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Programming in Overhead Press

First, a big thanks for all contributors for the help in my previous posts: I’ve worked with some very basic barbell strength training, and have had some good results. I’m thinking of tweaking my full body routine to incorporate some overhead pressing into the program. I am thinking something like this:

1- Squats (alternate between back and front on successive workouts) - Rep range 4-6.
Superset with pull ups (4-6 reps)

2- Overhead Press - Rep range ???

3- Romanian deadlift - Rep range 8-12

4- Various accessory lifts (cable crossovers, arm stuff, etc).

All in all, this is a very simple plan, but it does three things I like: 1) Emphasizes hip and leg strength, 2) Keeps my back strong, and 3) Works with a busy schedule. My big question is what should I use for an overhead press loading paradigm? Since this is a newer movement to me, I am guessing that maybe having higher rep ranges might allow me to learn the movement more quickly? I recall Jim Wendler saying something about 8-10 reps when he started out, but he was also benching at the time (and needless to say, I’m not J.W.).

All else being equal, I would favour a hypertrophy based goal over a strength based goal. If anyone has an opinion, let me have it. Also if there is an essential accessory lift that I should use regularly, please let me know. Thanks again for all the wisdom.

It depends on how often you plan on doing it. This has what has worked well for me the past 2 years.

OHP 1x a week
531 (Just ramp up to a heavy 3 or 5) + 3-5x8-10

OHP 2x a week
One day 5x5
One Day 5x10

A lot of people on this forum like the 10x5 for OHP as well. Just depends on how often you plan on doing it and what your body can tolerate.

What does your total program look like? This might give us a better way to guide you.

I liked doing a basic 5x5 of OHP and then if I progressed to a point where I couldn’t do a full set of 5 with that weight, I’d start doing 8x3. I was also benching around the time I did this at 5x5 and 5x2 with slingshot, I was also doing 5x2 push press on other days.

I also think bursts of 8-10 reps is great too. I don’t think you can go wrong at all by prioritizing OHP over bench. However, you handle way more weight on bench than on OHP, so that kinda stimulus on bench should help your OHP more than the other way around, I would think.

Some of my favourites:

6x3, add reps until you get 6x4 and then add weight and drop to 6x3 again. Start light because its easy to run into a wall within a few weeks.

6x2, add 2 sets each session until you get 10x2 then drop drop to 6x2 and add weight. You do this EMOM, you’ve failed if you can’t complete your 2 reps after a minute rest. Start light, you can stuff up by session 2 with this one.

3x8, add reps until you can get 12 then add weight and drop reps. Start light on this one as adding reps usually means adding a good 2.5% to your 1rm.

Ramp to 5RM, drop 10-20% then do 5x5 (this can be split across 2 workouts). Add weight each week. Start light.

3x12 with 3 second negative. Add 1 second to the negative each week until you get to 5 second negatives then add weight and drop back to 3 second negatives. This will make you very sore, so start light.

Choose one of these until you cant progress any longer. Then pick another one. You can even run concurrently with 2 models as an A/B workout. Did I mention start light?

Any of the 531 set ups. I like, work up to your TM from 3-5 followed by 5x5 SSL.

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Jeez… thanks for the quick replies and the good information. As far as additional information about my program, the basics are:
-Training every other day w/ full body routine described above

  • Generally 3-4 warm up sets for the squats, followed by 2-3 working sets
  • RDL is pretty much what you’d expect, though sometimes I will work in snatch grip
  • Accessory lifts: Pec. cable crossover, shoulder abduction, some tricep isolation (depends on what equipment is available), and some bicep isolation. Generally 3 sets 10-12 reps with 60 seconds rest.

In other words, I would likely be OHP 3x per week, and so could vary the loading parameters for each workout if that would be beneficial. I’m of two minds on this: If I want to work strength, for example, would it be better to just do 3 strength workouts… or perhaps mixing parameters would be better for overall learning of a movement pattern?

Thanks again!

If you’re going to do 3x per week then consider choosing a daily undulating periodisation model.

It might look like this:
Day 1: 5x12
Day 2: 8x2 (speed work)
Day 3: work to a 3RM

You may also want to (ie. Optionally) alternate the exercises.
Day 1: DB Press or Press from pins (eye level)
Day 2: Strict Press
Day 3: Push Press

Thanks @strongmangoals for this… I’m thinking that this might be an excellent way to go for someone like me with limited OHP experience. I’ll try the first suggestion, and go from there.

I’ll check in a few weeks from now assuming all goes well. Do my accessory lifts look OK, or am I missing a major movement / muscle group? I think I’ve covered most bases… just don’t mention rectus abdominus and we’re cool.

OK I would use a light weight to condition these unused muscles, maybe 8-10 for 3 sets, then when you are ready move into a lower rep range, slightly lower reps, under 6 worked well for me in the past. good luck. Leo