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Programming Push Press as Assistance Exercise


I came across a few threads that discuss similar topic, but there really was no satisfying answer in them. I am planning to add several assistance exercises to improve my overhead press. I heard that Push Press is a good exercise that really helps with handling heavy weights at lock out and if lowered slowly will help with overall development of the SOHP.

What is the best way to program it as ASSISTANCE exercise into 5/3/1 program? What is the best weight to use for the lift and how to progressively add more weight from week to week. Using percentages of OHP for the lift seems a bit odd considering that one can push press more weight than he/she can OHP.



With the 5/3/1terminology it can not be assistance. It can replace press or work as supplemental.

I have not ever used it consistently so I can not say anything else about it.


Interesting. Yes, supplemental makes more sense using 5/3/1 terminology. I saw people programming it into their training program after the main lift, but their program differs much from the principles of 5/3/1. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH9SAm1FkP8&feature=youtu.be&t=6m27s)


I’m curious, what’s the difference between assistance and supplemental?
I only read the basic 5/3/1 book and don’t remember if it was there or not.

As for the OP, I have the Push Press as a main lift replacing the Bench Press.
So I do Overhead Press - Deadlift - Push Press - Front Squat in 5/3/1. Just in my second cycle of 5/3/1 so still early to give an opinion, tho.
All in all I have the impression that doing PP will help a bit for when I’ll want to learn some power exercises (like muscle snatches and power cleans) and could be helpful with the midway sticking point of the overhead press motion.
Not sure if I’ll keep it as a main lift tho, same for you, I was looking into how to move it to an assistance exercise


I’m pretty sure that Wendler has clarified this in here, so I don’t feel I’m crossing any lines:

  • Supplemental= Usually big barbell movements (always programmed, FSL, SSL etc…)

  • Assistance = Smaller db,kb,bw-movements. Usually only programmed with total reps, also the movements may vary from day to day (the assistance categories are used).


Understood, thanks, how does that impact on programming the exercises (if it impacts at all)?
I’m asking because the basic Boring But Big template puts the supplemental ones into assistance work, i.e. he makes the example on squat day, after the 5/3/1 sets, to follow up with 5x10 back squats.

For what it’s worth, and to stay on topic, I wouldn’t program the Push Press in 5x10. That’s something I feel works better with exercises like the BTN Press and Seated Smith Machine OHP. I wouldn’t put it on the same day of OHP, too.
Probably in the Bench Press day, right after the Bench Press, keeping the % load a bit higher than usual assistance stuff and doing 4 x 6-8 reps.
Not sure, it’s something I’m trying to wrap my head around too.


The 5x10 is the supplemental.

Main work


I’m not sure about the semantics but I’ve read 5/3/1 and Beyond 5/3/1 and I believe Jim says to pick your assistance work based on your needs. He even says train like a bodybuilder to maintain symmetry and balance.

If you want to do push press to help your OHP then do it. Based on several templates I think you should do it right after OHP or after bench, your pick. As far as rep schemes, it’s up to you. I don’t like going over 5 reps. If I want to do hypertrophy work then push press isn’t my choice.

I’d do sets of 3-5 reps. Thibaudeau’s Complete Power Look Program starts with 5x3 at 80%. Add 1 rep each week til you’re doing 5x6 at 80%. Week 5 you bump the weight and drop to 5x3. I think it could work to do 5x3 @80% Wk 1, 5x4 Wk 2, 5x5 Wk 3. Deload Wk 4 or start over just like 5/3/1. Add 5-10lbs and repeat that rep scheme each cycle.

If you don’t want to max out then maybe pick your 3 rep max from one of your OHP workouts and go from there.


Thanks for clearing it up!

This. I have less than a fraction of the experience other users have but PP feels much like something midway between a strength exercise and an explosive exercise.
Another use in higher reps ranges could be with mechanical dropsets. I currently do it with BTN Press, it happens that the last 1-2 sets I’m only able to do 6-7 reps, so when I feel I’m about to fail, I drop the bar on the traps, take a breath and complete the sets adding the push (still behind the neck). But it’s not something I program.
You could try something similar doing 5x10 OHP as supplemental and using a fairly challenging weight, switching to Push Press to complete the sets as soon as you feel your form is not keeping up.


That was the main reason why I started this thread. How do you pick a fairly challenging weight for an assistance exercise like push press? Would you just do it by feel? Pick a weight that is challenging enough to push press but doesn’t take all the life out of you when you lower it down. Maybe use joker sets for the press and do those as push press, bumping the weight until it feels just right.


Something like this:
on average, you can push press 10-15% more than what you OHP, this is what I’ve read everywhere and so far is pretty much in line with my own experience.
Say, for easy math, that your 1RM OHP is 100lbs. A fairly challenging weight for 10 reps would be, I don’t know, 70-75% of your RM? Let’s say 70lbs, for the sake of it.
This means that a fairly challenging weight in that rep range, for the Push Press, would be of about 77-80lbs give or take.

This is, IF you want to Push Press in the 10-reps range, which was the point of the previous posts. I honestly do not know if it’s beneficial and how much.
For mechanical dropsets, it would be a non-issue: you pick your OHP fairly challenging weight (70lbs) and switch to Push Press either when you fatigue or after a certain number of reps, each set.
Regardless of when you switch to PP, the cumulated fatigue of previous reps will make PP harder even if the weight is relatively low compared to the amount of weight you’d use in that rep range with the PP.

Otherwise, I’d stick to the original math: take your OHP 1RM, add 10-15%, and program it from there using the numbers by CT’s program that were listed above. Or the usual percentages (like 90% for 3 reps sets, 80-85 for 5 reps and so on).
I’d start with an extra 10% of the OHP 1RM, btw. PP is not very technical but it takes some practice and timing to get the most out of the leg drive, you gotta synchronize your body, i’m still struggling with that part.


That is why it is supplemental in the 5/3/1. Most people should not use barbell movements without progression.

It may be semantics, but adheres to the crucial point what should treated more seriously than other.

So for the progression: you’ll need a push press TM and use A 5x5 FSL etc. For it AFTER the 5/3/1 press.


But this isn’t in the basic book, correct? In that one, the only template with calculated % is the periodization bible one which is referred as a more advanced template.
I thought I was overdoing things when I calculated the % of snatch grip DLs and romanian DLs


No, it’s in Beyond. Just do push press after OHP or Bench and work up to a 1RM. Use that as your TM for future workouts. Don’t overthink it. If you need %s then follow my advice from my 1st post. You’re using it as an assistance/supplemental exercise so you don’t have to be perfect.


2 options, it depends if you are decent enough at push press and/or are working to increase that lift or only care about strict OHP.

If you can push press decently and/or don’t care about increasing your push press max, do it after the 5/3/1 set on OHP day. Your already warmed up for pressing overhead and ready to go heavier than your previous set, this is assuming you can switch from strict to push easily. If you don’t do a whole lot of sets with it you can essentially do the program as written but with this 1 change. Also consider stopping a little short of failure on the strict press.

I personally suck at push press and would need to start over with warmup sets including the bar to work on my form, for this reason I would do it after Bench on bench day. I’m not convinced push press is that great of an assistance for overhead press so I would only be doing this to get better at push press.


@slonny said he was considering push press to help OHP. I think there are two ways to look at push press. 1) it’s an explosive movement with little focus on eccentric work. 2) it could be a way to cheat/assist some extra weight up in the air and then lower it slowly like a negative.

The second version should only be slightly heavier than what you can OHP.

I push press about 70 lbs more than I OHP. This is because of technique and rhythm. But when I push press my eccentric movement goes a bit fast due to the increased weight. I wouldn’t say it helps my OHP though. It might but I think it would work better the other way around. Increase OHP to help push press. Increasing push press might not help OHP since it requires more skill and uses leg drive.