Training > Exercise Guides > 6 Benefits of the Viking Press: Ultimate Strongman Exercise

6 Benefits of the Viking Press: Ultimate Strongman Exercise

Before I started learning more about Strongman exercises, I had no idea what the Viking press was.

This cool lift gets a bad reputation but can be quite beneficial for some lifters. Even if you’re not a Viking or a Strongman!

I have gone over the 8 steps to performing the Viking press. As well as 1 optional step that you may want to consider if you are an advanced Strongman lifter or bodybuilder. 

Further into the article I will highlight the 3 main muscle groups that are activated during this exercise. 

Not to forget, I have included a detailed description of the 6 main benefits of the Viking press based on my opinion. 

However, I wouldn’t incorporate the Viking Press into your training program without weighing out the pros and cons. Thereby, I have mentioned the 3 Drawbacks to the Viking press. 

My 3 top tips that I have mentioned are mostly related to lifting accessories and exercise set up to maximize your experience, so take notes. 

It’s important to understand when to use the exercise and who should use it. So, I have recommended 3 periods of implementation and 4 types of lifters who could benefit the most prom it. 

What is a Viking Press?

Could the Viking press get you as buff as a Viking?

Possibly, but we can’t guarantee this. We’re here to educate you on how to use it properly and perhaps add a little but extra to your training program. 

So what exactly is the Viking press? The Viking press is traditionally a competitive  strongman lift, but can also be is another variation of an overhead press. It works almost identical upper body ‘push’ based muscles. You can use a Viking press machine, but most gyms don’t invest in this complex equipment.

If you don’t have access to these machines, don’t worry, we’ve got you. You can quite easily modify the safeties on the squat rack and barbells to replicate the exact same movement.

One of the safety racks should be placed in line with the top of the color bones. Also, the safety rack on the opposite side should be 7-8″ higher. 

The next step would be to place two barbells on top of the safety racks displaced equally just outside shoulder width apart

Load up the higher end of the bars with 5.5-11kg plates, pressing against the safety rack. 

On the low side load up with your working set weight. Personally I use 33-44lb weight plates, where I perform around 8-12 reps. 

Squat rack

Check out Pros, Cons, and Programming of Squatting Every Day

8 Steps to Performing Viking Press

Step 1: Set up the Viking press on the squat rack safeties as mentioned. You can also load up the Viking press machine if possible.

Step 2: Line yourself up with ends of the barbell (loaded side). Make sure its a good height.

Step 3: Grasp the ends of the barbell or grips with a semi pronated grip around the end. This grip is best for the Viking press.

Step 4: Brace the core tightly to ensure the spine remains neutral and curving is prevented. Ensure your back is not too arched.

Step 5: Equally displace feet at shoulder or hip width apart. Usually a 12 o’clock angle to form a stable base.

Step 5 of the Viking press

Step 6: Look ahead, inhale, hold your breath and push the weight up by extension of the elbows (straighten) and flexing the shoulder up (press).

Step 6 of the Viking press
Shoulder position during Viking press

Step 7: Exhale and control the weight during the eccentric phase (downward portion). 

Step 7 of the Viking press

Optional step: After you physically cannot perform more reps, use the legs to help press the weight up during the upward phase and control the weight down to create a forced eccentric to create additional stimulus for muscle and strength gains.

Generally, I would only recommend this training strategy to somewhat advanced lifters and strongman lifting. 


The 3 Main Muscle Groups Used in the Viking Press

Triceps Muscles Used in the Viking Press

As the name suggests the triceps Bracci is made up of three muscle attachments. They are all located at the back of the upper arm. The triceps are the synergist muscles triggered while performing the Viking press. The more tucked your elbows the more triceps engagement the exercise will evoke. 

When all of these 3 portions of the triceps have undergone some gains, it would somewhat appear like a horse shoe while being tensed. However, this will also depend on genetic makeup.

1. Lateral Head of the Triceps

The outer portion of the muscle is called the lateral head. The lateral head is more fatigue resistant compared to other portions of the triceps. Therefore, it requires elbow extension with higher endurance based repetitions to tap into more fibers. 

If you use the Viking press with lower intensity and higher reps, there’s no doubt that the lateral head of the triceps will get worked to a higher degree.  

2. Medial Head of the Triceps 

The inner part is the muscle is the medial head which is one of the more powerful triceps portions . It can be activated greatly during heavy Viking pressing. 

3. Long Head of the Triceps 

The center part is the long head. Just like the other portions, it is activated by extension of the elbow; a crucial movement during the bench press.


Shoulder Muscles Used in the Viking Press

Anterior and Mid Deltoids 

During the Viking press you could also expect some front and mid shoulder activation. This is a result of the shoulder flexion (moving arm forward) and abduction (moving arm away from the body). Not to mention that the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder will also be triggered to stabilize the movement.

Shoulder muscle

Chest Muscles Used in the Viking Press

Upper Pectoral 

The other the upper pectoral portion has connection to the collar bone. Flexion of the shoulder stimulates it, which is moving the arm and shoulder forward vertically.

Upper pectoral


6 Benefits to the Viking Press

1. Increased Upper Body Muscle and Strength 

Just like any other Shoulder pressing movement the Viking press is another addition to the exercises that can build a solid set of shoulders, triceps and upper pectoral muscles. 

Essentially, you would load up an intensity in line with your goals. For example, if you were training to get stronger you would train at a higher intensity of around 80-100% for 1-5 reps. 

On the other hand, if you were attempting to add muscle, the better option in my opinion could be to train between 50-75% intensity within the rep range of 7-20+. 

The lower end could possibly induce more Myo fibular hypertrophy. This is, in simple terms, muscle building through the breakdown of muscle fibers followed by rebuilding bigger and stronger. 

The higher end of this rep range would more likely produce sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This is basically the famous ‘pump’ which promotes lactate (burning sensation) and growth factors within blood.

I personally periodize my training to maximize my strength and all of the methods of muscle building.   

2. Improved Grip Strength 

If we open the vault some of you may be able to recall one of my previous articles on the Deadlift Grip variations. I highlighted methods that can be used to improve grip strength; one of the methods I’m an advocate of using thicker grips. 

You may be asking how is this relevant to the Viking press? Well it is because if you look at the circumference of the ends of the barbell their a few inches thicker than a standard dumbbell or barbell grip, thereby it only makes sense that the using the Viking press with barbells will draw more of the forearm and grip based muscles, if you utilize the clench grip with all four fingers and the thumb. 

3. Increase Core Stability and Balance

The Viking press is a free-weight exercise and it requires you to stand up, therefore it will engage the core and  could improve balance. 

Most Advanced lifters would have already undergone a considerable amount of core strengthening, therefore this may benefit those who are yet to get a strong foundational level. 

4. Improved Kinetic Chain Movement Patterning 

When you use the Viking press at a higher intensity in a strong man lifting style, you would employ the kinetic chain by driving from the foot, knee and hips and press the weight up. 

Modifying this movement can be mimicked in other lifts and sports such as; strong man Viking press, clean and jerk, snatch and other power based sports that require the triple extension of the legs.

5. Burns Lots of Calories

If you think about Viking press activates so much of the body from the leg drive to the pressing, where you would expect it to burn a considerable amount of calories. 

It would be hard for me to put a number on it, but just like any other compound lift like the Squat or Deadlift, you would get through a lot of energy. 

Why is this important? Basically maintaining energy balance will allow you to remain leaner. Or, if you are trying to lose weight, compound lifts like the Viking press can be used as an energy output variable to help drive you into negative energy balance. This means getting less calories than your body needs to sustain its current weight.

6. Adds Variation to Training 

I’ve always been an advocate of adding a variety of to a periodized  training program and changing them from time to time, which in turn reduces tedium and rekindles training motivation. So what does this mean for you? You can continue to make gains when you’re enjoying your training session and pushing yourself to train harder right? 

I personally utilize the Viking press at least twice, 2 times per week for 3-4 weeks  during my yearly training macrocycle (1 year training cycle). 


3 Drawbacks to the Viking Press

1. Use of Equipment 

Have you ever got into a heated argument at the gym? I don’t want to say its normal, but it does occur and if you’re observing the Viking press using the Squat Rack and two barbells you might upset other gym users especially with the amount of testosterone flowing around. 

It may sound funny, but there are chance that you could get into some conflict while using two barbells especially if the equipment in the gym is scarce. 

My biggest recommendation would be to use the Viking Press during less busy gym hours, perhaps a Sunday morning? And if you do get into and any conflict try to diffuse the situation by remaining calm. 

2. Skeletal Muscle Injury Risk

So much force is being produced during the Viking press. Moreover, you should be aware that there is always a chance that you could pull or strain muscle in the legs, lower back, triceps or shoulders. 

To minimize the risk take care of yourself by observing good nutrition, sleep and proper pressing form 

3. Blunt Force Injury Risk

There’s always a chance of blunt force injury as the plates can slide off the barbells and onto the toes. 

My recommendation would be to not exaggerate the angle of the Viking press. Also, that the safety clips are applied firmly. 


My Tips to Performing the Viking Press

1. Lifting Accessories 

I would suggest wearing the ______________ lifting belt which allows you to brace the core and keep the spine neutral, reducing the chances of back injury.  

Secondly, the _____________ Lifting straps are great for keeping the wrists strong a promoting proper bar path to maximal training benefits. 

The ______________ weight lifting shoes will promote a strong plantarflexion at the ankles proper ground reaction force if you are attempting higher intensity strong man type of Viking presses or just attempting to hit a personal record.  

2. Set Correct Decline to the Barbell 

As I’ve mentioned the lower pressing side of the barbells should be in line with the top of the shoulders and the opposite side should only be one notch higher. 

If the decline of the Viking press is too exaggerated, chances are that the barbell will slide down. Also, it may cause blunt force injury, not to mention divert the whole gyms attention towards you (EMBARASING!).

3. Apply Firm Safety Clips to the Barbell 

For the same reason, another top tip would be to apply some safety clips to the barbells to ensure that the weight plates do not slide off.

Safety clips

Common Mistakes to the Viking Press

1. Too Much or Too Less Decline on the Pressing Side

If you look at the Viking press, the downward slope has to be ‘just right’. If the decline is too exaggerated, chances are that the barbell will slide off. On the other hand, if the pressing side of the Viking press is too high there would be less gravity to get an effective press.

2. Not Applying a Barbell Safety Clips 

This common mistake is not just for the Viking press, lifters often load up a barbell without applying firm clips.

At times the weight plates can slide off and cause blunt force injuries or muscle pulls, either way you’re probably out of action for some time, which isn’t worth it considering the safety clips are such a simple and easy prevention mechanism.      


When to Use the Viking Press?

1. During Strength or Muscle Building Phases 

I’ve already mentioned that the Viking press is great for strengthening and building the muscles of the shoulders, triceps. 

Just to real literate;

High intensity low reps = Strength building (80-100%)

Lower intensity higher reps = Muscle building (50-75%)

2. During Shoulder or ‘Push’ Training Sessions 

It only makes sense that you would include the Viking press while training the ‘push’ based muscles which consist of the chest, Shoulders, Triceps and legs. 

Other times where you may want to include the Viking press is during a whole body workout as it stimulates so many muscles. 

3. First Exercise During the Training Session 

If the shoulder muscles are something you need to bring up, then prioritizing the Viking press as the first or second exercise may be advantages as you are fresh and full of energy. 

Generally, I would start off my workout with a shoulder or chest press based movement, like the bench press, military press or Viking press. 

4 Types of Lifter Who Could Perform the Viking Press

1. Strongman Lifters 

 I mentioned Stongman based lifters oppose to Powerlifters. The Viking press is observed in strong man competitions and for those who would like to replicate strong man based training. Thereby, it’s important to get stronger with the strong man based Viking press with leg drive. 

I don’t think that it’s that important for powerlifters as should be focused on the 3 main lifts known as; Bench press, Barbell Squat and Deadlift. 

Read more about Isometric Deadlift

2. Bodybuilders 

The Viking press is also a great muscle building exercise as it stimulates so much muscle. 

For bodybuilder, my recommendation would be to focus on a controlled  form and try to press from the shoulders to make the most of the concentric (upward phase) and Eccentric (downward). 

I would only recommend leg drive for advanced bodybuilders at the end of a set to produced forced eccentrics for additional stimulus to maximize gains, as this is the stronger position for lifters.  

3. Weightlifters and Power Based Athletes

The intensity of the Viking press can be manipulated during certain phases of the force-velocity curve for powerbase sports. 

If we analyze the Viking press it utilizes the same movement patterning as most power based sports, with the triple extension of the legs and pressing movement of the shoulders. 

4. Recreational Lifters 

I wouldn’t limit the Viking press to just advanced lifters, it’s a great exercise that activates lots of muscles and burns lots of calories. 

The Viking press can definitely help the average Joe get into shape. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Leg drive important during the Viking press?

The Leg drive will help you during the concentric phase (upward) of the lift, therefor you will be able to perform a more impressive lift. If your goal is to maximize the muscle stimulus in the upper body then best to use less leg drive and control the weight, however leg drive may be useful during the last few reps to maximally stimulate the muscle during the eccentric phase (downward).

Are there any variations to the Viking press?

The Leg drive will help you during the concentric phase (upward) of the lift, therefor you will be able to perform a more impressive lift. If your goal is to maximize the muscle stimulus in the upper body then best to use less leg drive and control the weight, however leg drive may be useful during the last few reps to maximally stimulate the muscle during the eccentric phase (downward).

Where would you rate the Viking press amongst the shoulder pressing based exercises in your personal experience?

Without exaggerating I would rate the Viking press as #1, It gives me the best pump, plus I could really feel the muscles working and the fatigue setting in. There are many other great  shoulder exercises like the military press, overhead press, dumbbell press etc. 

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt the Viking press is a great upper body exercise to build muscle and strength. Just make sure the set-up is on point and you follow all of the training ques in order to maximize training stimulus and lifting performance, while getting a safe experience. 

I would incorporate the Viking press every few months in a periodized fasion, meaning for 3-4 weeks at a time.


  1. Ghigiarelli, J.J., Berrios, Xavier. M., Prendergast, J.M., Gonzalez, A.M.  The Viking Press. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2021: Published ahead of print 

Special credit to: @Astlefit (Instagram) for demonstrating the Viking press

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Wasim Kagzi

Hi! I’m Wasim Kagzi and this is where my team and I write and research about everything fitness. On MuscleLead we share all the helpful tips, techniques, and advice we've learned over the years. Personally, I've been lifting for more than 10 years and hope to eventually become a Certified Personal Trainer. My goal is to compete in weightlifting and train to be the strongest version of myself.

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