How to master the Z-press

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Are you sitting comfortably? Not for long. However much weight you can hoist overhead, the Z-press is a challenge: it requires strength in your shoulders and core, plus flexibility in your hamstrings and hip flexors, and there’s no way to cheat. It’ll also keep your shoulders healthy, since you’ll be focusing on quality reps rather than simply heaving up as much weight as possible. 

For this gym challenge, you’ll be going for as many reps as possible with an empty 20kg barbell in ten minutes – 50’s the minimum, 100 is respectable and 150 is impressive. When you feel you need a break, hold the bar on your lap so your core remains activated. Yep, even the rest periods are hard work.

The move


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Sit upright, gripping the bar with hands just outside shoulder-width apart. Aim to keep your hamstrings flat on the floor so your lower back remains tight. Press the bar overhead and push your head through the window created by your arms at the top of each rep – this’ll keep your shoulders healthy. And no leaning back during tough reps or breaking the sitting position when you’re not lifting.

The warm-up

Warm up for this one with the 30/30 dumbbell press. Starting with a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, press them overhead for 30 seconds – ten reps is a good target. Now hold the dumbbells overhead for 30 seconds, then press for 30 seconds and hold for 30 seconds again. Rest for a minute then do two more rounds.


(Image credit: Unknown)

The plan

Add the Z-press to the end of a regular gym session once a week. ‘Remember, sternum to lockout on every rep,’ says trainer Pieter Vodden (, who put together this plan. ‘The number doesn't really matter all that much. When shoulder health is the priority, it’s quality of movement that really counts.’

Week 1

3 reps every 30 seconds

Week 2

4 reps every 30 seconds

Week 3

5 reps every 30 seconds

Week 4

Max reps in 10 minutes

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