon as the bar passes the head – ‘pull the head through’ – so that the bar is being locked out directly over the ears.
  • Keep elbow pointing out to the side until arms are fully extended.
  • Do not forcefully lock out the elbow.
  • Lower the bar slowly and under control to shoulder level.
  • Do not jerk or bounce at the bottom.

Coaching Points (Common Mistakes)

The biggest mistake I see with Front Presses is overarching the back and leaning back way too much (hyperextension of the spine). This places too much unnecessary stress on the low back that should be avoided.

Personally, I like to use a staggered stance because I feel it helps me to keep from leaning back too far and placing that stress on the low back. It’s a technique I’ve used often with athletes as well experiencing the same problem. If that’s an issue for you as well I would definitely recommend giving a staggered stance a try.

The other common mistake that I see is bending the knees and using the legs too much. A slight bend is okay, especially when trying to squeeze out that last rep or two of the set. But, if the exercise starts to resemble more of a Push Press as opposed to a Shoulder Press then the weight should be lowered.

Benefits

The standing shoulder press is an exercise that is used to strengthen the muscles in the shoulders, arms, and upper back.

Some of the potential benefits of this exercise include increased upper body strength, improved posture, and increased hypertrophy.

Additionally, because the standing shoulder press is a compound exercise that involves multiple joints and muscle groups, it can also help to improve overall coordination and balance.

Z Press vs Overhead Press: Which is Better?

Now, let’s compare the two exercises against one another to see which is better for some common lifting goals.

Better For Building Strength: Overhead Press

It’s difficult to say definitively which exercise is better for building strength, as both the z press and the overhead press can be effective tools for increasing upper body strength.

However, I would say that the Overhead Press is the more effective exercise for building strength. Standing, versus sitting straight-legged on the floor, is a much more advantageous position to move heavier weight. Generally speaking, the more weight you can move the more strength you can build.

Having said that, Z Press is the better exercise specifically when it comes to developing core strength. The Z Press puts a heavy emphasis on the core to be able to maintain an upright position.

Better For Beginners: Overhead Press

It’s generally best for beginners to start with exercises that are simpler and easier to perform. Complex exercises can lead to either frustration, or worse, improper technique that leads to an injury.

With this in mind, the Overhead Press may be a better choice for beginners compared to the Z Press.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Z Press vs Overhead Press. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.

Both are excellent exercises for developing shoulder strength and muscle mass. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Z Press and Overhead Press in your training plan.

Looking for some more ideas to develop your shoulder pressing strength? Check our these 13 Shoulder Press Alternatives.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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