Although the Squat/Press exercise is a typical combination and can be done with Dumbbells, Kettlebells or a Barbell, the version I am talking about is not typical as you won’t find pictures depicting it on the Internet. This is an exercise combination that I like putting into a Circuit Program, particularly is someone is a novice but wants a Power Movement in their workout.
I usually start them using one dumbbell, as depicted in the photo above as the version I am adhering to uses a Barbell and the weight starts on the shoulders behind the head, instead of in front of it.This is why it is unusual but we used it in Olympic Weight Lifting workouts off season. The hard part is in the recovery phase after the barbell is held at full arms extension overhead, when you are replacing the bar back onto the shoulders behind the head. The reason I like this version is that you need to keep control of the negative movement which adds another dimension to the exercise. It also means that clients don’t start using heavier resistances until they have perfect control.
So to do the exercise you have the barbell on the shoulders behind your head. It is best to place the bar lower on your back and not directly on top of your Trapezius muscles as it helps with stability. Have your feet at shoulder-width apart with your toes slightly pointing outwards (although I prefer to have my feet parallel personally). Keeping you back straight, bending at the hips and you bottom pointing back so the weight remains on your heels in this phase of the exercise – squat down so that your thighs reach parallel to the floor. (Some people say that you should go lower, but this can cause problems with the knee joints). Most people who are just starting out in a resistance program will not have the flexibility in the lower half of their body to go this low without the heels coming off the floor – so I get them to go as low as comfortable.
In the positive phase of the squat movement it should be done faster than a normal Squat, so it is best that the person has learnt how to squat properly before they try this exercise.You need to be able to transfer this momentum of the faster squat into the second phase of the combination of the pressing of the barbell to arms length. The press can be done slowly, but if you want a Power Movement it needs to done as a Push/Press. So you press the barbell as quickly as you can to arms-length overhead before you pause and start the recovery phase by slowly replacing the barbell onto your shoulders. (The whole movement timing from the recovery phase is slow,slow,quick/quick, slow…like a Foxtrot in Ballroom dancing?)
You can complete 6-10 repetitions as an exercise in your circuits or as an individual exercise, performing 3- 4 sets. There are many variations of this exercise, using one or two Dumbbells or Kettlebells – one is depicted below…
You can do the Squat/Press with a barbell in front of your shoulders, but this requires a greater amount of whole-body flexibility. It is best to do the exercise in front of a full length mirror to start so that you can keep a check of your balance. Timing is critical if you want to develop your power.