Fighter Press – The Most Effective Shoulder Exercise for Martial Artists

February 2, 2022 by VAHVA Fitness

Fighter Press or the "Turning Press" which we do in Warrior 20XX is a very effective shoulder exercise especially for fighters, martial artists and athletes.

This exercise is a form of an overhead press but it's far from the typical press you see done in bodybuilding.

In order to do this exercise properly, the practitioner first needs to drop his or her ego. This is because in order to do this exercise properly, you have to use lighter weights.

In many cases, the person who has gotten used to doing the overhead press with 20 kg (45 lbs) dumbbells probably needs to drop the weight down to 10 kg (22 lbs).

People who measure their strength with mere numbers probably are not willing to do this and instead keep doing their usual overhead press variations. Too bad these people will miss a lot of good development on their shoulders as a result.

Eero originally invented this exercise for Warrior 20XX in order to create a functional and athletic variation of the overhead press. We initially called it "Turning Press" but consider "Fighter Press" a much better fitting name.

Although this exercise will produce great gains for all athletes and fitness enthusiasts in the shoulder region and the obliques, this exercise is specifically important for fighters and martial artists who do a lot of striking with their hands.

Fighter Press achieves these 3 great points for martial artists:

  • It develops endurance in the shoulders to keep the arms up so you can better defend yourself. 
  • The turning nature of the press also develops the obliques and scapula (serratus anterior). Together with the improved strength in the shoulders you will improve your power and endurance for punching.
  • You are isolating the anterior deltoid (front shoulder) incredibly well and working it in muscle lengths that is uncommon.

In other words, Fighter Press is a beast exercise. But you must do it properly. Really good form, execution and internal cadence are very important to do the exercise correctly.

The weight should be rather light and you should feel a strong sensation in the shoulders. You should also feel a little bit of stretch in your core with every turn.

Find a good rhythm and do the exercise for at least 30 seconds per set, preferably longer if you are looking for better gains in the realm of martial arts.

Details Matter, And So Does Your Exercise Selection and the Quality of Your Training

fighter exercise keep your arms up

Let's talk more about what fundamentally determines your results in the gym. 

  • Your exercise selection (details)
  • Quality of execution
  • Intensity, volume, programming

For the vast majority of people, their entire training methodology consists of the last part: training hard and doing it consistently. They pick the regular meathead exercises and get stiffer every workout.

People basically only focus on intensity and volume to produce results and very few even have the intensity properly dialed in their workouts (it's all relative - a hard workout for someone can be a warm up for someone else).

Intensity and volume are necessary to produce results. Without them you will not get any... But what determines the nature and quality of your results is more driven by what you do and how you do it.

If you pick the usual bench press, back squat and bicep curls as your exercises, you can expect to get similar results as everyone else. 

And what kind of results do people get? They will build muscle and develop lift-specific strength for sure but they also get stiffer and can even get less athletic.

The regular exercise selection done without mindfulness simply won't make you a good mover or athlete.

You won't become limber and you will be far from your athletic potential. Moreover, without proper methodology you will also cause wear and tear and get less mobile over time.

It also depends on what kind of results you want to get.

Do you want to get clean or dirty results?
Do you want your training to make you healthier and more mobile?
Do you want universal crossover and athleticism?

It all depends on your standards and goals. If you want the typical bodybuilder body where the muscle mass is the only criteria, you really don't need to do anything except machines and basic weight exercises.

You don't even need to do bodyweight exercises or anything athletic. Machines and weights will build muscle just fine. You will move like a stiff robot but you will have muscle. Whether it looks good or not is up to the personal preference. 

However, if you want more, then you have to train differently. Ultimately, you have to move differently.

It all depends on what type of a "car" do you want to be. All cars are more similar than different by design and all of them will help you get from point A to B.

But there are still big differences in cars. A basic Toyota isn't necessarily bad but it also doesn't have much speed or performance. It doesn't move or look as well as a sports car.

Becoming a "sports car" is attainable by anyone. If you want to be a performance car, then you cannot treat yourself like a Toyota. You have to start treating and building yourself like you are a sports car. 

What you do is who you become in this regard. Start treating yourself good like you have high value. This means no more junk.

Don't put bad gasoline (food) in your engine. Don't feed yourself with limiting and simplified exercises. Take a good care of yourself (maintenance). Build the entire thing for performance.

Stay strong.



samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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