When it comes to the display of upper body pushing strength, true strength warriors will know that the standing overhead barbell press is THE movement to look to. Unlike the bench press, the overhead press requires the body to maintain its balance on its own accord, all the while pressing a load from a dead stop without a starting eccentric phase to harness the stretch reflex. In fact, you could even liken the overhead press to a deadlift for the upper body – you either make it, or you don’t. However, building the overhead press is by no means an easy task, so it takes a well-placed and well-planned accessory movement to assist with bringing one’s press from baby-ish to badass!
The Savickas Press is named after Žydrūnas Savickas, a Lithuanian powerlifter and foremost competitior in the World’s Strongest Man competition. Strongman events place a fair amount of emphasis on overhead pressing with various implements, so it goes without saying that strongmen and women incorporate plenty of vertical pressing movements in their training.
Unlike the conventional standing overhead press, the Savickas Press is performed from a seated position on the floor (no bench!) with the legs stretched out in front. One of the main benefits of this is that it eliminates the excessive extension of the lumbar spine, a failing that has always plagued the overhead press which led to its exclusion from the sport of weightlifting in 1972.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
Setting up for the Savickas Press requires you to first adjust the J-hooks of the rack so that the bar is resting just under your shoulder height in your seated position. Ideally, you should be able to nudge the bar out of the hooks slightly when you get under it. Taking a grip width that’s just outside your shoulders, get yourself under the bar and line your forearms so that they’re pretty much perpendicualr to the floor. Remember to take a deep breath and brace your core hard before AND as you’re doing this; there’s no back support here so you’re likely to fall backwards or forwards if you don’t maintain tightness. Retract your head slightly so that your chin doesn’t get hit by the bar and press the bar straight up to complete extension of the elbows. Exhale at the top and take another deep breath before lowering the bar under control.
By pressing a loaded barbell from a seated position, the lifter is able to better isolate the primary pressing muscles (deltoids), its synergists (triceps, trapezius and serratus) and the stabilising core musculature. Some individuals tend to unconciously cheat at the overhead press by incorporating a little dip and leg-drive during the initial phase of the press; no chance of this with the Savickas Press! It’s also a great way to press vertically without risking or exacerbating an injury to the lower back, due to the aforementioned elimination of lumbar hyperextension. A single rep of the Savickas Press demands proper form, which in turn minimises the risk of injury in just about anywhere else.
Aside from being programmed as follow-up movement to your main pressing exercise, the Savickas Press can also be used as a regression of the standing overhead press, in order to learn proper technique in terms of vertical pressing. Whether you’re looking to bust plateaus or just re-learn what it takes to press properly, the Savickas Press is definitely a worthy addition to any lifter’s toolbox. After all, it’s named after the very same person who set a Guinness World Record for log pressing 220kg!