To do the devil press, you pretty much combine a chest-to-floor burpee with a dual dumbbell snatch, but it’s more technical than meets the eye. Get it right, and you’ll torch muscle groups across your entire body and build a stronger core.
This high-intensity, full-body exercise is done using a set of the best adjustable dumbbells or kettlebells, or you could adopt the single-arm variation using one weight if you prefer to alternate. The devil press can typically be found in functional training and CrossFit workouts, not only to ramp up your heart rate and test your endurance but building strength as well.
How did it get its name? Because it’s hellish, of course. Read on for how to do the devil press with proper form, the benefits of building full-body strength, two variations to try, and common mistakes we see.
Devil press: Benefits
The strength and conditioning move is classified as a compound exercise, targeting your back, chest, arms, shoulders, core, glutes and leg muscles using a burpee and dumbbell snatch combo, even adopting the snappy hip motion used in kettlebell swings to engage the hips, core muscles and glutes.
Adding the move to your workouts will improve cardiovascular fitness, endurance, explosive power and full-body muscular strength, but you’ll need to master it properly first. Find out what happened when I did 50 devil press every day for a week.
How to do the devil press
Start with two light dumbbells and progress as you develop strength and endurance.
- Stand with both dumbbells just in front of your feet, shoulder-width apart, in a neutral grip
- Engage your core, grip both dumbbells and jump back into a high plank
- Lower to the ground between the dumbbells just like a burpee, with your chest and hips aligned
- Press back up, then jump both feet just behind and wide of the dumbbells
- Lift your chest, pull both shoulders down and keep a flat back
- Hinge forward at your hips, send your bum behind you and swing both dumbbells through your legs like a kettlebell swing
- Snap your hips forward, extend your legs and send the dumbbells upward while bending both elbows toward you
- Push the dumbbells overhead and lock both arms straight at the top
- Reverse these steps back down to swing the dumbbells through your legs, then replace them into their starting position on the ground.
Try to bring the weights down from overhead to between your legs in a fluid motion, but you could bring them back to your shoulders first — if you prefer.
Devil press: Common mistakes
The move should strengthen various muscle groups, but a few simple mistakes could lead to lower back pain and injury. Here are a few we see.
Lack of hip drive
The devil press uses the explosive hip drive, engaging your glutes and core muscles as you thrust the weights above your head. Drive movement from your core and glutes without sending all the weight into your arms. If you struggle to generate power from the hips and glutes, try a lighter set of weights and practice the movement pattern in the mirror.
Adopting an overhead press
The devil press should flow smoothly rather than as two separate moves. As you drive the weight from between your legs to above your head, avoid racking the weight onto your shoulders and pressing upwards or losing momentum.
Focus on the posterior chain muscles as you bring the weights between your legs. That means keeping a soft knee bend and not allowing the dumbbells to travel below your knees. This way, your lower back, glutes and hamstrings should be engaged rather than dumping into your back and overloading the spine.
Always remember the golden rule — compound contraction. Contract muscles simultaneously using the three Bs: back, belly and bum.
Devil press: Variations
Here are two variations to get you started.
Single-arm devil press
To do a single-arm devil press, use one weight and alternate each rep. Unilateral training is brilliant for ironing out muscular imbalances and weaknesses that could be responsible for your dominant side picking up slack.
Devil clean and jerk
To do a devil press clean and jerk, perform the move as you would with a regular devil press, but as you swing the dumbbells through your legs, bring them onto your shoulders first, landing with a soft bend in the knees.
From here, perform a push press or jerk and finish standing with the weights overhead and legs straight. You can find the push press and other overhead press variations here. But remember, this is a variation on the devil press, and you should otherwise aim to drive the weight up from between the legs.