How to Reap the Strength Benefits of the Z Press


Regular movement exercises and muscle-building exercises equip us to conquer our daily lives. They enable us to comfortably take on varying postures throughout the day, including those things we love doing for fun. Without that level of fitness, we would have a weaker, sluggish body that discourages us from doing the things we like to do.

Pressing exercises are crucial to muscle strength, from the shoulder blades to core muscles and lower body muscle groups, stabilizing those muscles that provide the framework for posture, weightlifting, and other activities. The Z Press is a mold-breaking overhead press introduced to minimize injury risks while maximizing control and mobility in pressing exercises.

This guide will show you how Z Presses allow you to reap the benefits of improved upper body health and core strength, including relief for a tight neck and shoulder pain. You’ll learn how to do the Z Press using a wide range of equipment, from barbells to dumbbells and kettlebells. We’ll also cover the variations and alternative presses to give you more options and flexibility.

Let’s get cracking!

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What is the Z Press?

Named after its originator, the Lithuanian strongman sensation Žydrūnas Savickas, also known as Big Z, the Z Press is a highly versatile and increasingly popular strength exercise. It has a robust effect on the upper body and core muscles. The Z Press is a type of overhead press executed by lifting weight from a seated pressing position with the legs spread out and focusing on the upper body and core muscles. It targets the shoulder and core muscles with little or no pressure extending beyond the hip.

Given its high capacity to increase upper body strength and size and stabilize core muscles, it’s mostly regarded as an advanced workout technique, best suited for people who’ve already built up a considerable level of core strength like athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

The Benefits of the Z Press

Wondering if Z Press are ideal for you? Here are some great reasons to consider it:

Increased Upper Body Strength and Overhead Pressing Strength

Other types of presses engage muscle groups from your upper body as well those from the lower parts of your body. The Z Press removes your lower body from the picture by eliminating leg and hip support. It doubles down on your upper body, providing a faster route to improved upper body muscles and overhead pressing strength. All the pressure flows from the upper body and down to the lower abdomen and stops at the hamstrings.

Improved Shoulder Health and Mobility

Shoulder muscles take the most heat during Z Presses. The scapula, which supports the shoulder, becomes enlarged with increased capacity to support the shoulders. As a result, your scapula will be primed to take on more pressure, generating more support for the shoulder during other weightlifting activities.

Improved Core Strength and Activated Muscles

The core muscles are a foundational muscle group connecting the lower body to the upper body. They help transfer energy from the lower body to the upper body during weight-bearing activities to provide additional support and improve stability.

The Z Press precludes leg and knee support, leaving the upper body and core muscles to do all the work. This is a surefire way to build your abs and hip muscles faster.

Increased Hamstring Flexibility

Z Presses pull your hamstrings more intensely than most other exercises, increasing their capacity while also stabilizing the muscle groups in the area. The downward pressure terminates at your core and hips, pushing them to work much harder to support your abs, lower back muscles, and torso.

Provides Exercise Variety and Deload Option

Z Presses provide more excellent exercise varieties to increase upper body and core muscle strength, improve muscle flexibility, and promote hypertrophy. With more types, you can target more muscle groups efficiently and find more healthy ways to stimulate your body.

More importantly, Z Presses are an excellent exercise option for a deload. The Z press is perfect if you need a less intense regimen to cool off from prolonged exposure to extreme workouts. To press in a seated position means you’ll have to carry a lighter weight than when standing due to less stability, but with the Z press, you’ll also be putting optimal pressure on your muscles and joints.

Who Can Benefit From Z Presses?

Anyone keen on increasing upper body and core muscle strength can use Z Presses. There are several Z Press variations and intensities, plus you can use many different types of training equipment.

Here are people who can benefit the most from the Z Press:

Power Lifters and Weight Lifters

The Z Press is ideal for strength athletes who rely heavily on their shoulder and core strength, from powerlifters to weightlifters and strongman competitors. For many lifters, it helps in packing more upper body muscle mass, and it also helps in improving hamstring stability — something many athletes struggle with heavy squats. The Z Press also provides a deload option for those who need to fight fatigue and muscle strain from extreme regimens.

Athletes in General

The versatility of the Z Press also makes it ideal for any athlete who needs a stronger and more flexible upper body. Z Presses can help prime the shoulder and torso muscles for a range of sporting activities.

Everyday People

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, amateur athlete, or recreational lifter, Z Presses can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your exercise regimens. For one, Z Presses are a perfect primer to overhead presses, enabling you to learn the correct pressing techniques while also increasing your upper body weight-bearing limits.

What does the Z Press work on?

The Z Press activates several muscle groups in the upper and lower body. We can categorize these target muscles into two categories — pressing muscles and stabilizing muscles. The pressing muscles are those engaged directly in raising and lowering the arm during the Z Press, from the chest region to the shoulder and neck. Stabilizing muscles helps balance instability in the upper body due to the press. These are primarily muscles around the core and lower parts of the body.

Upper Body (Pressing Muscles)


The primary muscle groups in the shoulders, namely the anterior (front), medial (side), and posterior (rear) deltoids, are all heavily involved in Z Presses. The anterior deltoid supplies most of the force during the overhead press, while the medial and posterior groups support shoulder movement.

Upper Pectoralis

Your pectorals are the most extensive muscle group in your chest. Extending from underneath your armpit across your chest, the pectorals are also heavily involved in helping the deltoids in an overhead press. They facilitate shoulder movement, scapular retraction, and movement in the humerus, which is crucial to the upper body drive during a Z Press.


The trapezius is a muscle group in the back that’s also heavily deployed in Z Presses. It’s a diamond-shaped structure with fiber muscle sets (simply called traps) extending in three directions, each serving a different purpose. The upper traps help raise the shoulder girdle, the middle traps retract the girdle, while the lower traps lower the girdle. All three, especially the upper and middle traps, contribute significantly to the upper body press.


Z Presses also help build your triceps. Your triceps are a muscle group extended across the underside of the rear parts of your arm. They’re heavily involved in extending your elbow and shoulder when you press into a lockout position during an overhead press.

Lower Body (Stabilizing Muscles)


Your core encompasses all the muscles in your midsection. Without support from a leg drive or a bench, your core muscles are called to more intense duty in a Z Press. Your core soaks up most of the pressure from your upper body, stimulating your abs with intense intra-abdominal pressure. Your core also supports your spine with no bench to lean on. 

Erectus Spinae

The Erectus Spinae is a muscle group in the back responsible for lumbar support during the overhead press, and it helps provide a supportive framework for your back and spine.


Z Presses are also highly effective in building your abs. Your abdominals, commonly called the six-pack, plays a crucial role in core strength and stability. They provide supportive scaffolding for your core and spine throughout all the stages of a Z Press.


Another crucial component of your core muscles, your obliques, help in retracting the rib cage and distributing the load across the lower back throughout the Z Press.

How Do You Do the Z Press?

As mentioned earlier, the Z Press isn’t for newbies who aren’t confident in their core strength and basic overhead press skills. But it’s also a gateway exercise to other presses, enabling you lay a strong foundation for other pressing techniques.

To execute a Z Press properly, you need to learn the proper muscular motions and drives required, and you’ll have to properly coordinate muscle groups in your upper body and lower body.

Here’s a thorough breakdown of all the steps involved:

Step 1: Adjust the Safety Arms

People with advanced Z Press skills can just jack a barbell or dumbbell off the floor from a seated position without hassle. But if you’re just starting, it’s best to raise the barbell from the ground to a level that’s a convenient Z Press starting position with a power rack.

Set the barbell on the power rack across a safety arm level that’s convenient for you — ideally, it should be at your knee level from the seated position.

Step 2: Settle Into a Strong Base

After setting the barbell at a comfortable height, sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Spread them out about 30 degrees apart and let your feet dangle freely with your heels firmly grounded. Keep your torso and upper back tight and upright.

Step 3: Roll and Grab the Bar

Next, roll the bar closer — just right up to your upper chest. Make sure the barbells hover right above your armpit with your forearms, creating a straight vertical column. Grab the barbell at positions slightly wider than your shoulder width.

Step 4: Brace Up and Press Up

Tighten your grip on the barbell and brace your back muscles downward for the press. With your elbow directly under your wrist, take a deep breath and press up the weight, channeling energy from your abs to your shoulders and triceps. You can lean forward slightly, but don’t slouch too much or expand your ribs outwards if trying to spread the weight. Focus on maintaining a tight, straightened core.

As the barbell approaches your forehead, start pushing the bar back gently, and then lock out the bar overhead with your elbow straightened out.

Step 5: Descend and Re-rack

With the weight locked out overhead, keep your core upright and tight and slowly lower the barbell. You can repeat the motion as many times as you want. Return the barbell to the safety arm to discontinue. To return the barbell, stop at the bottom position and then lean forward as you lower the barbell into the safety arm. If the descent is proving more challenging, you probably need to reduce the intensity of the whole exercise. And if you feel more tightness or pain in any particular part of your body, it means you need to work on improving your pressing abilities.

How Much Should I Z Press?

Choose your Z Press reps range according to your needs. There’s a range of reps for every purpose, from warming up to building strength and increasing muscle mass and endurance.

Five reps are recommended as the higher limit for beginners with little or no pressing experience, while 8–12 reps are the normal range for a regular fitness enthusiast.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the recommended reps and sets for specific purposes:

1. Warming Up

The Z Press is a great warm-up option. It helps optimize movement and coordination in your core, torso, and upper body muscles for intense drills like push presses, overhead squats, and front squats. But keep it light, so you don’t drain all your energy before the main exercises by doing 2-3 sets of 5–10 reps with a light to moderate load.

2. Building Strength

You can step up the intensity to build more strength. Try 4-6 sets of 3-6 reps, with 2-3 minutes rest in between each set. Focus on stimulating the abs and obliques for improved stability.

3. Building Muscle Mass

To build muscle mass, you need more load on the muscles. Try 4-6 sets of 6-12 reps with moderate to heavy load, with 60–90 seconds rest in between.

4. Enhancing Muscle Endurance

Z Presses can help you build endurance for professional sports. You’ll need a higher number of reps with shorter breaks. Try 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps with just 45-60 seconds rest in between.

Avoid These Z Press Mistakes

Your Z Press may not go according to plan during the early days. But you can learn the ropes quicker by avoiding some common Z Press mistakes while considering some drawbacks of Z Press.

1. Twisting your body

We’ve mentioned adjusting the weight and intensity of the Z Press if you’re having difficulties with your descent. People often twist their bodies at this stage, shifting more weight to the stronger side. But uneven weight distribution can lead to poor pressing and, ultimately, poor body posture.

To fix this, reduce the weight and try keeping your shoulder and hip squat through all stages.

2. Leaning too far back

We’ve also mentioned maintaining an upright, tight core and back and refraining from leaning forward. Leaning backward is also another mistake to avoid, even though it makes things easier. It leads to uneven weight distribution, asking more of your upper chest muscle than necessary.

To maintain an upright posture, try locking your body into an upright column, moving nothing else but your arms throughout.

3. Bending your knees

Bending your knee dispatches pressure further down your lower body and defeats the primary purpose of the Z Press. To resist the urge, envision a straight knee and hardworking core muscles throughout the Z Press. Keep that firmly in mind, and don’t let your mind intervene and sabotage your efforts.

Some Z Press Drawbacks

It’s also crucial to keep some Z Press drawbacks in mind. This will help you set realistic expectations.

1. Requires high hip mobility and core strength

Unlike most other exercises where weight is evenly distributed across the lower part of the body, the hip bears all the brunt in a Z Press. It’s better to build up some hip mobility skills or at least warm up with some hip movement drills before getting down with a Z Press. But one way to control the hip mobility requirement is to adjust the barbell weight.

Tremendous core strength is also required. You need to go in with a core that’s considerably developed. Sitting down with legs straight and no lumber support sends the entire load straight to your core, and that’s no easy feat.

Run some ab work as a primer before stepping into the Z Press arena.

2. Safety equipment requirement

You can do a Z Press by picking up a kettlebell or barbell straight off the ground, but even as an expert, you could break your back, and you’ll most likely realize this isn’t an efficient way to target the right muscles. If you don’t have safety apparatuses like a power rack or a J-hook to help adjust the barbell to a convenient height, your Z Press will be much less inefficient with an increased risk of injury.

3. Non-Sports Specific

Z Presses equip you with basic pressing skills, but they’re not designed for any particular sport. Strength athletes like strongmen/strong women and many lifters perform overhead presses while on their feet, requiring a different skill set than Z Presses.

Z Press Variations & Alternatives

The Z Press is highly versatile and doable with a range of equipment, allowing for various body parts to be targeted. There are also other types of exercises with similar impacts that can help enrich your workout routine.

Let’s take a look at some Z Press variations and alternatives:

  • Kettlebell Z Press

          Great for a more intense press, the kettlebell Z Press creates an off-center load at the      lowering level, demanding more of your core for stability. Kettlebells dip much lower than dumbbells and barbells when held, moving the load slightly off-center and allowing for a more comfortable grip.

  • Dumbbell Z Press

          Dumbbells are slightly easier to handle during Z Presses because they shift the weight somewhat above your center of gravity and in better alignment with your abs, making it easier to gain stability.

  • Barbell Overhead press

          The Barbell overhead press is similar to the Z Press in terms of targeted muscles and techniques, but it requires less core strength and stability.

  • Barbell Landmine Press

          With the barbell landmine press, you push the barbell upwards and slightly forward. It’s a great warm-up drill and allows for variety in movement and coordination.

  • Unilateral Z Press

          As the name suggests, the unilateral Z Press targets just one side of the body. You press with just one hand, channeling all the pressure to that side of the body. It’s great for building up your weaker side. Dumbbells and kettlebells are preferable for a one-handed Z Press.

  • Elevated Z Press

         You can rock a Z Press from an elevated seated position to relieve pressure on your hamstrings if you’re not confident in your hip movement. Ideally, the sitting height should be about 8–12 inches.

  • Closed-Legs Z Press

          Spreading your stretched legs with your heels planted on the floor allows for more stability during the Z Press. To channel more pressure to your core, take out the extra support from your legs by closing them completely.

  • Pike Push Up

         Don’t have weights and safety equipment? No worries. Here’s an exercise similar to the Z Press that doesn’t require any tools. With pike push-ups, you press your body weight.

Place a bench behind you or stand in front of a step, squat with your fingers on the ground shoulder-width apart, place your feet on the bench, and then raise your bottom. Bend your arm to lower your head and upper body, and push yourself back. Repeat as many times as you want.

With Z Presses, you can whip up more core strength, muscle endurance, and muscle mass from your exercises. They’ll add a different vibe to your workout, giving your fitness routine a new lease of life.

At Fit Club NY, we have all the equipment and guidance you need to harness the benefits of Z Presses. Our personal trainers will take a hands-on approach, providing cutting-edge guidance every step of the way to enable you to maximize the effects of your Z Press.

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