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Overhead Press Stalled, Options?

Overhead work has always been difficult from me, I had surgery on both my shoulders a few years ago to remedy dislocation and subluxation issues I had been having. It has taken a long time to get any stability and strength back.

I have been OH pressing quite regularly this year, and have been doing so twice a week over the course of the last few months. My 1RM is 50kg (tested in about January), I am currently running a 5x5 linear progression rep scheme for pressing but continually stall at 45kg. I have reset twice, and have just had my second successive session failing at 45kg today, repping 3, 4, 2, 0, 0.

All my other lifts have been steadily increasing, and none of them have required resetting at all yet. I am wondering whether it may be time to try something different, whether it be a push press cycle, or dropping barbell press altogether for a while, focusing on dumbbell pressing and overall shoulder development, to increase strength and muscle mass, before returning to the barbell for another go. Maybe I could even switch to Z Press for a while.

Any advice/experiences/recommendations would be appreciated.

Are you only advancing the weight AFTER you have hit all 5 reps for all 5 sets? It’s strange to see 3,4,2,0,0… if the session prior you hit 5,5,5,5,5 on a weight that was 2.5 lbs less. You should only increase weight when you are hitting all 5 reps, all 5 sets.

[quote]SevenDragons wrote:
Are you only advancing the weight AFTER you have hit all 5 reps for all 5 sets? It’s strange to see 3,4,2,0,0… if the session prior you hit 5,5,5,5,5 on a weight that was 2.5 lbs less. You should only increase weight when you are hitting all 5 reps, all 5 sets.

[/quote]

Yep, only increasing after hitting all 5 for 5. I had peviously failed 3 times at 42.5kg, reset and worked my way back up. So last Friday I hit 42.5kg for 5x5, after narrowly missing it on the Monday. This Monday I increased to 45kg (so a 2.5kg increase, not lbs), missed reps, and then the same today. Overall fatigue may have been an issue given that it was at the end of the training week, but it feels more like a physical wall.

  1. Can you get plates to only increase 2.5 lbs? Smaller jumps for the OHP is normal.

  2. That said, you are still at low numbers on the OHP, so a 5 lb increase shouldn’t result in such a glaring failure after hitting the previous 5x5. (More reasonable might be something like 5,4,4,3,3 for example)

Sounds like a recovery problem.

Are you getting 200g protein, 3500+ calories? Programs of the 5x5, Starting Strength designs can be very demanding on short term recovery. You need to have your eating and sleeping in order.

You need to either find smaller plates - fractionals are not expensive and fit in a gym bag - or find a different way of progressing.

For example:

45kg - 5x5
45kg - 5x6
47.5kg - 5x5

or

45kg - 5x5
47.5kg - 5x3
47.5 - 5x5

or some such…

Personally, I respond better to sets of 3 on OHP. That being said, even 3x5 brought me up to 150 lbs… so you could try lower reps and more sets if it fits into your program.

You many want to throw up a video just to make sure it’s not a form issue.

[quote]1 Man Island wrote:
Personally, I respond better to sets of 3 on OHP. That being said, even 3x5 brought me up to 150 lbs… so you could try lower reps and more sets if it fits into your program.

You many want to throw up a video just to make sure it’s not a form issue.[/quote]

I will do so on Monday and post it. There is quite probably a glaring form issue that I don’t even know about.

[quote]tsantos wrote:
You need to either find smaller plates - fractionals are not expensive and fit in a gym bag - or find a different way of progressing.

For example:

45kg - 5x5
45kg - 5x6
47.5kg - 5x5

or

45kg - 5x5
47.5kg - 5x3
47.5 - 5x5

or some such…[/quote]

I will look at both those option, a couple of 0.5kg plates may be the best way to go. Will certianly look at altering the rep scheme, 5x3 progressing to 5x5 looks quite good.

You might want to consider a double-progression system that has you increasing the number of reps you can do with a certain weight before progressing in weight. A simple way to do this would be to do 3 sets with a rep range of something like 3-6 reps. Lets say that in week one you’re able to do get 1x6, 1x5, 1x3 with a particular weight (lets say 50 kg). Since you don’t complete all 6 reps for all three sets, you’d keep that weight for the next workout. So in the next workout you might get 2x6 and 1x5 with 50 kg. That is progress. When you’re able to complete 3x6 with 50 kg, then you can add weight and start the process over again.

Another way to implement a double-progression system would be to use a “+” set. For instance, your workout might be 2x5 and 1x5+ with a particular weight. On the last set you would complete as many reps as possible. Like with a standard 5x5, you’d still deload when you’re unable to get 5 reps with a particular weight.

The difference here is that because you’re implementing a “+” set, you’re able to set and break rep-PRs even with your deloaded weight. For instance, maybe you start with 45 kg and get 7 reps on your plus set. By the time you get to 60 kg, you may miss your 5 reps and need to deload back to 45 kg. But this second time through at 45 kg, you might be able to get 9 reps – 2 reps more than you got before.

In my mind this is superior to just dropping the weight down and ramping back up with the same sets and reps that you have used before. 5/3/1 and Greyskull LP both use this kind of progression.

I’m confident that if you utilize either of these progression models along with smaller jumps in weight you’ll be able to see progress. If not not, recovery is very likely your issue.

I second the mention of 5/3/1’s progression. I don’t see much value in attacking stalling at low reps by employing more low reps. Some variety will most likely do well, as will some assistance work.

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I second the mention of 5/3/1’s progression. I don’t see much value in attacking stalling at low reps by imploying more low reps. Some variety will most likely do well, as will some assistance work.[/quote]

5/3/1 has my press moving again after stalling with a 5x5 scheme.

[quote]GregortheViking wrote:
All my other lifts have been steadily increasing, and none of them have required resetting at all yet. I am wondering whether it may be time to try something different, whether it be a push press cycle, or dropping barbell press altogether for a while, focusing on dumbbell pressing and overall shoulder development, to increase strength and muscle mass, before returning to the barbell for another go. Maybe I could even switch to Z Press for a while.

Any advice/experiences/recommendations would be appreciated.[/quote]
Personally I would not make any drastic changes.

Of all the lifts, the overhead press increases the slowest, so what you’re running into is pretty normal.

One of the ways you can get stronger is to accumulate volume at lower intensities than your current RM.

So lets say your current 5RM is 40k, and you’re currently trying to increase that to 45k. If you get more volume in at 40k and 42.5k, using sets of 5, that will usually drive your 5RM up. Once your 5RM is 45k, do the same with 42.5k and 45k, and get it up to 47.5. Etc.

One of the ways to accumulate volume is to use backoff sets. This lets you see how close you are to a new 5RM, and still get the volume in the same session.

After warming up with lighter weights, do a set or two near your 5RM (you might get 3 or 4 reps), then back off 2.5-5kg and do sets of 5 with that. A 5x5 isn’t a bad place to start for a backoff set, but you can increase the sets or decrease the rest times. Just work in increasing your work sets over time until you hit 5 with your top set. Then increase and repeat.

Another way to accumulate volume is to do it by waving the intensity by repeating prior sessions. So, with 5x5. 35, 37.5, 40, 37.5, 40, 42.5, 40, 42.5, 45, etc. You can do 2 steps forward, 1 step back; 3 steps forward, 2 steps back, or whatever. There’s lots of options.

The first time you get the 5x5 with a heavier weight, the reps probably aren’t going to be very clean. The next time you do those same weights, you can work to improve your form, the quality of those reps, the speed of those reps, or the rest times between. Eventually you will “own” a certain weight for a 5x5, and that also means you’re stronger.

Yet another way to accumulate volume is with the “+” sets that TrevorLPT mentioned. When you deload, just work on setting rep PRs at the lighter weights.

In the end it’s these are all pretty much the same idea: you push forward and test out a new weight, and then do more or less work with lower weight until you can do more next time. There’s a bit more going on with 5/3/1, but it, too, follows this same principle.

I also recommend 2.5kg jumps instead of 5kg jumps… but 5kg can work. The amount of time and work it takes to add 5kg to your PR is going to be about the same, no matter how you do it. The biggest difference is that it’s nice to hit a new 5x5 PR sooner, since the next weight up is closer.

I just took a look through your log. I saw you already do make 2.5kg jumps.

The fact that you went from 2 to 3 reps on your first set of 45 actually is an improvement. Sometimes an improvement to the first set can lead to reduced performance for the rest of the sets. That’s fine.

If you want to stick basically with what you’re doing, yet another way to approach it is something like this:

45 x 3, 3, 2, 1, 1
45 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 1
45 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3
45 x 4, 3, 2, 3, 3
up to
45 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 5

Basically, just try to do the weight you did for the first set for all 5 sets. So, if you hit 3, do 3 (and no more than 3) on subsequent sets. Keep doing that until you hit 5x3, then work up to 5x4, then 5x5.

However, after you did this: “45 x 3, 4, 2, 0”, I would have dropped down to 42.5 or 40 and done a few sets of 5, instead of retrying 45. My guess is that the 3 took a lot out of you (up from 2, last time), and the 4 took even more out of you, that another couple sets was just out of the question. Or it could have just been a bad day.

Once you fail at a weight, there’s no need to reinforce the failure. Just get some quality work in and try again next time. A good chunk of this is psychological; the less time you spend failing and thinking about failing, the less it will mess with your training. Some people don’t let it bother them, but some people do.

I’m stalled in the same way. I can do 5 x 130, but cant do 1 x 135. I think it is a technique breakdown, but my pro strongman pal recommended these. It helps recruit all those muscles for the transition from the rack position to pushing the head through. I just did them for the first time this week, a whole new variety of sore, but everything he’s suggested has worked, so I’ll do them.
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OHP will only go so far in comparison with other compound movements. It will stall before the other movements of the program. Sorry, but that is a fact. Every week (seems that way to me) someone asks a question about it.

Don’t fret it. Getting 5 lbs for the press for every 10 lbs of squat indefinitely will not happen.

Presses were taken out of the Olympics in the '60. On that note, Bill Starr has a good article on that subject and what happened to it. I read it years ago (Ironman magazine) and it was quite a good read. It introduced me to the “Olympic Press”.

The reason for the above is that the best advice I ever read, was from an old time Olympic Press lifter from way back (cannot remember his name). He just stopped and did 2-4 weeks of higher reps and isolation movements to give his shoulders a break (In those days, they did the snatch, clean and press at the Olympics). He would then come back, refreshed. The rest of his lifts had progressed as planned.

Or, follow the program and start Madcow or Texas Method…

x3 on giving 5/3/1 a run, also get a good amount of direct tricep work in for assistance -band pressdowns etc

If I had surgery on both my shoulders I wouldn’t be Barbell Overhead Pressing at all.
Plenty of better ways to add muscle to shoulders.
Check out threads by The Mighty Stu and Zraw. They both have impressive muscular shoulders and both do very little overhead pressing.

40kg, it is a bit low to run 5/3/1? Not saying that it doesn’t work as it help me go from 70kg x 1 to 76 kg x 2 in 9 months. Still a success in my case as it have been stalled for like a year at 70kg.

[quote]anhlong1122 wrote:
40kg, it is a bit low to run 5/3/1? Not saying that it doesn’t work as it help me go from 70kg x 1 to 76 kg x 2 in 9 months. Still a success in my case as it have been stalled for like a year at 70kg.[/quote]

How strong should someone be before running 5/3/1?

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]anhlong1122 wrote:
40kg, it is a bit low to run 5/3/1? Not saying that it doesn’t work as it help me go from 70kg x 1 to 76 kg x 2 in 9 months. Still a success in my case as it have been stalled for like a year at 70kg.[/quote]

How strong should someone be before running 5/3/1?[/quote]

When I started running 531 my OHP was probably 85 lbs at best due to bad shoulders. I’m at 135lbs now, and that came up quickly. The only thing I’d say with 531 for beginners is that overall, “newbie gains” will probably outpace the proscribed +5lbs or +10lbs per month.