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Viking Press - give it more thought than a barbarian would

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The Viking press

It’s been around, well, we can only assume since the age of the Vikings (can’t confirm this with actual historical research), it routinely appears at WSM, and is increasingly appearing in local comps around the country.

It’s one of things that is never really talked about, so we thought we would take a bit of an in depth look at some science and geometry behind the movement. Are all rigs the same, what weight are you actually pressing, is it harder or easier than a barbell, why no ‘double dip’? All will be revealed below!

The movement basics

So like the name suggests, the VP is a pressing movement. The implement is never cleaned, it is one of the few, if only, strongman press that is taken from the rack. Where it differs significantly from all the other presses, is the implement is tethered to an anchor, so the athlete is always pressing through an arc, rather than straight up like a barbell or log.

This is where things get tricky determining what weight you are pressing. There is the weight of the rig itself, but one end is pivoted, so it represents more like half the rig weight at the handle. Then where the additional weight is positioned (between you and the pivot) will affect what weight you ‘feel’ at the handles. The closer the weight to the pivot, the ‘lighter’ it is.

It’s not all about length…actually, it is

We have just mentioned about position of weight along the length of the pressing arm impacting the ‘perceived weight’, and you can imagine it would feel quite light if you had a 4m long viking press and all the weight was only 50cm from the pivot.

But to understand this next concept, let us assume the perceived weight at the handle is 100kg, at the start position, on both implements we will talk about. Now lets pretend we have 2 viking press units, one is 3m long, the other is 1.5m. Remember we always press in an arc on a Viking press and the bar is therefore moving away from you if you are facing the implement. The longer the unit is, the more vertical the pressing motion is, as you are only moving it through a smaller amount of the arc (your arm length doesn’t change), so it’s close to the path of a bar or log.

A shorter unit will travel further through the arc, so more of the motion is changed to horizontal rather than vertical, and more of the load is positioned over the pivot, rather than your hands.

In short, long viking press = harder, short viking press = easier, even with the same weight at the handle. Just imagine one now that is only 80cm long, most people’s press range would stand it up to almost vertical, making lock out that much easier.


Barbell or neutral handles, which is harder?

There are two common variations of handle for the VP, a straight barbell or neutral handles, like you would see on a log. Which one is more challenging? The barbell version behaves very much the same as a normal barbell, it demands more mobility to allow the bar to sit on the shoulders. The neutral handles mix it up a bit though. They require less mobility and are often more comfortable to press, but unlike the log, which can sit across the shoulders and delts in order to maximize leg drive, on the viking press, its fresh air! Much more strength is required of the lats and triceps to actually transmit leg drive into the implement. So which one is easier or harder isn’t such an easy question to answer.


Backwards or forewords; just another variable

Once again, the fact the VP is anchored at one end throws this in as an option; which way you face when pressing. Each competition should specify early which way they expect competitors to face, but in training, one should experiment with both.

Facing towards the unit should be the easier variation. Although the bar is moving away from you, it allows the athlete to lean into the press and grind out a rep, not to mention the added benefit of the arc advantage we mentioned earlier.

Facing away from the unit is another whole ball game. Often seen at WSM level, the bar still moves away from you, but behind you! It requires driving through the heels and leaning back into the press, something unfamiliar to most.


Why no double dip?

What does a Viking press and a tub of hummus have in common? They are both a tasty treat, and you shouldn’t double dip. As Thor found out so famously at WSM 2017, most competitions holding a Viking Press event don’t allow a double dip or jerk (partially squatting back under the bar once it has left the shoulders). Im not sure why this has become a rule, I realise it is a Viking Press, not a Viking Jerk, but that doesn’t hold up across any of the other SM events. Perhaps the fact the unit can be leant into and reps can be ground out, unlike a barbell, or that the ‘fixed’ nature of the unit doesn’t allow for dynamic movement, the fact is, it’s likely a strict or push press only will be allowed in competition, so prepare accordingly!

Often considered a ‘simple’ event (no clean involved), the complexity of the Viking press shouldn’t be underestimated in competition. As I often recommend, train on a wide variety of VP combinations and often, to be best prepared for comp day!

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