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How Necessary is Strict Overhead Press?

Hi y’all,

So I was wondering, how necessary is strict OHP?

I’m thinking the push-press should take it’s place as my primary upper body lift. My current set-up is 531 strongman w/ a few tweaks, with an upper, lower, and events day. In my current set-up a “strict” bench/horizontal press follows overhead as supplemental work. I know the answer will vary depending on the situation, so allow me to provide a bit more info:

  • I’m pretty positive that I won’t be strict pressing in the competition (formerly max log press but changed to “mystery pressing event”). In truth, I’ll likely try to get it as close to a jerk as the implement will allow if I’m working with heavy weights.

  • I’d like to get comfortable with heavy weight overhead.

  • 5/3/1 hasn’t really worked for strict ohp for me in the past. My press actually didn’t begin moving until I started focusing on isolation movements and light mechanical drop sets in conjunction with heavy horizontal pressing.

So all of that being said, do y’all think it’s a good idea to make the switch or is there a benefit I’m just not seeing here? If switching sounds good, does strict ohp have much of a place?

Thanks in advance.

Before I begin giving input: I am sure I am weaker than you so feel free to not listen to me :smile:

What version of 5/3/1 do you use? For me my press was one of the things that progressed the best when I used the original triumvirat with fsl for 3-5 sets of 8-10. So I guess volume worked. In comparison when I did not use fsl for multiple reps my press progressed the least of the four.

I am terrible at bench pressing but for me it was the other way around. I have recently hit a bench PR after focusing only on vertical pressing for about 5 weeks.

Things you may also consider as assistance work: Z Press, stability training as done by Alpha.

If I was you I would switch to push pressing as you will most likely not perform a strict press in competition.

Hey man thanks for the input!

Well, the past I was doing the 28 week program which moved from high volume to high intensity over cycles. My OHP never progressed (and if I remember correctly my training max had to go further into the negative most months) and the I tweaked my shoulder midway so I just dropped the movement. I began doing lots of isolations as rehab and months of doing virtually no heavy pressing. Afterwich, my strict press was much stronger than ever. I kept ohp volume low b/c it usually hurt and virtually never trained it by itself. Never gave the triumvirate an honest run, though I probably should have haha. But of course now, getting the weight from A to B is the goal, so unless an exercise has carryover to the events I’d rather not waste the effort.

I saw alpha’s vids and thought they looked cool; I’ll check into the z press as well. Bet I could get away with working those into my events day.

I’m glad you think it’s a good call too.

Having a strong strict press is valuable as a strongman, as even though you won’t be required by RULE to perform a strict press in competition, you may very well find yourself by circumstance needing to perform one.

The common trend in strongman competitions is to make the overhead press event first, and technical pressers tend to like this because it means they are fresh and can really get some leg drive going. People who use more of a jerk rather than a press can really rack up some high numbers during this time, and strong push pressers can get their reps up there.

HOWEVER, a sadistic/savvy promoter may very well decide to bury the press even later in the contest, sometimes picking it as the event right AFTER a very intense leg based event. At my 5th contest, the first event was a tire squat for reps, and the next event was a press medley. Alluva sudden, it became VERY apparent who was a strong presser versus who was a good one, because lots of folks were missing lifts that they had easily hit before. The difference was that their legs were shot, they couldn’t get any power from them, and when it came time to try to press the implement out with raw strength, they had nothing.

All of that being said, I think it’s very valuable for a competitor to at least have a decent level of strict pressing strength available to them, but they should also become proficient in leg drive. When I showed up to shows my first 4 times, I had the opposite problem, and was all strict press with no leg drive. It was cool that I knew that I’d never zero, but I wasn’t getting where I could with a little technique work. The push press is a good compromise between technique and strength, but you might want to consider following it with some backoff sets of strict pressing, or having some manner of strict press as assistance work later in your programming.

Well shit. Honestly that never once crossed my mind. If the events take place in the order they’re listed on the site, the press will be the fourth out of 5 events; after a truck push/pull medley and a tire dead for reps. I’ll probably be smoked. My odd object presses have been pretty strict as of late, I’ll need to keep them as such to account for this if I want to have push press in there.

Thanks man, you may have saved me from a rather rude awakening by the hands of the savvy/sadistic organizers. Haha.

Leg drive requires that you can get a solid rack position that allows you to apply force to the implement directly through the torso without using the arms. Some implements are much easier to get leg drive on than others. An axle or bar will allow for lots of leg drive, but for a log or especially a keg you will need strong shoulders.

That said, there are lots of ways to build strong shoulders.

My strict press has increased my push press more than push pressing regularly, ironically. So Id say it is useful.

Huh, makes sense. Not that it’s the same, but when I’ve been trying neutral fat gripz dumbbell presses I initially set out with the intention of using leg drive, but because of the awkwardness of the dumbbell in a neutral rack position it never seems to go that way. So a 4th event keg press would pretty much be all shoulders. I guess I’ll really need to hammer the techniques that’ve improved my press in the past. Looks like lots of isolations and growth factor work are in the future.

Good to know man. I’ve never really trained push press with the intention of improving it. Perhaps it’s it was one of those building vs realizing things. Were you also doing other heavy pressing like bench etc to overload those muscles?

As of now I am doing incline presses with a Swiss bar (clean the bar from the floor, sit down in an incline bench and press away) and overhead pressing with an axle. My assistance work for the OH press is alternating dumbbell press, where I pick them dumbbell off from the floor, get it to my shoulder, and press. I am going for strength endurance, so I usually try to hit 20 reps per side. I am following 5/3/1 otherwise.

Nice man nice. Looks like you hit the shoulders well. My pressing event was “formerly” a max log press, so I’ll probably err on the absolute strength side unless the specifically say what the new event is.

Sounds good. Since you don’t know the event yet it might be wise to do one lift with a bar and an assistance with a dumbbell so you cover all your bases.

Yeah good call. Luckily I’ve got some fat gripz which I’ve been using every chance I get too in case it’s a thick axle. Punisher recommended a sand bag too which I’ll probably snag after the move. On that note, it’s pretty sudden but I’m moving and will be much closer to a gym w/ actual strongman equipment… stones, kegs, yokes, tires, car deadlifts; the works! Once I move and become a member of that gym, my training will likely change pretty dramatically. Though I’d have still had this pressing dilemma, so def glad it’s getting worked out now.

I can’t speak to this technique, but I know a lot of people that like it. Apparently a very effective way to get a keg overhead without needing to be super strong in the shoulders.

Dude that’s awesome! thanks for that. I’ll practice it when I get my hands on some kegs. I may need to be pretty technique-reliant in this competition.

I think the strict press is pretty important for the reasons that Pwnisher already laid out and for the fact that when it comes to repping something out as many times as possible in a minute, you may start with a lot of leg drive, but as form breaks down, it becomes more and more of 2 separate movements. A drive to get the bar moving, then a grind to complete the rep.

For the 5/3/1 approach you could also combine the two movements. Base your training max off of the strict press and complete those reps. As soon as those reps are done, you could hit 3-5 extra Push presses (without re-racking the bar).

I think for overhead stuff, technique (as in getting a good rack position and a strong core/upper back to you can use every bit of leg drive you initiate) will take you farther than just about anything though. The best exercises that have helped me with this are:
Waiter’s Walks (I use a yoke but you could easily use DBs or KB’s)
Log press with KBs suspended from bands
Overhead Squats
Z Presses

For odd objects or a keg, I think efficiency is key. For that reason, I attempt to do a hybrid snatch/pres type of movement. I have seen that Kalle Beck video and a LOT of people use that technique. But I do this:

My technique has improved a lot since then (that was 2014 Maryland’s Strongest man) But basically, I start way on top of the keg like I am laying an egg.
Then I get my breath and brace.
Then I hinge the keg up to my hips and explode them forward as if I were doing a snatch or Kettlebell Swing. That raises the keg to around my chest level.
I explode my hips hard enough that as the keg rises, I naturally lean backward and bend my knees. That sets me up for the press.
I try to keep the momentum moving and incorporate the leg drive in harmony with the rising keg. The arms start to take over and I lock out my legs while punching my head through.

It is definitely more technical, but it is more efficient and faster which will lead to higher numbers or getting to your next implement sooner.

Here is a more recent video of what i am talking about:

Skip to 1:45

Alpha, you showed me that technique for the keg press when I had one in a competition and I co-opted it the best I could. I’m definitely a big fan of that approach if you can pull it off. Much faster, which is awesome in a medley or for reps situation.

You’ve got to have strong shoulders to pull off either of those keg techniques, though. Ultimately it will come down to keeping the press going as you get to the top.

Thanks for the detailed reply! That makes a lot of sense… letting the hip snap do the lion’s share of the work. It’s a move I’ll definitely have to work on, along with the other lifts you posted; also good call on the mechanical drop set for the press. I see a routine where i can cycle through main lifts may be a necessity soon. Do you use your strongest/dominant arm as the arm that has to travel the farthest?

That’s good to know, thanks man.