Building a Big Overhead Press – What’s Been Working for Me
Improving Overhead Press
There’s no question about it, Overhead Lifting is without a doubt my favorite form of lifting to test general body strength. I don’t know why that is, but I just plain enjoy picking something up overhead, whether it’s a barbell, log, axle, or whatever is just lying around!
I’ve been working on hitting a new all-time PR on my Overhead Press – 225lbs for 4 consecutive reps – for the last several months. I’ve done 3 reps a couple different times, but the 4th rep always escapes me.
Last week, I was finally able to hit it. The video below is of 225lbs for 4 consecutive repetitions.
Overhead Press All-Time PR – 225×4
This truly came out of nowhere, as my Press workouts haven’t been too extraordinary lately, but here are a few points that might have had something to do with it.
How I’ve Increased My Press
I’ve really backed down on the volume: For several months, I was hitting my 25-rep “program.” I picked one specific weight and tried to reach 25 total reps as quickly as possible, with the weight varying from 185lbs to 215lbs. That approach worked great for a while, but I think this level of intensity caught up with me and I needed a change, so I dropped it down to either 3 or 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps. One difference was I started focusing on pressing the weight up as fast as possible, no matter what the weight was.
Modified My Ramp-up Approach to Working Set Weights: I normally hit a couple sets of barbell only, then a set of 95lbs, and then a set of 135lbs for my warm-up sets. Then, I would usually go right to my working sets. I found that the jump from 135lbs to 185lbs, or whatever the weight might have been that day, has been too much recently. So I started doing intermediate sets of 3 at 155lbs and 175bs instead. This has made a big difference in reducing missed first-reps on my initial work sets.
I’ve re-incorporated speed work: I’ve been trying to stick with 1 workout every 4 to 6 weeks where I stick with lighter bar weights and press against band tension, very similar to the methods used by powerlifters on lifts such as the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift. I’m been feeling much more powerful on my presses, especially last week when I got my new PR, since focusing more on speed.
Dead Stop Training: I was finding that I was relying too much on stretch reflex in my press training, so I was really letting the bar crash down hard and then pressing back up. I decided to allow the barbell to settle at the bottom position a bit more the last few weeks, which made my presses harder, but I felt I was developing more pure strength. You can see in the video, that I went from a dead-stop on rep #2. I didn’t mean to do that, but I guess I’m just used to doing it now.
These are just a few changes I’ve made recently to my approach to pressing. They seem to have paid off, as a whole.
I’ll also mention that I took this weekend off from any training (I was away camping), and my left shoulder which has been giving me trouble for several months feels much better. I hope it continues to improve, and maybe I will see 225lbs go up for a set of 5 reps soon!
All the best in your training.
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