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Beginner Struggling with Progress on OHP

I was just looking over my log for the last two or so months, and one thing that concerns me is the lack of progress on my OHP. The exact stats and figures are all in my log here Biggest Guy in Class: A Beginner Training Log but in a nutshell, I’ve only managed to add 2.5kg/ 5lbs since I started (about 7-8 weeks), and often I can’t even add a rep workout to workout.

I’m doing a double progression system, adding 2.5kg once I hit 24 reps across 3 sets, but I keep running into a wall. At first I just tried to be patient and stick with it but I’m worried I might be doing something wrong. Everything else seems to be climbing up steadily though? Everyone says that progress for beginners should be lightning fast. Any suggestions for what I should do? If you need any more info then please ask, I’d appreciate some guidance!

Your first post mentioned a press of 120lbs (rounded). 5lbs would be an increase of 4% in 8 weeks. Have your other lifts increased 4% in those 8 weeks?

It’s most likely the case that the starting weight of your press is so low that plates are not low enough in weight for you to make proportional growth with the press that you can with other lifts. Your press is most likely progressing at the same rate as your other lifts: you just lack to ability to load the bar in a manner to express that.

If in doubt, if you are aiming to get 24 reps in 3 sets, instead of ONLY doing 3 sets and trying for more reps next time, take as many sets as necessary to hit 24 reps and THEN try to get it done in fewer sets the next week.


Apologies, I think I must have used the incorrect phrasing - the 5lb increase is on my work sets. So I’ve gone from using 35kg (77lbs) to 37.5kg (82.5lbs) for approx. 6-9 reps. My 1RM is now 60kg (132lbs).

That works out to be a 7% increase on weight for my work sets. I’ll try to do the maths with my work sets for the other lifts:
Squat 26% increase
Bench 11% increase
Deadlift 11% increase

Although my original 1RMs for the other lifts were estimates, if I do the maths, it would seem that the rate of increase for the press 1RM is roughly comparable.

@T3hPwnisher so to answer the question I think you’re getting at, proportionally speaking my press has increased roughly the same as my other lifts… maybe a bit less. Whether that “bit” is statistically significant or not, I don’t really know. But you’re basically saying that the low weight increase is just due to the press being a weaker lift by its very nature.

Ahh, clever. Actually I do have 0.5lb, 1lb and 2lb plates - so I should use those here rather than trying to add 5lbs to the weight? Add, say, 2lbs rather than 5lbs?

Very clever. I’ll try this next time. So do you think this is a better system than what I’m using now? Or is this just to use when I’ve stalled?

I wouldn’t. I imagine you’re still getting stronger even if you can’t load the bar in a way to express that. Look at variables OTHER than weight on the bar. Is bar speed improving? Are you less fatigued between sets? Etc. “Progress” occurs in many ways aside from just weight on the bar.

Not better: simply different. If your current way isn’t working, do a different way.


Thanks a bunch for the advice. I’ll try your progression system on my press and see how it goes!

Had a very quick look at your log. My 2 cents/some options:

OHP is stubborn some times just have to persevere

Yeah do a bit of direct ab work, will keep you more ‘held together’ on last reps overhead( and helps loads of other lifts)

try alternating between 2 different reps schemes say 5x5 and 4x12
do 5/31 for OHP
Totally move on to 5/3/1 Triumvirate
MOve on to Tnation program that u like look of, anything by Waterbury, Thib, Paul Carter etc

Sub out skullcrushers for pressdowns or machine dip 5x20

Every couple weeks go mental on triceps (will help all types of pressing). this is great…


I’ll second this. Weight on the bar is the easiest barometer of progress. But with the press - where 2.5kg/5lb is a big jump work out to work out you have to look at other bits.

If I were to add one thing - think about your core / bracing. I had a lot of help a few months back when my press was not moving much. And the biggest thing was core bracing. If I remember to brace my core - I’m 15/20% better at my press. Which is HUGE.

Good luck!

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The 5/3/1 “style” worked well for my press for awhile. Instead of lifting the same weights for the same reps week after week, trying to eek out tiny gains, you just give yourself 3 separate workouts to progress.

So instead of beating your head against the wall, struggling against 135(or whatever number) for 3 weeks you do workouts with 90, 120 and 105 pounds. Then you have three weeks of productive work before you need to be stronger to add weight.

Another way was the “Hepburn Method,” where you do a bunch of sets, not to failure, with moderately heavy weights. Then to progress you slowly add more and more reps, still avoiding failing. Then months later you’ve done lots of steady work and you’re stronger.


Thanks so much everyone, really appreciate the advice.

@RampantBadger yeah I’m considering moving on to a new program at some point, probably one of Coach Thib’s ‘ypertrophy plans. I’ve seen 5/3/1 and like the look of that too, so perhaps at some point will end up using it, either specifically for the press if I stall again as you and @FlatsFarmer suggested, or as a complete program. Main problem right now is I’m training at home so limited equipment - small DBs, bar/bench/rack/plates and a band or two. But I’ll keep this until I stop making progress and then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

@carlbm I definitely need to focus on the bracing more! You’re right the bar simply flies up when you’re tight through the core. Need some practice at that I think.

Hopefully I can get my OHP progress moving a little faster now!