What is the Viking Press?

B.O.S viking press with cullen

The viking press is a popular exercise in the sport of strongman that mainly works your shoulders and triceps. While it’s less commonly seen outside of strongman competitions, almost every lifter can benefit from it in some way to build upper body muscle or strength. The honest truth is, we’re not quite sure on why it’s called the “viking press”.

It’s possible that this movement, or a close variation of it, was first recorded around the time of vikings. That said, we have no historical evidence to prove that. Despite the uncertain origin of its name, the Viking press has managed to find its way into many strongman/strongwoman meets over the past couple of decades.

This includes its position as an occasional pressing event in the World’s Strongest Man competition. To learn more, check out How to Get Into Strongman. First, the viking press is a great exercise for building your shoulders and triceps. Whether you’re looking to add mass or add some definition to your upper arms, this exercise fits the bill because it’s a compound movement with a fairly large range of motion.

Second, it acts as a great replacement for the overhead press. If you find the overhead press uncomfortable for whatever reason, you might be able to sidestep it entirely with the viking press by using its different bar path and body mechanics.

Lastly, it looks damn cool. Let’s face it: there aren’t many strongman-like exercises that you can do in a typical gym without using special equipment or taking 15 minutes to step up your station. However, the viking press can be easily assembled with just three equipment pieces: a barbell, a landmine attachment, and a viking press attachment.

And if you’re really limited in your home gym funds, substitute the landmine for a tennis ball that’s been cut open slightly. Buckle up, because there’s a couple of different ways to do the viking press. To simplify things, we’ve written out the instructions for two different versions: the viking press with a landmine, and the viking press in a power rack For this set-up, you’ll need:

  • One barbell
  • One viking press attachment
  • One landmine attachment or a cut-open tennis ball
  • One power rack or a corner (if using a tennis ball)
The video below demonstrates how to do the viking press with a landmine attachment.
  1. a) Mount the landmine to a power rack and slide in your bar, or b) Jam the cut-open tennis ball onto one end of your bar, and wedge it into a corner
  2. Mount the viking press attachment onto the free end of the bar
  3. Starting with the bar on the floor, set your feet hip-width apart with toes angled slightly out
  4. Lean forward and grab the closest handles of the viking press attachment
  5. Bend your knees and stick your chest out
  6. In one smooth motion, push the floor away and reverse curl the bar up towards your shoulders
  7. Once the handles are at your shoulders, carefully adjust your grip if needed
  8. Dip your knees slightly, then push the bar forward and up at a 45 degree angle
  9. Reverse the motion under control to allow the bar to return towards your shoulders
  10. Once you’ve completed your desired amount of reps, set the bar down on the floor
For this more detailed set-up, you’ll need: The video below demonstrates how to do the viking press in a power rack. We’d like to give credit for this version to the Irish Strength Training channel on Youtube, here’s the direct link to the full video with the exact timestamp embedded below.
  1. Set up both safeties in your power rack, the closer one (where you’ll be pressing from) being slightly above shoulder height and the farther one being one hole higher
  2. Put your barbell across both safeties
  3. On the far end, add the first 5 lb weight plate then shuffle the bar inwards, so that the plate is on the inside of the power rack and braced against it
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 for the second barbell
  5. When ready, approach barbell sleeves without the plates and grab the ends of them
  6. Set your feet under the sleeve ends and push your hips forwards
  7. Stand tall to un-rack the bars
  8. Dip your knees slightly, then press the bars upwards
  9. Reverse the motion under control to allow the bar to return towards your shoulders
  10. Once you’ve completed your desired amount of reps, set the bars down on the safeties

Double dipping on the viking press is when you bend your knees a second time after the initial dip to “catch” the bar lower down with locked out elbows, and use your quads to stand the weight up. Because it shifts some of the work off your shoulders and triceps, it’s considered a technique error and it even results in a “no lift” if done in a competition.

A simple rule of thumb to apply here is that your knees can bend once at the start to initiate the drive, but they’re not allowed to dip again. The viking press isn’t well known outside of the sport of strongman, but you can still benefit from it without competing in the sport.

By picking one of the two basic set-ups listed above and aiming to lift more weight over time, you’ll be adding muscle and strength to your pressing muscles. And if you’re interested in an affordable Viking Press Attachment, just click the link below!