In this article we will unravel a misunderstood, underestimated and criticized problem.
The Press, like the Toproll and Hook, has a thick undergrowth of variations, let’s try to do some order!
First of all, it is necessary to distinguish between a Press at the opening of the match and a press at the end of the match. The first is decidedly more standardizable, the second, precisely because of its nature as an ace in the hole (or move of desperation), varies depending on the situation.
The Press at the start of the match involves a setup in which you want to position your hand as high as possible (strong radial deviators are useful for this purpose), possibly leaving space between your palm and the back of the opponent’s hand, mainly at the level of the little finger .
Once the ready go! Aside of the referee, the athlete who chooses this technique must rotate his shoulders as quickly as possible towards the pin pad (muscles involved: for the sake of brevity “the rotator cuff muscles”, the pectoralis major and the latissimus dorsi), simultaneously supinating (short supinator muscle, biceps), and applying pressure through ulnar deviation, flexion of the carpus and fingers (of particular importance are the muscles of the hypothenar eminence, i.e. the flexors of the little finger and the flexors of the palmaris brevis).
You will therefore find yourself in a position in which you are above the opponent’s arm. If the flexion of the wrist and the ulnar deviation of the athlete who presses are greater than the pronation of the opponent, you will also obtain total control of the hand, which will make easier to isolate the elbow flexors (biceps brachialis, brachialis, brachioradialis, coracobrachialis).
The pressure of the body of the athlete who is performing this technique is transmitted to the hand via a “muscle block”, which is formed thanks to a maximum contraction of the elbow flexors, which, through their stiffening, acquire consistency. This muscle “hardness” is what prevents the hand-shoulder angle from closing. It follows that it is possible to apply force in this position, only depending on how much this angle can support (to better understand this concept I recommend this simple experiment: take any object made of non-compressible material, place it between the forearm and bicep, observe how the chosen objectprevents the hand-shoulder angle from closing).
Fundamental for this technique are the elbow stabilizers (divided into static: medial collateral ligament, lateral collateral ligament, annular ligament, interosseous membrane…. and into dynamic: triceps brachii, anconeus and the aforementioned elbow flexors); shoulder stabilizers (triceps brachii, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major…); the pronators (pronator teres, quadratus, brachioradialis) since if pronation were missing it would no longer be possible to exert force along the shoulder-hand vector, which requires a neutral or prone position, and instead it would be discharged solely by twisting the humerus and articulatory stress.
From an ideal Press position, approximately double the force that one is able to exert through elbow flexion is expressed, it is therefore obvious that the most difficult part of this technique is being able to move into the activation position, rather than the actual act of pressing. It follows that the best way to counteract this technique is to prevent access to the hand-shoulder angle, nipping the internal rotation of the shoulders in the bud, the pronation necessary to perform the press, and misaligning the hand, bringing it as far out as possible laterally and posteriorly compared to the opponent’s shoulder.
“Turning” the hand does not represent a definitive answer as even without flexion of the carpus it is possible to press in a very efficient manner (the point of application of the force in the press is near the wrist to reduce the leverage as much as possible), although it is however, a better position than being subjected to a supine press. Some variations that we will not discuss in depth are the “push” press in which a push of the elbow lateral (towards the pad) is preferred in order to facilitate the pin. This variation exposes the elbow structure to more stress than the “rotation” press, but makes it more difficult for the opponent to maintain a regular position, often leading him to an elbow foul.
The Press at the end of the match. The Press at the end of the match cannot be standardized as it depends on the position (often compromised) reached when you choose to conclude the pin using this technique. The muscles required are the same as the Press at the start of the match, but a pin is possible before the technique is complete thanks to the high lateral pressure (which also increases its danger).
The Flop Press. This variant voluntarily neglects carpal flexion, ulnar deviation and finger control in exchange for greater force expressed (thanks to the reduced leverage). You can perform this variation almost exclusively with straps.
How to train the Press? In addition to the obvious table practice, giving space to the shoulder muscles is a great start. Contrary to what is generally believed (wrongly) thought, there is no direct correlation between the extension strength of the triceps and the press, but this does not mean that it is a muscle to be neglected, given its vital importance in stabilizing the elbow, and the benefits of joint strengthening that can be obtained thanks to the exercises that involve him (JM’s press, narrow grip bench press, Skull crushes). The greatest benefits will be obtained with training aimed at improving the speed of execution of the motor scheme, quick reflexes and pronation.
We conclude by recalling the importance of adequate conditioning (and the ability to completely relax the arm as soon as a compromised position is reached), which makes this technique less suitable for beginners than the Toproll and Hook.