How to perform the devils press:
- Let the dumbbells hang next to the body
- Hip hinge
- Lower the weights to the ground (preferably inline with shoulders)
- Lower the body to the ground
- Perform a semi-explosive triceps push-up
- Follow through and kick the legs in (underneath)
- Contract the gluteus maximus for a static hip hinge
- Firm abs
- Pull the dumbbells all the way to the back between the legs
- Contract the gluteus maximus and hamstrings to pull the pelvis up with a rigid spine
- Follow through while swing snatching the dumbbells overhead (most popular version) otherwise
- Clean and rack (correct version)
- Stand up straight and achieve a proper overhead lockout
- Lower dumbbells to hanging next to the body
Devils Press Movement Standards
- Chest touching the ground
- Dumbbells visible behind the legs upon backswing
- Into proper racking and press without momentum or straight into snatch (depending on which one you believe is correct)
- Full body lockout
Devils Press Videos
Following are some of the videos I found while wanting to know how this exercise is supposed to be performed. What I discovered was that there were many variations and it seems there is really not one standard. I will list my observations below each one and I trust that in the end, you’ll understand what the name of the exercise suggests and what truly is the safest way to perform the devil’s press.
Awesome form, he pushes his hips back and low, while keeping the spine neutral and shoulders above the hips, pulls the weights back through the legs, and snatches the weight up, great overhead lockout. Performed at moderate speed.
Rounded back with not a good overhead lockout. Performed at a fast pace.
Great form but if you look closely you can see he is off balance on almost every lift, this has partly to do with the distance between the athlete and the dumbbells upon the dead swing (weight being dead moving into a swing). There needs to be enough space between the athlete and dumbbells to be able to pull the weight back rather than having to push them back, which is what will need to happen when the weight is right between the feet. To dead swing a weight properly you need space between yourself and the object you’re swinging. Pace equals slow to moderate.
This one is different to other devil press variations I’ve seen as there is no drop to the ground and push-up. I’d call this a dumbbell hang snatch as the movement is more of a squat rather than a hip hinge.
This variation of the Devils Press is where the dumbbells are swung on the outside rather than through the legs. If this would end up in the rack I would say it would be a very good demo of the Devils Press.
This one is more with a pull from the ground, closer to racking than most other videos, and follows through with more of a push press.
I mentioned the pace for each of the videos as I believe it’s extremely important with this exercise and programming, i.e. if you start to program this in high reps the technique and safety will go out the door.
I’ve seen some different variations with the main difference being how the weight is swung, either through the legs or on the outside of the legs. On the outside of the legs is something more common with cleaning dumbbells, whereas swinging through the legs is more common for kettlebells.
The thing that confused me when I first saw this was, 90% of the videos demonstrate a movement more related to a snatch than a press, so why call it a Devils Press? The weight is swung up rather than cleaned and pressed. I’ve seen some videos where the weight goes to the chest and then up, these are the ones where the weight is swung on the outside of the legs. For this to be a press it would need to start in racking position on the chest first, and maybe the original Devils Press was a DB push-up into swing clean and press, but I guess as things sped up it turned into a snatch or push press with most people.
My concerns with this movement are at the stage where the athlete transitions the weight from dead to overhead, in particular, the hip hinge movement. A lot of flexibility in the hamstrings is required and good control over the hip hinge movement to perform this exercise safely, especially with high reps or heavy weight.
My recommendation for a progression or safer alternative to the most popular devils press variation (with swing snatch) is to keep everything the same, apart from the swinging part, the dead swing with a hip hinge to be exact. I recommend to change this to a deep squat and then swing, also make sure you have enough space between you and the dumbbells to be able to actually pull them back rather than having to push them back.
I think the safest form of the Devils Press would be to keep the dumbbells on the outside and dead clean them moving into a proper press.
There is also The Devil’s Thruster which adds a thruster to the movement.
It’s likely that this variation came from the man maker, which is a dumbbell push up (hybrid or triceps), plank row, clean, and squat thrust.
Devils Press With Kettlebells
I’d personally do this with kettlebells to make it safer and easier on the lower back and I would call it the Devils Snatch. A kettlebell triceps push-up followed by a dead swing snatch. Due to the height of where the hands would be when using a kettlebell, hence, making it safer for the lower-back, i.e. shoulders can be up higher, I would recommend using kettlebells for this exercise any day. The problem would of course be, can you snatch a kettlebell, because there is more to snatching a kettlebell than there is with snatching a dumbbell.