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Press Progression or Lack Thereof

Hey everyone. I’ve always had a poor press. When I started really taking weightlifting seriously I started with starting strength and even then my press numbers were low and small. I found more frequency helped build the press better than sticking to a once to twice a week 3x5 progression. I’ve done programs after starting strength with no press or only as a supplemental lift. I’ve been doing 5/3/1 for some time now and my press is just down. My training max is 105 and I struggle to hit my numbers almost all the time.

The question is what’s the best way to approach raising the press? Lower my training max and go super light but focus on quality reps

105 kg or lb?

If lb I can probably lend some helpful advice for you. If kg then someone more experienced would be better suited.

Are you progressing on other lifts as planned?

Yes sorry it’s lbs. my other lifts have been going up steadily. I have had to adjust some here and there but for the most part it’s not the same. It’s like I can come in refreshed on the press and have a great workout but when it comes up again the weights crush me. Ive never been able to really get past 110 lbs since I started lifting. When I was on starting strength one of the articles/ modifications done to the program was to change the press and bench press up with strategic rep schemes. So for example if it was bench press you would do your 3x5 then you would do press for 5x3 and vice versa. So you were benching and pressing 3 times a week. And I noticed yes that did help me over come some sticking points but I’ve noticed recently since doing the 5/3/1 the press is my worst lift and I seem to hit 105lbs then back slide and not hit my reps.

Idk how common it is, my my lift progress always ebbs and flows. Never does all of them come up at the same time. Maybe try arranging things to give the OHP more attention. Or if you’re making progress on bench, take that approach you’re using for bench and try it on OHP :man_shrugging:

I’m following the program as written but I just don’t know what I could change if anything to get it to go up.

Do you keep a log? Have you looked back to make sure “lack” of progress isn’t just “slow” progress?

I am not sure if it is poor forum etiquette to post on a coaches forum so at risk of crossing that boundary my advice would be the following:

If you are stuck at a particular weight on a lift I go back to an article I read from Dave Tate which discussed it being mental, technique, or strength related. I think for myself it’s usually a combination of all those. Pretty sure that was also the point of the article but my brain wanders.

The best way to get through a plateau in my experience is:

  1. to practice that particular lift a lot more (prioritize it) and practice similar movements.
  2. work on accessory exercises that focus on eliminating surrounding/relative muscle weaknesses
  3. get used to the feeling of heavier weights in your hands. This helps with the mental aspect along with repeated practice.
  4. gain weight

First place to start is to re-introduce yourself to proper technique. For pressing overhead I recently watched a YouTube video by Brian Alsruhe that I found really helpful. I suggest giving that a look as well as articles on Tnation focusing on pressing.

I think number 4 can often be overlooked by younger lifters. It is important that you are gaining weight over time by lifting. If you are not, this could be the very reason for getting stuck.

The mental aspect of a particular weight can also really get in your head too. A good way to get around this is to pick an odd implement that isn’t a 45 lb barbell and to press with that by putting odd weight plates on it (35’s and 15’s) and lifting without actually calculating what’s on the bar before lifting it. You may be surprised what’s possible. Also, focusing on a variation of that lift that allows you to use more weight (like push-press) may be a good way to desensitize you to that heavy feeling when you unrack said plateau weight (ie 105).

So how I would specifically address the issue would be to set out a day each week to focus on pressing things overhead and still have a separate day for bench pressing. I would have a main lift that got progressively heavier over a period of time (I like 16 weeks). And then 2-4 accessory lifts that would help me focus on strengthening that lift from different perspectives.

Example Press Workout:
Main A) Push-Press 6x3 (…or 3x3 when load > 90%)
Accessory B) Press 4x6
Accessory C) Z-Press 3x10
Accessory D) Dips (weighted) 3x8

Weights don’t really matter for accessory lifts. Just get in the work and push yourself to add weight each week if you can. Listen to your body and how you feel that day after the main sets and pick the right weight to put in the work. The main lift is the priority. If it goes up so will your 1RM. The harder you can push yourself on the accessory lifts the better your new 1RM ought to be.

Week 1 70% 6 sets of 3 reps of 1RM for Push-Press
Week 2 75% 6x3
Week 3 80% 6x3
Week 4 70% (Deload)
Week 5 75% 6x3
Week 6 80% 6x3
Week 7 85% 6x3 (this will be a tough workout)
Week 8 75% (Deload)
Week 9 80% 6x3
Week 10 85% 6x3
Week 11 90% 3x3
Week 12 85% 6x3
Week 13 90% 3x3
Week 14 95% 3x3 (this will also be a difficult workout)
Week 15 no workouts
Week 16 New 1RM on Press

Really the program you run is not as important as having a plan and seeing it through. The Reps,sets, and loading above isn’t super important…,it’s just what I have done in the past. Let yourself gain weight for 16 weeks, hit the press and accessory lifts hard with a progressive overload scheme and I am confident you will press more than 105 lbs in 4 months.

Lastly, the press is a difficult lift to progress on in my experience. I can’t really say I see a lot of carry over from press to bench press but I do find the opposite to be true. If your bench press is increasing then your press likely will go up slightly too.

Hope this helps. If Jim responds disregard anything I just said and do what he recommends.

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My bad wanna_be I didn’t mean to reply directly at you. I am new to forum posting and messed this up.

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It’s ok! If OP can’t figure this out he’ll never figure out his press issues :joy:

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@T3hPwnisher has a blog post on how he drove his press up. Google “mythical strength press” and it should show

Thanks eveyone im going to try some of theses to see if they help me or not

If you want a 531 template that prioritizes OHP as main lift, I suggest:

  1. 531 Beach Body. (tongue in cheek name). This is an awesome template that has you pressing 3x a week. Really one of my favorites:
  1. 531 Building the monolith. This has you pressing 2x a week and bench pressing once. Another awesome template.

I’ll add a different perspective (I think). Not necessarily better, just an alternative.

Don’t remember where I heard it, but it definitely wasn’t me.

“Stick with the weight.”

Now, this applies to deep water, which i did as suggested by Pwn, since the weight stays static over 6 weeks, but the concept is the same. Keep lifting a weight, below your max, that still feels decently heavy. You don’t even have to increase reps every time, just keep lifting it for a few weeks and it will feel lighter. Then you can add weight, rinse and repeat. I did 6 weeks of 115, which involved a 10x10 with that weight, and on my next run through DW I finished with a PR of 135x20.


I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone run deep water for anything other than squats. How did you like that overall? You see many gains in the lower rep territory?

Huh? It’s a whole program. Trains a bunch of movements.

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For some reason I thought the focus was always on squats, i glanced at it awhile back, apparently I should read it all the way through.

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It’s SUCH a good read. So over the top. It’s pro-wrestling in written form, haha. I love programs that I just look at them and go “What the F**K?!”


I got the e-book and remember getting a slew of emails screaming at me! Sounds like I have some Christmas reading

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OP - My press went up when I started to brace better.
Over head work is alot about getting everything south of your shoulders rock steady.

Aside from that:
Volume over intensity - 5x5 at 70-80% of max worked better for me than 3x5 at 85% of max. If using 531 set a low TM. And use something like 5x10 assistance.

Push press to negatives. Use the push press get a big weight up and then use a slow negative.

Get some tricep work in there. Close grip press up is a GREAT exercise for this. Just bolt 2/3 sets of to the end of a work out

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