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Athlete Mateusz Kieliszkowski, @kieliszkowskimateusz, from Poland during the Viking Press at the 2016 @CommerceCasino #WSM in Kasane, Botswana.
Strongman competitions are a serious test of strength and fortitude that see athletes lifting kegs, pulling trucks, and—for the Viking press—pressing platforms loaded with rocks or other heavy objects above their heads, as seen in the above Instagram post. Unlike the traditional overhead press, the Viking press is a combination of a free-weight movement and a machine, says Matt Mills, C.S.C.S., a pro strongman and the owner of Lightning Fitness in Windsor, CT.
“There is stability involved, as the implement can still move side to side, but it is locked in place so it can’t fall forward or backward,” he explains. This makes the lift easier and safer for people, but the side-to-side movement still challenges smaller stabilizer muscles and your core as you work to move the weight up in a straight line.
Because the bar is attached to an endpoint, the Viking press moves on an arc—another way it varies from a traditional shoulder press. If you press straight up without leaning forward, the handles will be out in front of you, limiting how much weight you can lift. “This is why it’s so important to get your head through your arms at the top,” says Mills. “You are strongest when your joints are stacked on top of each other. At the locked out position, the bar, wrist, elbow, and shoulder are all in line.”
Mills likes the Viking press as a changeup to typical barbell presses for non-strongmen, too. It works your shoulders and triceps similar to a standard shoulder press, but it allows you to press with a neutral grip. This targets your medial delts and takes some of the pressure off your shoulders compared to a palms-out grip, which forces your elbows out and puts more strain on the connective tissue. Mills says that many people who have rotator cuff issues aren’t able to press a bar pain-free but can do a neutral-grip Viking press or a Swiss-bar bench press without feeling pain.
“I also find the lats can be tighter with a neutral grip, which helps to protect and stabilize the shoulders,” he adds.
NO VIKING PRESS? NO PROBLEM
If, like most of the world, you don’t have easy access to a Viking press, you can get creative to simulate the move in your gym.
To get started, place two barbells across a squat rack, resting on the safety bars. The safety bar on the side you press from should be slightly lower than the one on the stationary side, so the barbells will be at a slight angle. To keep the bars from sliding, Mills likes to place 10-pound plates on the stationary end of the barbell against the safety rack to keep the bars from sliding as you press.
Once you’re done setting up, take a barbell in each hand and press. To increase the load, add weight to the side you press.
Even easier, companies like Titan Fitness make a Viking press attachment that fits onto the end of a barbell for around $50. In that case, just set one barbell across the rack, grasp the handles, and press. However, Mills notes that using two individual bars gives you the added option of doing single-arm work.
Heed Mills’ advice, and you can work out like a Strongman in your home gym. Now, how to get an 18-wheeler inside the doors…
PUT SOME RESPECK ON IT
This Viking press hack can bend the bar and dull the knurling (the grip etched into a barbell) if you slam the barbells on the safeties. Mills suggests performing the lift carefully, and you can also use old barbells that are already in rough shape.