Overhead pressing help!

I have gotten my standing overhead barbell press up to 195lbs for one rep with no help from a push pressing type motion or anything. I usually do a power clean to press but I have started lately trying to work on my pressing ability in strict form.

I would like to get up to 240 (my body weight) by July or August. And then start working on doing reps. What kind of assistance type work can I do to help me get the 240 up there? I don’t use a belt, wraps or even chalk. Would you say it’s about time I start using that stuff (I asked a weight belt question a few weeks back if you remember)?

I am also going to post my routine if anybody has some time hit me up with some feed back. thanks.

power clean to press
Bent over barbell rows
Leg lifts for abs

Oly Full Squat
(speed) Light romanian deadlifts
weighted decline sit ups
Dumbbell flat benchpress

Push ups
Alternating dumbbell overhead pressing
(i typically do these in the 50%-60%max range and leave the real heavy lifting on mondays for overheads)
Regular situps
Poly jumps with 5lbs dumbbells

let me know what you guys think. thanks for your time!

“I would like to get up to 240 (my body weight) by July or August. And then start working on doing reps”, you mostly do singles? or you meant get your 1rm to 240 then get reps at 240?

how long did it take you to get to 190?

alot of power rack work might help, lockouts/bottom position/anywhere in between and also heavy incline work. also doing them right off the pins is great. my overhead pressing sucks but this style of training really blew it up. as for the db’s you do, you do alternating, i find i can do way more alternating than together… i’d definitly mix in doing both hands at same time with those db’s, because that really mimics your barbell press more than alternating.

also, ya doing multiple reps on standing ohp can get funky, sometimes you just stick your hips out and bam tweak your back. so the belt might be a good idea if you ever get any ofthose feelings.

just my 2 cents, cya

Well I find that press only goes up when you press a lot. dips help a bit, bench doesn’t much, maybe inclines might

Tricep work helps I guess. Need a lot of explosive starting strength to punch it off the chest and through the sticking point.

anyway here is what Keith Wassung wrote on this

I wanted to pass along some notes and tips on training the overhead press that I have collected over the years.

-There is often a debate between seated or standing presses, I say do both. If you do them standing, use a staggered foot stance, ie. your dominant foot about 6 inches in front of the other foot, almost like a boxers stance. If you do them seated, ensure your back is solidly supported and your are able to brace your feet against a solid object. I hate most seated press units where the uprights are behind you. I like having the bar on uprights just in front of me, so that I can lean forward, grip the bar and lean back. I often use a power rack for this and simply put the pins about 1/2inch below my normal starting position–then I can get slump just a bit, get the bar position, and then begin the presses.

-You have to move the bar fast and explosive. Though I have never done them ( theoretical advice approaching) I would thinkl that doing overhead speed work, ala, westside might be in order. You might also want to incorporate some rack jerks as well as they are done with a lot of speed. I also like to occasionally do “hise shrugs” with the bar held in front, just like a front squat. The ROM is only about 2 inches, but I find this a valuable exercise.

-A fantastic exercise for improving the press is what I call Partial Push Presses. Get in the power rack and push press the bar to just above the head, hold it there for one second, then lower it to a 4-count. repeat for about 6 reps. You should get to where you are doing your best 1RM on a regular overhead press for about 5-6 reps. This is the toughest upper body exercise I have ever done–it is beyond brutual, but well worth it. Do this one after regular presses.

-Use the power rack to do partials and holds. You can do what Anthony Ditillo used to do and press from start to eyes, or start to forehead, low reps, multiple sets. control the weight. For holds, you will need a second set of pins ( and I have never seen a commercial gym that had a second set of pins for their power rack, so you may want to keep a set handy in your car/truck) Place the second set of pins right at your sticking point and elevate the bar to the pin and then HOLD it tight against the pin for 8-10 seconds, then repeat for desired number of reps. You actually need to focus on driving the bar THROUGH the pin for the 8-10 seconds
This will humble you as well.

-70 degree incline presses. Another valuable movement that works a lot of the same areas as the overhead press.

-Keep your shoulders healthy, back in the 80’s, I knew nothing about rotator cuff work and I am paying the price for it now–fortunately, I have been doing much more RC work and shoulder stretching in the past 3 years and have made major improvements. One of my favorite shoulder/flexibility exercises is to do “windmills”, lie on a flat bench with a 5lb plate in each hand and do a movement similar to a backstroke.

Pressing big weights is a real kick and its rare to see in most gyms. Many years ago, I was in the Golds Gym in Santa Monica, dressed in street clothes, etc. and we were wandering around, watching all of the bodybuilders train. We came to a seated press unit and my friends coaxed me to press some weights on it. I started warming up and as I added weight, I began drawing on-lookers. My top set was 315x4 reps and I had a crowed-people were freaking out–which goes to show you that all of the magazines that talk about bodybuilders routinely using 300+lbs for 8-10 reps in their training is obvsiously b.s.

I hope that helps and any other comments, notes and tips are appreciated. I have kept a training journal for 25 years and it includes hundreds of pages of notes about training, etc. and there are many notes in my journal that have come from the training posts I read on here.


25 years journal, man that rox.

It’s a f**king miracle that you were able to post 200lb. over head squat with that feeble composite of a routine.

Please, Please… do yourself a favor and read all of Dave Tates articles in the t-mag archives along with Louie Simmons articles (deepsquatter.com)


I achieved great results on my overhead press by training it three to four times per week. I would do one realy heavy day (up to a single or double), one speed day, and one or two moderate days with sets of five. This may seem like a ton of volume, but I think the shoulders can handle a lot-- at least mine did (and I have heard old russian olympic weightlifters used to train the overhead press up to 6 days a week when it was one of the competition lifts). Also, I found dumbell presses, pushpress, and high incline presses to be great assistance exercises (you will not be able to do much or any bench work if oyu are pressing as much as i suggest). Also, as has already been mentioned, make sure to do some rear delt work and lat pulldowns to maintain muscular balance.

coolcolj…thanks alot - that was great. always there with the advice. the msu spreadsheet you linked me up with is awesome!

mr. alessi…I never said anything about an overhead squat. However I will take your advice and read those articles. By the way your meltdown programs have helped me a GREAT deal in the past.

I am here to learn just like everyone else.


Oh and my overhead press started off somewhat high at 155 about a month ago. This is all new to me considering before this change in program, I was training purely for boxing. I had experimented with certain lifts like deadlifts, goodmornings and power cleans to help me excel…I never really stuck with it though because after a few weeks my joints would ache that much more after sparring. This however is no longer a concern since I am done with boxing (I recently learned I have a damaged ulnar nerve and a damaged median nerve in my right due to the impact of the punches).

Once again thanks. I’ll send a picture in if I get to my goal. shake it ease.

You’ve gotten some good advice here. I would second the suggestion to add push presses. I gained lots of overhead strength when I started doing these. Push explosively and then lower the weight down slowly. Working on triceps usually helps any pressing move.

FWIW, I think Alessi was out of line. Your routine was built around good, compound exercises. Just because it didn’t involve any sissy isolation moves doesn’t make it feeble. And results speak for themselves - your “feeble” routine took your overhead press from 155 to 195.

Lotta good advice. Make sure your core (deadlifts/abs) and upper back (chins) are real strong, you’ll have a more stable base to push off of. You can’t shoot a cannot from a canoe

lol…you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe…that’s hilarious.

I just ordered wrist straps, chalk and a weight belt from elite. I am not going to use the weight belt right away though - I’ll wait till I start feeling my lower back to actually be taxed (and get done reading those articles - I know the basics of pushing against the belt with the abs - now I gotta practice it) . I may as well fire up my stabilizers while I can right?

I just ordered the book on Paul Anderson that is put out by ironmind. That is my current inspiration by far - I am not exactly into the religious aspect but still, I find it rather inspiring.

One thing I noticed, this is kinda off topic, I can’t do a normal pull up without it killing my elbows. Now I try to stay away from machines as much as I can so I am looking for an alternative to lat pull downs. Would ct’s macgyver pull up off a barbell and bench be a suitable replacement?

Just out of curiosity…does anyone here know if the weightlifters of old like Paul Anderson did things like pull ups? well I guess I will find out on my own shortly…

-Improve the strength of your abs…with heavy exercises -Full Contact Twist, Saxon Side Bends, weighted situps, ect.

-Make sure you are “SET” before starting. ABS tight, feet anchored to the ground…take your toes and “claw” the ground, as if you were a bird.

-Take a breath, then let it out slowly as you press, you should let out the last burst at the top of the movement. You should let it out with a sssssssss sound, rather than blowing it all out.

-Your head should move in an almost “S-like” movement. Back as the bar comes off the shoulders, then push the head forward into the “hole” thats created.

-Do push presses.

-Do lock outs and partials if necessary.

-Strengthen your triceps…Personally, I like close grip inclines, HEAVY!!! In addition to the presses.

-Although it is a slower movement than than the push press, you should still be applying MAX. force to the bar the whole way thru.

-Treat the movement with the same respect you would a Dead lift or Squat.

-In addition to the ab work, follow the weakest link principle (no, not the TV Show). Strengthen your abs, low back, traps, shoulders, tri’s, and legs.

-When the big day comes, push that motherfucker like your life depended on it.

power clean to press
Bent over barbell rows
Leg lifts for abs”

-If you take the Press from the rack, you will be able to do more.

Oly Full Squat
(speed) Light romanian deadlifts
weighted decline sit ups
Dumbbell flat benchpress

-Just wondering, why the “speed” RDL’s? I think these should be done heavily…its a great movement.
The DB bench is a great exercise, but is it improving your Press? I would replace that with a Press-related exercise. Either Push Presses or lockouts. Experiment.

Push ups
Alternating dumbbell overhead pressing
(i typically do these in the 50%-60%max range and leave the real heavy lifting on mondays for overheads)
Regular situps
Poly jumps with 5lbs dumbbells

-Good job with the DL’s. I would suggest dropping the push ups in favor for some CG Incline…if recovery is an issue, you could focus a bit more on speed…it’s your call, you know your body better than I do. If you want to keep the DB presses, I’d say either make the Push Presses and focus on speed or keep them as presses and go a bit more in the medium range (75%ish)
Work your obliques hard rather than regular sit ups.

-I would also consider adding Front Squats to your routine. Possibly on Monday. You’ll find these will help your push presses and presses (and it’s good if you ever move fromt he Pwr. Clean to a Oly Clean).

The biggest problem with tons of overhead pressing is keeping your shoulders healthy. Watch the volume and do all the work for the RC you can think of. I would stay away from 1RM in the overhead press.

MiketheBear: I agree with what you said about Don Alessi, but to give him credit, that doesn’t sound like his typical mannerism. Maybe he was having a bad day. However, he was not advising him to use isolation exercises as you suggested. If you reread his post, he was advising him to follow a conjugated periodisation format ala Louie Simmons.
BeAman: I’d like to see Anderson do a pull-up. I don’t think he’d be able to.

pretty hard to do a 1RM on a press, because you can usually do a 2nd rep because of the stretch reflex of the lowering after the first rep :slight_smile:

The first rep is harder because its started froma static start.

I absolutely love overhead work. My best was 240 @ 218.( push press) I fried my lower back though when I got it. Here is the routine that worked best for me. I used
3 sets of 4 to build a little base. once I got to 160 I added a set of PP with about 20-30 more pounds. Did bradford presses as a downset with like 115. As I trained for a PP max, I went to 1 strict set and 2 PP. I never trained off the bar just changed grips a little and made sure I went down to my chest with every rep. I used to hate the push press but now a like it as an explosive movement.

Maybe an idea, maybe not

I don’t really care if it was an insult or what…alessi knows his shit so when he says something I listen. But thanks for stickin’ up for me in any case. However I think he read what I typed wrong and took it as an “over head squat” rather than an over head press. In fact I am going to be in Buffalo with my band on april 17th maybe I can pop my head and just say what’s up when I am there…

The push ups I do are mainly for recovery. nothing fancy - I do three sets of 10 with a resistance band.

The speed rdl’s oddly enough help me in a speed sense getting heavy deadlifts off the floor. Gives me more of a “pop” (no not literally) when I do them quick rather than slow and heavy.

The deadlifts I do are slow and heavy.

I used the dumbbell presses as recovery as well since they were typically light rarely going over 65 pounds in each hand (also a 3X10 rep scheme). But I think I’ll take your advice and definetly switch those for the push press.

The db bench press I do is more for vanity than anything really. I dont have much muscle on my chest but it’s already 50" around. I have a huge rib cage.

What exactly is a bradford press? I typed it in the search engone and didn’t see anything about it.

Where did you search? The forums? This came up right away from searching the mag:

found it…thanks. i probably typed it wrong.

I changed my routine a bit using the advice I was given. Tell me what you think.

From my notes


Dumbbell Standing Side Bends
5x5 - 55lbs

Decline Situps
4x15 - body weight - making sure I contract my abs and breathe correctly

Incline Bench - Barbell
1x5 135lbs
1X5 185lbs
1X3 225lbs
1x1 245lbs
1x1 245lbs
1x1 245lbs - missed
2x5 185lbs

Not used to incline benching - felt really weak.

Hack Squat/Shrug compound
1x5 135lbs
1x5 225lbs
1x3 285lbs
1x1 315lbs
1x1 315lbs
1x1 335lbs
Last set started slipping - Time to start using chalk.

Lat Pull Down
2x20 - 80lbs


Decline Sit Ups - Bodyweight only - Relearning correct technique.
Side Bends
3x10 - 55lbs

Power Clean to Slow Controlled Press
1x3 - 135lbs
1x2 - 185lbs
1x2 - 205lbs
1x1 - 210lbs - Couldn’t press.

Push Ups
Leg position varied Wide, Medium and Narrow with resistance band.

Box Squats
1x5 135lbs
1x5 225lbs
1x4 275lbs
1x2 315lbs
1x1 385lbs
1x5 225lbs

I did the pull up sbetween my squat sets. Two weeks ago I couldnt do a single pull up. An now I can. Weird.

Pull Ups - Bodyweight

Back ext.
1x10 body weight
1x10 45lb plate
1x10 45lb plate

Side Bends
5x5- 65lbs

Push Press
1X5 135lbs
1x5 135lbs
1x2 185lbs
1x2 205lbs
1x1 225lbs
Concentrated on Bar Speed
Shouldn’t have done the 225lbs - Slow and Awkward.

Z. Good Mornings
1x5 135
1x5 185
1x3 185
1x2 185
1x10 Empty Bar
Went for speed - Kept bar light - still learing correct technique.

What do you guys think? I took out the RDL’s and Alternating Dumbbell Pressing. It’s only been a week but I feel that this is a more solid routine to follow.

For my grip work I have been doing

flat faced plate pinching
(as per john brookfield) after workouts
1X2 - each hand
1X2 - each hand
So far I can pinch two 35’s together with my right for one rep (was only able to do it twice though - It was more like a “hmm I wonder if I can” type situation) - but not my left. I usually do reps with 25’s. maybe now that I have chalk I can be more consistent.

C.o.C grippers - alternating hands
1x10 - trainers
1x5 - #1
1x2 - #2
Static Hold with number one usually ends it for me. Is it cheating to use chalk with c.o.c?
-alternates weekly-
Dumbbell Static Holds - Basically I just grab the heaviest dumbbells I can Pick up and hold them for as long I can.
I do this every other week.

Ironmind’s claw curls to condition my forefinger and pinky at the same time
1x5 - 10lbs
1x5 - 15lbs
1x5 - 22lbs
1x3 - 27.5lbs

I really want to add Thick Barbell work to my routine (thick bar cleans - hack squats sound really tempting to try) but I can’t afford at the moment. I am saving up to buy a good one.
Should I go with IronMind (apollon’s axle) or New York Barbell’s Fat Grip Bar (2.5" or 3")? I would implement this bar in cycles obviously to change things up. Such as 4 weeks regular grip - 2 weeks thick bar…Something to that affect. None of the gyms around me have saftey bars, cambered bars, trap bars or thick grip bars…So I would have to bring my thick grip with me. Do you think this would cause a problem?

Anyway this post is crazy long. If you read it all and have any advice. I appreciate it. Thank you for the time.