Axle Press

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Where the Axle Press Came From

Ever since the late 1870s, overhead pressing has been used as a training tool, for workers, labourers, students or just for general strength factors. First overhead pressing was only used with dumbbells, as the barbell was not created until the closing period towards the 1900s. Overhead pressing with dumbbells was even used regularly in schools to try and get the students more focused. After dumbbells came the creation of the barbell and along came the military press! The military press has been around for decades and was widely used by the army soldiers, hence the name “military press”, but also this overhead press became very popular with Bodybuilders and Powerlifters for its strength gaining abilities. The military press has been used in many different variations over the years but the one most relevant here, is in the Olympic lift which we are going to talk about further down. After seeing the competitiveness within the Olympics of these overhead presses, a few types of overhead press have been used within the strongman sport.

About The Axle Press

The axle press is a distant cousin of an Olympic lift – the clean and jerk. The strongman must lift the axle from the floor to overhead. Unlike Olympic lifting, pretty much anything goes. As long as the competitor gets the axle from A to B it is usually accepted.

Olympic lifters must “clean” the weight in one move to shoulder height. Although some strongmen adopt this approach too, it is a lot more difficult with an axle because the bar is much thicker. This makes gripping the bar during the clean very difficult. The main methods of “cleaning” the weight are:

Full clean: As per Olympic lifters this involves pulling the axle from the floor to shoulder height in one swift movement.
Hitler clean: This usually involves using a mixed grip (overhand and underhand) to overcome the thickness of the axle, pulling to shoulder height in one move and then switching back to a conventional grip in a manoeuvre similar to a Nazi salute (hence the name!)
Continental clean: This involves using the stomach or belt as a mid-way resting point before pulling the axle up to shoulder height.

Once the axle is at shoulder height the strongman has a number of options as to how they can get the weight overhead:

Strict press: This involves pressing the axle overhead with pure shoulder strength. There is no leg involvement in this lift, so this is usually very difficult.
Push press: The athlete will dip with their legs before exploding upwards, combining the strength of their legs and their shoulders to get the weight overhead. This is the most popular way to lift overhead in strongman.
Jerk: This is similar to the push press but instead the strongman will perform a double-dip, in a similar fashion to an Olympic lifter. This should theoretically allow the maximum weight to be pressed overhead but this becomes very heavily dependent on technique and the awkwardness of strongman’s form, the equipment that is used can also limit its benefits.

There are many different overhead press disciplines in Strongman, but one of the most difficult is certainly the Giant Axle Press. Lifting a huge 200+kg bar overhead is hard enough, but what makes the Giant Axle Press so insane, is that the bar is about as thick in diameter as a can of Coca Cola! This gives the athletes a real challenge, requiring incredible grip strength just to lift the bar up onto their chests.

Training for the Axle Press: Training for the axle press can be done within a gym or outdoors, there is no limits to where you can practice the Axle Press (as long as you have room!). To train, all you need is a barbell and some weights. With an original Axle barbell, you can increase your grip strength and get used to the way in which the professionals train, but if you only have a normal sized barbell you can still practice the movement. This press is fairly easy to practice. The best way is in stages;
The Pull – This is your first stage from the floor up, preparing to rack and change hand positions if needed;
The Rack – This is the point where you can change grip and get ready for the press;
The Press – This is the most vital point, where you need the power and technique to raise the bar overhead.
With this exercise “Building Your Clean” is the most important part, this heavy weight is lifted not only by strength and power but mostly technique and determination. Be smart with your lifts, keep tight, keep working on your technique and if you are using a weight belt…never use it as a rest point!


Zydrunas Savickas also known as “Big Z” held the axle press world record with a huge 215kg. This was the set record from 2010 and although many came close, this record stayed at the top for 7years. That’s considerably more weight than the average gym-goer could lift from the floor, let alone lift over their head.

In 2017 Eddie Hall managed to steal the world title with a press of 216kg. Hafthor Julius Bjornsson also known as “Thor” tried to compete with these two giants in an attempt for the world record, but he failed with his top press being 206kg. This is still impressive knowing that he was the closest competitor to Eddie and Zydrunas!

Date of Event: Name of World Record Holder: Location of Event: Record Weight:
Apr 1st 2017 Eddie Hall Europe’s strongest man, First Direct Arena, Leeds 216Kg
Oct 24th 2010 Zydrunas Savickas (Big Z) Giants Live Istanbul, KüçükÇiftlik Park 215Kg
Apr 1st 2017 Hafthor Julius Bjornsson (Thor) Europe’s strongest man, First Direct Arena, Leeds 206Kg


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