The classic Sots Press is a behind-the-neck press with a snatch (very wide) grip in the bottom position of a squat with flat heels. It is an assistance exercise popularized by Russian weightlifters to increase the ability to stabilize the barbell in the bottom position of the full snatch.
It is named after Russian weightlifter Victor Sots who was known to use 170kg.
The classic Sots Press has a carryover to weightlifting. I primarily use a modified version of it for a different purpose. This modified version of the Sots Press is a behind-the-neck press in the bottom position of the squat with a shoulder width grip and heels 15cm elevated.
The purpose of the Modified Sots Press
The purpose of the Modified Sots Press is to improve extension of the thoracic spine. Improving the thoracic extension is a challenge to basically every single client and athlete I see. And I use a hierarchy of exercises to continuously improve thoracic extension through training. And the Modified Sots Press is in the mid-range of that hierarchy
While mobility drills for the same purpose use up a lot of time with minimal sustainable progress and manual therapy and chiropractic adjusting being great yet often not available, the Modified Sots Press forces the thoracic spine to extend and the load teaches the system to maintain this gain longer
The mechanics of the Modified Sots Press
The mechanics are what makes this variation great. Technically all behind-the-neck press variation will improve the thoracic extension to some degree. Still compensating for the lack of thoracic extension by lumbar extension is very common. When I put someone in the bottom of the squat, the high level of flexion in the hip will eliminate the ability to compensate with lumbar extension and therefore force the thoracic spine to extend
The highly elevated heels will eliminate the ankle mobility as a factor. Can this done with flat heels, too? Yes. Yet, outstanding mobility in ankles and thoracic are needed to do so. Which almost no one has. So I eliminate the ankle from the equation and fully focus on the improvement of the thoracic extension with this variation of the Sots Press.
A video of the Modified Sots Press
The video shows my training partner Manuel Exner during a training session at the YPSI with 60kg for 6 repetitions. His current PB is 85kg for 2 repetitions.
Where to put the Modified Sots Press in a program
Depending on the individual strength level the Modified Sots Press can be put at any point in the program. I often use it in the A series for more advanced clients and athletes to improve maximal strength and functional hypertrophy of the shoulder girdle in the most optimal posture available. Compared to when I introduce the Modified Sots Press the a beginner client where its put either in the B or C series of a program to primarily focus in improving thoracic extension.
Two example programs using the Modified Sots Press
Here are two programs that put the Modified Sots Press in different position of the program.
An example programs to primarily improve thoracic extension
A1 30° DB Incline Press, neutral, 5 sets of 6-8 reps, 4010 Tempo, 120s rest
A2 Pullup, close, neutral, paused, 5 sets of 1-3 reps, 4012 Tempo, 120s rest
B1 Modified Sots Press, 4 sets of 6-8 reps, 4010 Tempo, 120s rest
B2 Seated Rope Row, to neck, pronated, 4 sets of 6-8 reps, 3013 Tempo, 120s rest
C 45° DB Comerford Curl, supinated, 3 sets of 8-10 reps, 3010 Tempo, 180s rest
An example programs to primarily increase Functional Hypertrophy
A1 Modified Sots Press, 6 sets of 6,6,4,4,2,6 reps, 4010 Tempo, 120s rest
A2 Pullup, pronated, mid grip, 4 sets of 2-4 reps, 4010 Tempo, 120s rest
B1 Dips with Fatgripz, 4 sets of 6-8 reps, 3010 Tempo, 120s rest
B2 45° Prone Lateral raise with external rotation, 4 sets of 6-8 reps, 2012 Tempo, 120s rest
The Microperiodization System for both programs is „working up to one heavy set“.
The Modified Sots Press is an excellent exercise to improve posture and muscular balance while improving strength and functional hypertrophy. Its a staple of my programming as it targets one of the statistically most common structural weak links of the clients and athletes I see.
The ability to use high loads with proper form in the Modified Sots Press is an excellent indicator for the health and strength of the shoulder girdle.
All the Best incorporating the Modified Sots Press in your program!
Picture: Manuel Exner at the mid point of a repetition of the Modified Sots Press.