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Crossfit workouts typically comprise compound movements that are carried out at high intensity. It’s a great way of targeting all the major muscles helping you to build strength and muscular endurance whilst adding lean muscle.
If you’re new to this type of functional training, you’ll find that it incorporates movements such as burpees, dumbbell snatches and overhead squats. These are usually combined to form one full-body exercise. One such exercise is the devil’s press.
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In this article, we explain what the devil’s press is, primary muscles worked, variations, and its benefits in athletic training. Furthermore, we also consider some common mistakes that can render the exercise inefficient or cause injuries.
What Is A Devil’s Press Exercise
The devil’s press is a two-part compound exercise being a combination of a burpee and a double dumbbell snatch. The two movements are performed together as one fluid motion, usually at higher repetitions with a moderate amount of weight.
Let’s consider how each exercise is done individually, and then we’ll explain how they come together as one single exercise.
A dumbbell burpee is a resistance-based movement that works multiple muscle groups and is a great way of improving cardiovascular strength. A variation of a standard burpee, it’s simple enough to perform and all you need is a pair of dumbbells.
How To Perform A Dumbbell Burpee:
- Take a hold of your dumbbells and stand upright with feet just beyond shoulder width apart.
- Pushing back your glutes and keeping your head and chest up, squat down until you’ve placed the dumbbells on the ground.
- Still holding on to the dumbbells, jump your feet back so that you form a high plank position.
- From here, execute a regular push up (this part is optional).
- Then, jump the feet back so they are either side of the dumbbells.
- From here, deadlift the dumbbells back up to a standing position before repeating the exercise.
Double Dumbbell Snatch
The double dumbbell snatch is a compound functional exercise that works both muscles of the upper and lower body and is great for improving hip extension.
How To Perform A Double Dumbbell Snatch:
- Start in an upright position with feet just past shoulder width apart. Make sure your dumbbells are on the ground and just in front of your feet so that you can take hold of them easily.
- Push back your glutes whilst keeping your head and chest up, this helps to keep your spine neutral. Squat down and take hold of the dumbbells.
- Push through your heels and begin to stand upright.
- As you do so, start to bend your elbows so that you bring the dumbbells up towards your chest.
- Extend your arms straight up towards the ceiling so that the dumbbells are in an overhead position.
- Pause briefly, then lower the dumbbells back down so they are back on the ground and repeat your total number of repetitions.
As with all exercises, good form is essential to maximise the benefits and prevent injury. If you’re a beginner, you can perform both the above without weight until you feel confident that you have a good technique.
How To Perform A Devil’s Press
Now that we’ve looked at each exercise in turn, let’s see how both are merged so that they are performed as one movement pattern.
Here’s how to perform a devil’s press exercise:
- Start by standing upright holding your dumbbells in a neutral position with feet just beyond shoulder width apart.
- Push back the glutes and squat down so that your dumbbells are now on the ground just in front of you.
- From here, jump your feet back so you are now in a high push-up position.
- Lower your whole body down until your knees, all the way up to your chest, are now resting on the ground.
- Push back up and then jump your feet forwards so they are either side of the dumbbells.
- Swing the dumbbells in between your legs to give you some momentum.
- Pushing through your heels, hinge at the hips and bend at the knees with the aim of standing back upright.
- At the same time, you should be swinging the dumbbells up towards your chest before pressing up and overhead to full extension.
- You will finish the movement standing up straight with your arms extended above you.
Muscles Worked In Devil’s Press
As the devil’s press is a full-body movement it will activate a high number of muscle groups including the following:
- Calf muscles
- Erector spinae
- Latissimus dorsi
- Teres major
- Teres minor
- Pectoralis major
The devil’s press will also work the shoulders, biceps and triceps and, as weights are involved, you may notice an increase to your grip strength.
Benefits Of The Devils Press CrossFit Movement
When executed with proper form, the devil’s press offers numerous benefits where you’ll quickly notice an improvement to your general health.
Increased Muscle Endurance
As it’s a power movement, the devil’s press is an excellent exercise to improve muscle endurance. When you improve your endurance levels, you’ll have better posture, a reduction in fatigue (especially when exercising) and you’ll find that performing activities in everyday life become much easier.
Body flexibility refers to the ability of joints to move freely in their full range of motion. The devil’s press can help to improve mobility and flexibility to the ankle, hip and shoulder joints.
Being able to move your joints freely helps to limit any chance of injury, can reduce common ailments such as low back pain and even improve your circulation.
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Better Muscle Coordination
Different muscles of your body work together to execute particular movements. Coordination refers to your body’s ability to accurately select the required muscles with appropriate intensity. This is especially useful in reflex movements. A full-body workout like the devil’s press involves using different muscle groups, which help with better coordination.
Increase In Lean Muscle Mass
With an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle, fat accumulates in the body. Given that proteins (that primarily constitute muscles) are utilized for energy much more than the body’s fat content, our metabolism naturally contributes to reducing lean mass and increasing fat percentage.
Being a high-intensity workout, the devil’s press can rapidly increase lean muscle mass when combined with a suitable diet.
Reduction In Body Fat
High-intensity strength training focuses on building and preserving lean muscle mass. This makes your metabolism naturally more efficient, which enables your body to burn more unwanted bodyfat.
Improvement In Cardiovascular Health
There are multiple ways in which devil’s press improves cardiovascular health. Firstly, CrossFit is a combination of aerobic and anaerobic movements. This increases blood flow to the circulatory system, by extension, to the rest of the body. Devil presses also helps lose fat which can lower the risk of ischemia and infarction in heart vessels.
Better Glucose Control
Many forms of exercises help to lower blood sugar levels. This is especially true of high intensity interval training where exercises are performed at high reps. This is because aerobic exercise takes energy from that stored in the muscles.
Increase Bone Strength
Research shows that devil’s press and other high-intensity workouts that incorporate dynamic and explosive movements stimulate bone formation. This improvement in bone strength is particularly helpful for patients with various bone diseases, as well as the ones recovering from bone injuries.
Common Mistakes That Cause Injuries During Devil’s Press
Any type of high-level exercise that may place a huge demand on the body’s muscles and joints can sometimes lead to injury, especially when the form is not correct. Here are some common reasons for sustaining injury during training.
The devil’s press is an intense exercise. Warming up beforehand is crucial to increase oxygen supply and blood flow to the muscles. When you directly get to burpees and deadlift without warming up, you may end up placing too much stress on muscles and joints.
Improper Dumbbell Position
If the initial starting position of the dumbbells on the ground is either too narrow or too wide, this could result in stress to the shoulder joints. A good tip is to chalk out some markings on the ground so each time you descend and place the dumbbells on the floor, you repeatedly ensure they hit the same, and correct, spot.
Swinging Dumbbells Rapidly
When snatching during the exercise, you need to first balance yourself in position and then swing the dumbbell up and overhead using your hips as momentum. Rapidly swinging the weight immediately after standing can cause muscle strain.
Improper Hip Hinge
Hip hinge, when switching from burpee, builds the momentum required for a snatch. If you don’t push your hips back as directed in the workout steps mentioned earlier in the article, your shoulders and back muscles will take all the pressure during the snatch. This can lead to muscle injuries.
Going Too Heavy
Make sure you aim for an appropriate level of intensity and don’t be tempted to lift weights that are too heavy. Remember that a devil’s press is a high intensity exercise and puts significant stress on the body so keep to a light to medium weight.
Devil’s press is an excellent movement that activates nearly every muscle in the body and if you perform it regularly and with good form you’ll quickly reap the benefits including increased muscle endurance and stamina along with an increase in lean muscle mass making it worthwhile addition to your workout routine.