Move of the Week: Dumbbell Z-press

We’re getting snowed in here in New York, but that doesn’t mean that the Move of the Week train is stopping!

THE MOVE: Dumbbell Z-press

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Vertical push: shoulders, core.

WHY DO IT: If you think that you are good at overhead pressing, today’s move will make you reconsider that thought. As long as you are willing to check your ego at the door of course.

I’m not sure why they call this particular variation of the overhead press a Z-press, but I do think that there are good reasons for incorporating it into your workout regimen. When people press overhead, it is not uncommon to see less-than-ideal form, particularly when it comes to the lumbar spine. As we’ve touched on before in another shoulder press variation, it is all too common for people to finish off a press by hyper-extending the lumbar spine. This technique can lead to lower back pain if it isn’t used sparingly.

Furthermore, in certain overhead pressing variations like the push press and the power jerk, leg drive is used to propel weight overhead.

Well, the Z-press today eliminates both of these mechanisms. It’ s basically impossible to cheat, and your legs contribute nothing to the lift. You won’t be able to lift as much weight, but this isn’t a bad thing. The seated position encourages the optimal rib-pelvis alignment that allows you to lock down your lumbar spine and brace your abs properly.  If you don’t sit in this ideal upright position, it will be very hard to even do this exercise.

For some people, this exercise will even challenge mobility, as adopting a wide base like Dan does in the video and sitting upright can cause your hips and hamstrings to scream at you. I have found that over time though, this challenging position does become more comfortable. This can be attributed to the additional core engagement and irradiation required in the Z-press. If you’re familiar with the mobility training system known as FRC, this should not be a surprise at all.

HOW TO DO IT: Setting up for the Dumbbell Z-Press is pretty self-explanatory. Take a seat on the floor with the dumbbells held above your shoulders. Use a neutral-grip, with the palms facing one another to keep the exercise shoulder-friendly. Widen out your base of support with your feet as much as you comfortably can while keeping your torso upright. A wide base of support in the Z-press allows you to get “more grounded,” making it easier for you to sit upright during the exercise. On the other hand, a narrow base of  support makes maintaining that position much more difficult.

To do this exercise, simply think about pushing the dumbbells away from the floor, and locking them out overhead. In the top position, try to get your ears in-line with your arms. Try not to lean back and arch your back. If you do so, you might lose your balance anyway due to the self-limiting position inherent to the Z-press.

The Dumbbell Z-press is definitely an accessory to standard overhead presses, and it imparts great core stability benefits as well. As such, this can be used towards the end of a workout, where I’d recommend using it for 3-4 sets of 8 reps. Those 8 reps won’t be easy! Let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and received his Master’s in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.