Z Press for Tight Shoulders – Awesome Core and Shoulder Exercise

z press
Looking to light up your shoulders?

The Z Press exercise is an excellent way to work your shoulders and core.

I use it with our clients all the time. Because it’s a seated exercise we can really develop strength first before progression to things like push press and so forth.

But if you have tight hamstrings this exercise can be pretty challenging to get into.

In today’s article I’ll share with you:

  • how to do the z press
  • why it’s so hard and how to modify
  • give you an example workout

If you want to learn a ton more then check out our sweet programs we offer within our fitness app.

How To Do The Z Press (Dumbbells) Barbell Below

Check out the tutorial where I give you a full breakdown

Z presses are tough.

There is a reason why I showed you the dumbbells first. It’s because you should master that before moving on to the barbell. If you are ready for the barbell z press then scroll down.

Not only because the exercise requires you to have adequate strength but also pretty good range of motion in your hamstrings.

If you have stiff hamstrings your back will be rounded and you will be pressing out like this:

z press
You want the dumbbell to be stacked in line with your spine.
  1. You could be pressing out like that because you don’t full range of motion in your shoulders (t spine)
  2. Or it could be because your hamstrings are so tight it’s causing you to round your back like a turtle and you just get sit up right.

If you are unable to get your torso upright do this:

  • Address the problem first ( try these 6 t spine mobility drills)
  • Elevate what you are sitting on
  • Perform one arm at a time

Z Press Alternative Exercises

I mentioned above that one way to make it “easier” is to elevate what you are sitting on or perform alternative or even one arm a time like the video below:

This will make it feel better and easier.

The good thing about loading one arm at a time is that is allows you to press more weight. But since you are trying to improve your positioning it’s going to be important that you focus on tempo to essentially tell your brain the new range of motion you are trying to achieve.

Do the mobility drills in between your sets.

Z Press W/ Barbell

Now that your mobility has improved get on the barbell.

I showed you the z press with the bar last because it’s the most demanding.

It requires you to have good range of motion in your hamstrings, t spine, your wrist, and made pressing strength. I actually love this exercise.

It’s great for developing the strength with handstand push ups. I think it might even be progression 1 or 2 of getting handstand push ups.

I have also experimented with chains and bands to improve my pressing strength. I put together some pretty sweet strength training programs that incorporate all of this stuff if you want to check it out then click on the image below.

z press exercise

Example Strength Training Segment With Z Press

Without taking action nothing will happen right? So give this simple strength piece a try:

4 sets:

  • 20 seconds x Z Press
  • Rest x 20 seconds
  • 20 seconds x DB Floor Press
  • Rest x 20 seconds
  • 20 seconds x Db Push Press
  • rest x 60 seconds then repeat.

In this little segment we challenge your shoulders and triceps big time with the combination of vertical and horizontal pushing.


…not to mention the short rest periods.

Give a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below. Work hard and rest AFTER the push presses 🙂

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Z presses are no joke and can be performed with dumbbells and barbells.

I gave you some progressions to help you get to the barbell and maybe even some chains 🙂

  • Improve mobility first
  • elevate what you are sitting on if hamstrings are stiff
  • start with one dumbbell
  • then progress to alternating
  • Then barbell
  • Then chains 🙂

K Squared Fitness is all about making progressions and helping each and every person modify to their fitness level.

It's why we do best within our fitness app.

Learn all the details about our programs within the app here.

personal trainers
Your coaches Kevin & Katie

Frequently Asked Questions

What muscles does the Z Press work?

The Z Press works MANY muscles including the Anterior Deltoid, Upper Pectorals, Upper Traps, Rhomboids, Erector Spinae, Posterior Shoulder, Latissimus Dorsi, Obliques, and Rectus Abdominus.

What's all the mean? It means it will get your shoulders jacked.

Who Should Perform the Z Press?

Nearly everyone! The key is to make sure you are pressing vertically and not having the barbell or dumbbell go out in front of your body. You aren't doing incline shoulder presses. The barbell should be directly inline with your spine.

If stronger like most do with having a tight upper back do these 6 thoracic spine mobility drills.

What are some benefits of the Z Press?

Great benefits. You are going to develop strict pressing strength first. Since the exercise really isolates your upper body muscles (shoulders and triceps) pecs too if you squeeze your chest if you do it right.

We actually use this exercise to help improve our clients core strength and stability. We start with the client seated in a straddle position and then gradually move their legs where they are together. Doing this will help the have to contract the abs, obliques for stability and take pressure out of your lower back.

If you have any additional questions feel free to ask them in the comments below.

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