Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Consistently Setting Up Over Mid-foot in the Pin Press

by Andrew Lewis, SSC | October 18, 2022

The pin press is an accessory movement to the press primarily incorporated when an intermediate lifter needs to add stress to his pressing with a focus on a specific sticking point – usually about the height of the forehead. This might be the first time a lifter has added a third pressing day to his program which is also a critical step to adding stress to the press. The set-up is straight forward. The safety pins of a rack are set to a height where the bar is roughly eyebrow height. This is a good starting place, because this height is frequently the sticking point in the press after early intermediate programming. The lifter sets up under the bar, grabs the bar in the press grip, and presses the bar from a dead stop, finishing overhead in the normal lockout position.

What can be frustrating is getting a consistent set-up with the bar directly over the mid-foot. In the normal press, it's easier, because the unrack position will typically put the bar over the mid-foot as long as the other technical aspects of the grip and arm position are correct. However, the pin press starts with the lifter under the bar resting on the pins, not the normal start position. A consistent set-up with the bar over the mid-foot is essential in the pin press because it is usually done for a heavier weight or higher reps than the normal press. Any deviation from a vertical bar path is mechanically punished even more than in a lighter press. The bar will not break off the pins if the weight is heavy enough and the bar is not over mid-foot. Therefore, a consistent set-up with the bar over mid-foot in the pin press will facilitate the best mechanics and training progress. Fortunately, there is a procedure that will consistently produce the correct set-up.

The set-up procedure:

Step 1: Stand inside the rack with your feet roughly under the bar and forehead almost touching the bar.

pin press set up step 1 - forehead almost touching bar

Step 2: Take your hand spread out one fist wide.

pin press set up step 2 - hand position

Step 3: Poke your collar bones with your middle finger and thumb.

pin press set up step 3 - tactile cue

Step 4: Having tactile-cued yourself, you should still feel the sensation where you touched your collar bones. Put this sensation of touch right under the bar (don't move the bar) and then put your feet under the sensation of touch.

pin press set up step 4 - align under bar

This will produce a consistent set-up with the bar right over the middle of your feet. Stopping at Step 1 (forehead to the bar) will not produce a consistent setup, so don't skip the other steps.

lifter aligned under bar for a correct pin press

The bar is over the mid-foot and collar bone point touch point.

Use this procedure if you've been having trouble getting a consistent set-up on the pin press. You'll notice if your set-up is inconsistent (usually forward) because weights you would otherwise be able to press will suddenly not even break off the pins. In response, you'll readjust your stance – usually by getting closer to the bar – and then the bar will break off the pins and go overhead unexpectedly. Conversely, setting up with the bar behind the mid-foot will produce excessive bend at the hips or even the spine, which is not desirable, so don't err on the side of too-far back. Use this procedure and make it right the first time so you can waste less energy and make more progress.

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