Changing Your Overhead Press

press


Article written by Marshall White
Recently Pastor B posted a video of me performing a strict press on an axle bar.  In the video the bar starts at about my chin level and never goes below my chin.  I’ve had quite a few questions as to why I use such a limited range of motion when strict pressing, and yes I gladly admit I’m using less than full range of motion.  Before I get in to my explanation as to why I train my press this way I want to explain that for YEARS I was a shitty presser! I experimented with almost every method to try and get my press to go up and seems as though I was stuck on a plateau for years and years.  3 years in a row I pressed a 340lb log at Americas Strongest Man, so basically 3 years with no gain in my press.  The reason I mention this is to explain that I have not always been a good overhead presser, it has taken me a crazy amount of work and experimentation to get to where I’m currently at and the things I suggest are what I have found bust plateaus for me.  I share them because the hope is they will work for you as well.

Back to business, I train my overhead press in 3 different major movements; strict press, push press and finally jerk.  Obviously the reason I do this it to attempt to FULLY develop the press to get it as big as possible.  One area that I feel tons of athletes neglect, and I’m guilty of this as well is the strict press.  Typically an athlete can’t handle anywhere near their push press and jerk weights in a strict fashion so this is discouraging,in addition one of the most common complaints I hear from my athletes is that strict press causes them a lot of discomfort and they seem to experience more shoulder and chest injuries when strict pressing.  While these injuries are small they do cause minor set backs in their progress.  Having done a lot of strict pressing I agree with these statements.  Always being on a quest to improve my strength I realize how absolutely vital and important strict pressing is so I set out to try and figure out how to overcome these hurdles in order to fully benefit from strict pressing.



At the suggestion of a very good friend I went in to the gym one day and performed an experiment.  I loaded up a bar with over 500lbs put it in my front rack position and just using leg drive I was able to get the weight to get as high as my nose! This led me to believe that due to the tremendous amount of squatting, Olympic lifting and various other explosive training I always do the strength of my leg drive was more than adequate, it also showed me that it was most likely not necessary to train the strict press with a full range of motion.  So I set out to put this in to action.  I trained the strict press with a limited range of motion (never going much below my chin) and I was amazed at the results.  I found training the strict press like this did 2 things: 1: it allowed me to overload my strict press since I wasn’t using a full range of motion, obviously using bigger weights made my shoulders and triceps much stronger. 2. I stopped experiencing those little nagging shoulder injuries that I had dealt with for so long!!  I also saw a few other benefits that I didn’t expect,my rear delts experienced a ton of growth,I believe due to the stabilization that is required to hold the weight at chin level rather than letting it rest in the rack position.  I also started seeing more explosion in my pressing because rather than just dropping it to my shoulders to rack the bar I had to reverse the downward momentum at chin level.  The final thing I noticed was my forearms got way bigger and stronger, again because I am holding a bar at chin level rather than resting it in the rack position it forces my forearms to work even harder.  As my forearms got bigger and stronger I started seeing improvements in things like my bench, my farmer carries and even movements like pull ups!

When I implemented this style of strict pressing I saw an EXPLOSION in my pressing! In the 3 month cycle leading up to Americas Strongest Man I implemented this into my pressing program and at the contest I hit a 390lb log, that’s a 50lb PR after being flat out stuck at a weight for 3 long frustrating years. I was sold on this method.  This type of strict pressing is now a staple of my training and I am still seeing gains in my pressing.  As with a lot of things I write I know I will catch a lot of shit for this and some will say its “bro science”, but the fact is this is what’s worked for me.  Some times you just gotta say “f*#k it” and go with what works rather than what’s supposed to work, after all I want to be the strongest man in the world, not the “guy who did exactly what was supposed to work and isn’t quite as strong as he could’ve been.”

  • Anonymous

    Good write-up. Having dealt with shoulder tweaks due to pressing for a few years, I’m going to give this a shot.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04493123424195804149 Chuck

    interesting timing. i just had a similar revelation. i can get the weight above my head but my lockout is poor. i am gonna be adding a ton of overhead lockouts into my training to hopefully increase my numbers. i will also try what you’ve described.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16387412359691810782 Steve Jackson

    Thanks for this! Can you add anything for behind the neck work? I’m sure questionable mechanics are involved, but I too seem to have a recurring tweak in my upper rhomboids/lower traps area that radiates to the shoulder that flares with overhead work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13176780165091031966 Robert Stubenhofer

    I need a great “Compound Exercises” workout, not a fancy workout, I’ve recently gotten over a back issue and need to start on the iron again!