A Complete Guide To Vertical Push & Pull Setup & Cues for Young Athletes

In previous installments of our "Primal Movement Pattern Setup & Cues Series", we've touched on squats, hip-hinges, and horizontal pushing & pulling movements - and today, we're going to cover our setup & cues for our vertical movements

Push Press - The Youth Academy

Overhead Press

Much like the horizontal push & pull movement patterns, the vertical ones are mirror-images of themselves too - so when we perform a vertical press, the vertical pull is often the same movement in reverse. And again, like the horizontal movements, our main focus will be on shoulder positioning and integrity & ensuring the back muscles are doing the work so that we're promoting & training proper posture as well

and as always, remember, the movement patterns never change, only the implement you're using does


Vertical Pushing Setup

When it comes to hand positioning on our vertical pressing, we tend to press with either a neutral grip or out to a 45-degree angle, as we find this best helps our young athletes & adolescents keep great positioning and shoulder health

  1. Shoulders back & down/scaps in your back pockets
  2. Elbows forward/in front of you (this helps keep shoulder joint integrity & stops elbows from flaring)
  3. Wrists and elbows in line with one another
  4. Hands in line with chin
  5. Squeeze glutes + big belly
  6. Punch through the roof & think of pressing "back"
  7. When the hands get past the forehead, bring your head through the "window"


Vertical Pressing Cues

The hardest parts for young athletes to grasp is the position of the elbows and the bar path. The elbows need to stay forward, in a somewhat "unnatural" position as young athletes are not used to feeling this kind of movement. If we let the elbows flare, however, we place extra stress on the shoulder joint and cause it to internally rotate, thus placing it at an increased risk of injury. In regards to the bar path, it needs to stay directly over the top of the mid-foot/where we tie our shoelaces - as if it gets either in front of or behind this position, we will lose strength and force production

  1. Shoulders back & down/scaps in your back pockets: this helps us to use the lats as a "shelf" to push from, and also helps promote the shoulder position we're trying to teach
  2. Elbows forward/up: again, this helps us to keep the shoulder safe and utilise correct positioning throughout the movement
  3. Head Through The Window/Push Back: these cues help keep the bar path over the midfoot so that the weight does not fall forward or back, allowing for the most powerful & strongest positions to be found


Vertical Pulling Setup

  1.  Hands slightly outside of shoulder width

  2. Shoulder back and down/scaps in your back pockets/proud chest

  3. Picture a string attaching your elbows to your ribs

  4. Squeeze glutes and big belly

  5. Drive elbow to ribs

Pullup - The Youth Academy

Pull Ups

Vertical Pulling Cues

The main thing we find that needs to be focused on here is the maintenance of a proud chest throughout the entirety of the movement. Most young athletes & adolescents are quite weak through this plane of movement, and their tight chest tries to compensate on the pull, meaning the shoulders will try and round as they "pull up"... luckily, however, we have a way of minimising and rectifying this issue in our unique graduation system progressions

  1. Chest Up
  2. Elbows In/Elbows To Ribs


That's All Folks

And that's how simple (not easy) we like to keep our vertical movement patterns. The intention is always about shoulder health & positioning and trying to ensure that the intended, main muscles are doing the movement 

Next week we will go over our unique progressions for these movements, including the exact system we use to help young athletes to nail their first-ever pull-ups and go on to rep-them out

Nick Maier