Gone are the days of huffing and puffing in the weight room for hours on end. Thanks to the nonstop grind of today’s life, efficient yet effective workouts are a necessity, and that means prioritizing exercises that target multiple muscle groups and provide full-body benefits.
One way to make the most of your time in the gym? Do a few sets of the Z-press, a multi-purpose exercise that works your upper body, core, mobility, and flexibility. Ahead, a fitness pro details all the benefits of adding the Z press to your strength training routine and explains how to do the strength exercise with proper form every time.
How to do a Z press
Created by strongman Zydrunas Savickas, the Z-press is essentially a shoulder press performed sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, says Edith Partida, CPT, CES, PPSC, a NASM-certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist . “It’s an upper-body strengthening move, but since you’re on the floor and there’s no support for your back, you have to use your core to stabilize yourself in that position,” she adds.
Are you having trouble visualizing the move? Watch Partida demonstrate how to perform the basic Z-press below and follow the instructions to better understand what the exercise entails.
A. Sit on the floor with legs straight, feet spread as far apart as comfortable, a dumbbell in each hand resting on thighs and core engaged. Keeping arms bent at 90 degrees, raise elbows to chest level in front of body. Look with the palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
B. Keeping core and back flat, press dumbbell in right hand directly overhead so wrists are straight over shoulders and biceps are next to ear. Don’t lean back as you push the weights toward the ceiling.
C. Slowly bend the right elbow and lower the dumbbell back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
The benefits of the Key Z Press
As Partida hinted, practicing the Z press can put a strain on your shoulders and core good. Here’s what you need to know about those important benefits, among others.
Improves daily functioning
By building strength in your shoulders, the Z-press can create everyday movement patterns a lot easier, says Partida. Reminder: The basis of the Z press is an overhead pressing movement, a movement pattern you probably do every day. You reach the ceiling with your arms to, for example, put a box of Christmas decorations on a high cupboard shelf. And you do the same as you gently toss your giggling baby in the air. By practicing this functional exercise and continuing to scale up in weight, you’ll be able to lift even heavier totes — and babies — with ease and in safe form.
Core Stability Challenges
The Z press is not only a shoulder exercise, and it’s equally beneficial to your core, as it tests and builds stability in the muscle group, says Partida. ICYDK, your core is a bundle of muscles throughout your torso (including your rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae) whose main job is to protect your spine and keep you upright. To do that, your core muscles need to be strong and able to contract enough to create stability To shape Previously reported. Without adequate core stability, you may experience lower back pain and tightness in your hips. “Your trunk keeps everything together and in place,” Partida adds. “If [your core] is not strong enough if you put your body through different types of movements, that [weakness] can potentially lead to injuries and back pain.”
That’s why the Z press can be so valuable. To perform the exercise with good form (read: stay slouched), you need to keep your core muscles engaged, which can be challenging when you’re pressing and lowering the weights, says Partida. This core bracing also keeps your spine protected during the movement and improves your stability as you increase the weight or reps.
Test the mobility of the hamstring and thoracic spine
The Z press is a helpful measure of the amount of flexibility and mobility you have in your hamstrings and thoracic spine, respectively (the part of the spine that extends from the base of the neck to the bottom of the ribs), says Partida. If you’re not familiar, flexibility refers to your connective tissue’s ability to temporarily elongate, and if you’re short on hamstring flexibility, you’ll struggle to keep your legs straight on the floor during the Z press, says Partida.
Mobility, on the other hand, is the ability to actively control and use your full range of motion within a joint. The thoracic spine in particular needs to be mobile so that you can move and maintain good posture. But if you sit at a desk all day, chances are it’s on the stiff side, which can affect your Z press performance. “You won’t be able to sit down on the floor and fully press your arms overhead, because . . [your thoracic spine] area is quite closed off’, says Partida.
Essentially, the Z press can warn you of any restrictions. And luckily, there are modifications you can use to still get the benefits of the exercise if you lack flexibility and mobility. Then, over time and with the help of stretches and mobility moves, you can slowly work your way up to the traditional Z press, says Partida.
Z press muscles worked
While the Z press calls on all of the deltoids (the muscles that cover the top of your shoulder), the move primarily targets the anterior (aka anterior) deltoids, says Partida. The exercise also builds strength in your trapezius (aka traps) muscle, which starts at the base of the neck and extends across your shoulders and down the middle of your back, she adds. Similar to the traditional shoulder press, the Z press works your triceps, which are used to slow the weight down as you lower it toward your shoulders, and your core, which keeps your torso upright and stable.
Z Press Variations
The standard Z press may not suit your body or goals – and that’s totally okay. Try these variation ideas to decrease or increase exercise for your needs.
Modification: Landmine Z Press
Suffering from tight hamstrings? Try the Z-press with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Or sit on a small box or stack of weight plates (think: two to twelve inches tall) with your legs straight out in front of you, Partida suggests. Both of these adjustments will release tension in your hamstrings, and as your flexibility improves, slowly lower the box or plates until you’re flat on the floor, she suggests. If your core isn’t strong enough to keep your torso upright yet, try performing the Z-press with your back against a wall, Partida advises.
You can also perform a landmine Z press, which doesn’t require as much balance, core stability, and thoracic spine mobility as the traditional Z press. That’s because one end of the heavy bar rests on the floor and against the wall in front of your body, taking some of the strain off your shoulders and torso. And since you lean forward slightly throughout the movement, the adjustment may feel a little easier on your lower back than the standard Z press.
Progression: Barbell Z Press
To make the Z press even more difficult, swap your dumbbells with a dumbbell, which requires more mobility in the thoracic spine and core stability because both arms must be lifted overhead at the same time, says Partida.
Common Z Press Errors
As you press the weights toward the ceiling and lower them to your shoulders, avoid leaning too far back, which can cause discomfort in your lower back. Instead, focus on maintaining good posture with a flat back and keep your body bent at about a 90-degree angle, says Partida. Most importantly, remember to keep your core engaged during every rep of the Z press, as this is key to protecting your spine and build stability.
How to add the Z press to your routine
Before you press your shoulder to the floor and give the Z press a try, you’ll want to talk to your doctor if you currently have or have had a shoulder injury, as the movement puts additional stress on the joint, says Partida. .
Once you’re given the green light, try performing the Z-press at the beginning of your workout, since the move involves multiple muscle groups and is quite taxing on the body, says Partida. In general, aim to perform two to three sets of eight to 10 reps to build strength or 10 to 12 if you want to improve your muscular endurance, she suggests. Don’t be embarrassed to modify the move so it works best for your body, experience level, and needs. The flexibility, mobility and core strength will develop over time and you will definitely feel strong and powerful no matter which variation you choose.