T Nation

Improving Overhead Press


I am looking for suggestions on improving my OHP. I have done 18 months on 531. I have had to reset twice now just short of bodyweight (current weight about 72kg, 1rm 70kg). Although my OHP has gone up and is higher than my bodyweight when I started 531, I have never actually managed to lift more than bodyweight, which is my major goal for this lift. Until recently my assistance has been press 5x10@70% TM on bench 5,3,1 days, and bench 5x10@70% on press days.

At some points I was also doing joker sets to a 1rm, but I have dropped these in the last 6 months. In the last couple of cycles I have done a first set last on press days, followed by 3x 8-10 incline bench and 3 x 10 dips. I do 3x 5-7 standing DB press and 3x strict HSPU sets (about 5-7 reps) on bench day. Obviously the usual pull ups/rows also.

I don't use the false grip and I don't use a belt/wraps ever (not negotiable- I want this goal on the strength of my own shoulders and core with a "normal" grip), but otherwise I have followed the other tips in the FAQ in Jim's book. I have tried cutting out conditioning entirely and doing a moderate amount of short (10 mins or less) hard conditioning- makes a difference to how I feel, but not much difference to the actual numbers I can post. I suspect there is no magic exercise (? more volume ? less volume ? partial reps), but if someone can give me a tip that can push me over the line I would be grateful.


Press twice a week. One day is your strength day with the barbell, the other is more of a volume day with dumbbells, using sets of 5 to 8 or so. What I am doing now is following my strength sets with 1 to 3 sets of AMAP with a lightweight (say 65% 1RM). My strict press max (with an axle) is around 200lbs, with a push it is about 250. I hit 160 for 10 with a log last week.


Here’s a list that should help you out

  1. Utilize the 5/3 Method (5 cycles forward, 3 back) Very important for the OH Press IMO
  2. It it’s more volume you are after, look at Spinal Tap from Beyond 5/3/1
  3. Eat for performance. Weight gain affects pressing strength
  4. Continue to improve technique (Spinal Tap helps with this since you are using more volume with heavier weights)

I’m not sure why you are so against a false grip, belt and wrist wraps. It’s still considered raw and you still have to decent strength levels regardless of whether you use these things. False grip help keeps the bar path straighter. Belts and wrist wraps are just support tools. You still have to have a strong core, shoulders, back and triceps to have a decent press. Also Weightlifting Shoes have a surprising affect on OH Presses as well. Putting a belt on and wrist wraps will not add 20 pounds to your press but if you are that set on not using those tools then go for it. These are just my experiences. Good job on getting a BW Press!!


[quote]BenJman wrote:
I don’t use the false grip and I don’t use a belt/wraps ever (not negotiable- I want this goal on the strength of my own shoulders and core with a “normal” grip) [/quote]

Would you be willing to train with these tools so that you can press MORE than your bodyweight with them? I feel like, using that approach, you’ll put yourself in a great position so that you can press your bodyweight without them.

  1. Get stronger in the squat and deadlift.
  2. Add muscle - “athlete the lower, muscle the upper”. This takes time, patience and eating.
  3. Get stronger arms - chins, dips and curls.
  4. Improve midsection - back raises, leg raises
  5. Get a stronger upper back - rows, rows and more rows.
  6. Keep shoulders healthy - curls, band pull aparts, rear raises, face pulls

Strength takes time and the stronger you get, the harder it gets.


Thanks for the tips. I will try and remember to post here when (not if!) I get there.