Being able to press weight overhead is a great feat of strength. As you become more comfortable with the push press and jerk, you will learn that progress in these lifts shows not only that your upper body is strong enough to move the load, but that your midline is capable of bracing your spine as you perform them.
A common issue that I run into when coaching is that despite plenty of runway in someones strength capacity, they hit a wall when the movement is making them uncomfortable – in this case, specifically in their wrists.
The two main problems here are at the beginning of the lift, and in the finishing position.
First, your starting position needs to be one that allows for your body (not just your arms) to hold the weight before you press (see picture 1). The bar should be resting across your shoulders, your elbows should be slightly in front of the bar, and you should try to grip the bar through the middle of your palms.
The deviations in proper technique are shown in the latter two pictures. In picture 2, the bar is where it should be, but the grip is not. This will cause you to press with your fingers and leave your hands folded backwards, putting extra pressure on your wrist. This is bad on many levels. Don’t do this!
Picture 3 shows that the grip is closer to correct, but the bar is being supported entirely by the arms. Leaving the bar on your shoulders leaves it on a much more stable platform to press from. Make sure it’s there when you’re setting up!
The problem at the end of the lift is a little easier to describe. When you finish pressing (or catch, depending on the lift), it is ideal for your wrists to be as straight as possible (picture 4). Finishing with your hands folded backwards (picture 5) puts a lot of stress on the wrist, and is of no help in the lift. Think about punching the ceiling at the top of your lift.
The next time you are working on a pressing lift in class, pay attention to where you might be able to clean the details up a bit! Notice your set-up and finishing positions when you’re warming up with an empty bar, and only add weight if you know you’re able to keep your form right!