Raw Shoulder Strength with the Strict Press


A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The strict press is an upper-body strengthening exercise where the athlete lifts a barbell from shoulder-height to a locked-out position above head, and then lowers it back down to the shoulders. The strict press is considered a compound movement because it effectively works not only the shoulders, but also arms, back and core muscles as the athlete maintains a steady and straight torso while the barbell is raised and lowered. Athletes should feel the shoulders, triceps, back and core muscles activated as they complete the strict press.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.



  1. Set Up at Shoulder Height: Set up the j-hooks and barbell to be just below shoulder height as you stand in front of the rig. This will allow for you to easily get the barbell on and off of your shoulders before and after you perform the squat movement.
  2. Thumbs Width Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. Often you’ll see athletes put their hands too close together on the bar, which causes them to set up incorrectly with the athlete’s upper back slightly hunched forward. Keep hands a bit further apart with thumbs’ width from the knurling and you will be able to maintain a better position throughout the movement.
  3. Adjust the Front Rack: Whenever you do a strict press, you want to start the movement with a front-rack position, meaning the bar is placed on the front of your shoulders. However, unlike a front-rack that we use for the front squat or other movements, your front rack position for the strict press should not have your elbows up and forward in front of the bar. Instead, you want your elbows beneath and slightly in front of the bar to create the best possible pressing position with your arms.
  4. Keep the Ribcage Down: To prevent your torso from breaking open as you press upward, focus on tightening your butt and abs. This will help keep your ribcage locked down so that you are in a safe position while pressing upward. If you allow your ribcage to open up and you lean back, the strict press will not be as efficient nor work the muscle groups as well as it should. Instead, it will look as though you’re doing a standing bench press and risk tweaking your back.
  5. Biceps to Ear: As you press the barbell up, focus on keeping your biceps toward your ears so that the bar is directly overhead. To achieve this, tuck your chin as you push upward, so that the bar can travel in a straight line instead of having to move up and around your head. Once the barbell passes your head on its way to the top, punch your head forward. This will help keep your rib cage locked down and ensures the bar is traveling in a straight line.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 


Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.