Devil’s Press: How To Crush The Devil’s Press In Your Workout

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You know it’s going to be a tough workout when you see the devil’s press programmed in your WOD. Aptly named, the devil’s press is a combination of a dumbbell burpee and dumbbell snatch all in one fluid full body movement. Needless to say, this movement will jack up your heart rate and kick up your lactic acid fast and heavy. We’re going to talk more about the benefits and how you can optimize your devils press for time and efficiency.

Devil’s press is a combination of a double dumbbell burpee and dumbbell snatch. As a compound functional movement, the devil’s press recruits several upper and lower body muscle groups, multiple joints, as well as secondary stabilizing muscles. Devil’s press is typically programmed in high intensity functional training (HIFT) protocols and CrossFit.

Devil’s press is a full body movement, which recruits multiple muscle groups, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and all muscles in your posterior chain. It also recruits upper body muscles such as your upper and lower lats, erector spinae, core, adbomdinals, chest, and shoulders. 

Devil’s press is a compound movement. Compound movements incorporate multiple muscle groups and joints providing more muscle fiber recruitment to develop and build more strength. Increased muscle recruitment will maximize stimulation of  muscle protein synthesis and result in more muscle hypertrophy.

Building more muscle mass will result in more strength. Considering the devil’s press is comprised of two movements, combined into one, it is a highly effective exercise to build strength in your shoulders, legs, and core.

Improving your muscle and aerobic endurance capacity is of the greatest benefits of devil’s press. Your body utilizes energy in two distinct ways; aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic, means with oxygen, therefore while you’re training in an aerobic state, your body has a sufficient amount of oxygen to provide the energy which is necessary to sustain an exercise for a prolonged period of time, without tapping into other energy reserves.

The anaerobic pathway of energy metabolism is the creation of energy without oxygen. This typically takes place when an activity is performed at a high enough intensity, that your body can’t provide the necessary oxygen to keep up with energy demands alone.

Without oxygen, the body relies upon adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and glucose or glycogen in the muscle cells for energy, comprising what’s called the phosphagen (immediate) energy system and glycolytic pathway to produce energy in limited quantities.

Like so many classic CrossFit movements, the devil’s press is an aerobic and anerobic exercise, utilizing oxygen as well as recruiting several muscle groups and tapping into your phosphagen energy system to power your legs and shoulders from the burpee into a double dumbbell snatch. Controlling your heart rate is key to efficiently pacing this movement without burnout.

Another great, yet obvious benefit of devil’s press is body optimization. Devil’s press will help you build more lean muscle mass and also burn more body fat. Merging the burpee into a snatch, essentially is placing two high intensity movements, into one, which means you’ll achieve a greater caloric burn in a shorter period of time. Since this movement is loaded, resistance will also build more muscle mass. The more muscle mass you build, the more calories you’ll burn at rest, and burn post workout.

There are a few variations and recommended ways to perform a devil’s press to optimize efficiency, time, and energy levels. The first variation, would be to place both dumbbells down, jump back into a traditional burpee and swing the weights into a snatch from the center between your legs overhead. Another variation, would be to jump back into a traditional burpee, jump back up, and with your feet close together, swing the dumbbells from the outside of your legs overhead.

During competition, you are not required to “jump” into and back from your burpee. 4-time CrossFit Games athlete Alexandre Caron exhibited a method, by consistently pacing himself, placing his dumbbells down, then stepping one foot back at a time, and stepping one foot back up at at time, then swinging into the snatch from the outside of his legs with his feet together. This proved to be very effective and efficient as he won event 8 at the 2022 Wodapalooza Fitness Festival.

  • Make sure placement of the dumbbells are beneath the shoulders and set wide enough to get your chest to the ground.
  • As you drop, whether you step back or jump, make sure you have tight core stability and tension holding your chest high.
  • When you jump or press back up your legs should be straight under yourself, to have a solid foundation for the press or snatch.
  • Use your momentum to get pop and hinge your hips getting the weight from the floor up overhead for your snatch
  • The movement from the dumbbells overhead is very similar to the same movement of a kettlebell swing, therefore keep your hands straight and together.

Devil’s press is a phenomenal compound functional movement. It can benefit your workout performance, by improving your muscular and aerobic endurance capacity, increasing strength, enhancing body composition and maximizing athletic performance. If you find the devil’s press in your programming, don’t fret, pace yourself, breathe, and be consistent in your movement pattern. If you can do that, you’ll find yourself in a better position than your competition.