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The Overhead Press – The Gold Standard

A man working out on the Pendulum Shoulder/Incline

For decades the overhead press had been the gold standard of strength for an individual. Taking a barbell bringing it to the chest and pressing over the head was a noteworthy measure of one’s power. There were  two hand lifting contests, one hand over the head events and in 1928 at the Amsterdam Olympic Games the countries agreed upon a weightlifting competition consisting of the two-hand press, snatch and the clean & jerk. For over four decades these three lifts remained the standard until 1972 when the overhead press was eliminated from the group.

Official weightlifting competitions have specific standardized rules.  With worldwide competition coaches and athletes advance their techniques in all lifts even in an event that was specifically selected to measure the strength of one’s arms and shoulders with strict movement guidelines.

The Olympic rule was that the two-handed barbell be pressed in a steady motion without the use of the legs, hips or torso.  The overhead press was to measure pure strength, but in the quest for victory form for the athlete had become as important as power.

In the two-handed press athletes learned methods that allowed them to accelerate and move larger loads than a stronger opponent by augmenting their strength with techniques that were questionable to the spirit of the lift.  The clean & jerk and the snatch had a skill component the press was supposed to be raw power.  

Over time judging of the overhead press became extremely lax.  It was no longer about following strict rules, but only about hoisting the weight.  It was up to the judges to say if it was a good lift or not.  Athletes could win a contest or set a record in the movement not measuring with what the exercise was supposed to be about.  The two-arm barbell lift slowly declined into what was called the – continental press.

Continental pressing was an old time strongman technique that resurfaced as it  maximized the chances of raising a barbell over head.  Once the bar was cleaned and rested on the shoulders the athlete would ever so slightly bend at the knees, quickly accelerate at the hips and backbend dropping his trunk under the bar while pushing upwards.  This was all to gain momentum and aid in the extension of his  arms.  Now with a leverage advantage and momentum the athlete  began returning his posture to neutral supporting the weight as it arched towards vertical.  The exercise looked much like a standing bench press and required less strength and more technique.  This was much different than the controlled military style strength testing movement that needed tremendous shoulder and arm strength to move the weight vertically that  the competition was about.  After 1972 the two-handed press was no longer the lift it was intended to be and as mentioned, was dropped from Olympic weightlifting competition.

The Pendulum Shoulder/Incline revives the golden standard of strength. Seated and fixed it does not allow an athlete to use legs, hips or torso. The exercise is a pure pressing movement that Gets the arms and shoulders Strong.  It is not an Olympic event, but it is great to compete at and noteworthy of one’s power.

Pressing on the Pendulum Shoulder/Incline


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