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Sexy Move of the Week: 1-Arm Strict Barbell Press

Sexy Move of the Week: 1-Arm Strict Barbell Press

Written by
February 18, 2015
Updated April 11, 2018

The 1-Arm Strict Barbell Press is a very challenging exercise, especially considering that you are using an implement that is most commonly used for 2-arm work. The Barbell increases the difficultly of a 1-arm lift due to its length and a greater demand on all the stabilizing musculature to keep the barbell in a steady horizontal state.

The 1-Arm Strict Barbell Press is a very neurologically taxing exercise and will help prepare your body for other unconventional barbell lifts like the Side Press, Bent Press, and the 2-Handed Anyhow Press.

The strict variation of this exercise is very difficult to do, even if you keep the weight relatively light. Keeping a stable, tall posture through the entire range of motion is challenging, but if you continue to work on it and incrementally increase the weight, you will find that there is a lot of carry over to the Bent Press and the Side Press.

How to Perform the 1-Arm Strict Barbell Press

1-Arm Barbell Press

Step 1: Get the Barbell into Position

It is extremely important that you start light with this exercise, as it will be difficult to get in position the first few times. The easiest way to get started is to put your barbell on a rack at slightly lower than shoulder height. Back into the barbell and pick it up as if you were going to do a Barbell Squat. Once you have the barbell lifted, use one hand to carefully feed the barbell onto the opposite side, seeking to put one hand in the middle of the barbell (this is the lifting side). Keep your shoulders squared and core tight throughout the process.

Step 2: The Start of the Lift

Keeping a vertical posture with your shoulders stacked over your hips and a neutral spine, engage your lat and begin pressing the weight. As you press, be sure to avoid shrugging your shoulder; rather, keep it packed. This will help you avoid shoulder injuries while also helping you to engage your latissimus dorsi (one of the largest muscle groups in the body).

Step 3: The Lockout

As you approach lockout, be sure to keep a tight, engaged core. Due to the long levered arm of the barbell, you are going to find that your body will want to move away from the weight as it’s being pressed; don’t let that happen. Press until you lockout your elbow with the barbell overhead. Reaching lockout will require a smooth, continuous motion as you balance the barbell (no cheat reps here!). Reverse the motion, again keeping the lat engaged and core tight, then repeat.

Other Variations of the 1-Arm Barbell Press

Barbell Side Press

The Barbell Side Press, which requires a slightly more displaced posture, allows you to kick in your lats and obliques to create a counter rack with the barbell.

Barbell Bent Press

Onnit 24kg KettlebellsThe Barbell Bent Press takes posture displacement to another level; in this movement you are literally moving your core away from the barbell. You don’t actually press the weight, you press yourself away from the weight to a full arm extension, then use bigger stronger muscles to get vertical again. You are going to bring your obliques and hips into a full extension resembling a Kettlebell Windmill to get into that full lockout, tall position.

You can use these lifts as a great strength development skill. The 1-Arm Strict Barbell Press, in particular, is going to show a lot of lateral instability in the spine or the hips. Also, you can find whether or not one side is significantly stronger than the other using these lifts.

I would suggest starting with an empty bar, or even a light 25 pound or 10 kilo bar when you start, and work up progressively to a longer bar with small incremental increases in weight. We find that people are very challenged with a 95 pound press at the barbell. It does not sound very heavy just looking at the numbers, but it is a lot more challenging than you might think.

Pressing a “Beast” kettlebell at 48kgs is a benchmark for many people, and I find that a 95 pound 1-Arm Strict Barbell Press is another one of those benchmarks. It is going to challenge your body in a new way while still paying dividends year after year.

John Wolf is Onnit's Chief Fitness Officer, and an expert in unconventional training methods such as kettlebell, steel club, and suspension training. With 15-plus years of experience in the fitness industry, he has worked with rehab clients and athletes of all levels. He moves like Spider Man and can deadlift more than 500 pounds any day of the week.
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