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What’s Working Now – Pressing Improvements

Improving Overhead Press

What’s up DIESELS?!!

Over on my Grip Strength Coaching Site,, from time to time I will put up a video just telling my guys and girls what I have found in my training to be really working well for me. I pass this on to them so that they can try it in their training and see if it works for them as well. I’d love to help you towards your Grip goals, so join today at

They seem to get a lot of it when I put up the What’s Working Now posts, so I thought I would start doing the same here occasionally as well.

What’s Working Now – Overhead Work

Today, I want to talk a little bit about some results I am seeing in my training with my overhead work.

First a little recent history…

Most of my overhead work the last couple of years has been with a log. I’d estimate about 60% of it has been based around the strongman log, and more than half of that has been in a push press or jerk style.

Last summer, when some lower back troubles reared their ugly heads, I began doing my overhead work in a more strict fashion in order to have a bit more control over the implement. I also began using more conventional equipment, such as the barbell and dumbbells.

In October, I added some more dumbbells to my collection. Previously, my dumbbells went from 50-lbs straight to 85lbs. I now have a pair of 55’s and a pair of 70’s. With more dumbbells to choose from, I became more interested in using them, and I started establishing some new PR’s.

Here is where it all gets interesting…

From November until the end of January, my best set of 70-lb Dumbbell press was a set of 7, and I only managed that one time. Below that, my best was 3 sets of 5, but they were done seated, so it is kind of hard to compare them really well.

In November, one day I decided to see if I could pres my 85’s. It was nearly embarrassing how tough it was to get one repetition, and that was all I got. This one repetition was so disgustingly difficult, I did not try it again for over two months.

Then on February 14th, after doing some intense Myofascial Release techniques for my pecs prior to the workout, I was amazed at how good it felt to press. This was done with a barbell, standing, and I took it out of the rack. I was able to press 205 for the first time in many, many years. I’d estimate the last time I pressed that kind of weight on a barbell out of the rack was in 2008 when I did Wendler’s 5-3-1 for a while. So it is not really an all-time “PR,” but it felt outstanding, so I continued to do the SMR work in between each set, as I moved into Dumbbell Presses.

I started off with a token set of 6 with 50-lb dumbbells
, and then move right into 70-lbs for the next set. To my astonished amazement, I got 10 reps. I continued doing the SMR and even added some stretching of the pecs between sets. DIESELS – it was awesome. I got 10 reps for all 3 sets. This was an all-time dumbbell press PR and it was after a 3-set session of standing barbell press, so I was pre-fatigued to a degree.

To say that I could not wait until my next pressing workout would be an understatement. My next session was February 22, and as I moved into Dumbbell Presses, I did the same thing as before, a token set of 6 with 50’s and then I moved into my work sets, but this time I said SCREW THE 70’S, and went right for the 85’s.

Below are my 3 work sets with 85’s…

Despite the fact that I was able to get 2 reps for the first time ever during set 1, I could really tell that my pecs were feeling tight.

If you watch set 1 again, you can see how I have to fish around for body positioning in order to press them up. So, I gave the pecs some serious attention prior to set 2.

For set 2, after the extra SMR work and stretching, the first 2 reps shot up really easy and I even had enough left in the tan for a third rep and a partial 4th.

After more pec work between set 2 and set 3, I was able to muster 4 repetitions, despite being fatigued in the triceps at this point, but since I was feeling less restricted in the chest, I was able to get better drive from the bottom position.

So you might be asking yourself, what does the chest have to do with overhead press?

Well, it can have a lot to do with your overhead press if you are a tight son of a bitch.

You see, if you are tight in the chest, then when you are trying to drive through the overhead pressing movement, you are going to be hindered. If the muscle and fascia of the front torso are too tight, then there’s no way you can lift overhead to your full potential. Your shoulders are going to be pulled forward and in, instead of wide like they need to be to press well.

Watch the difference between set 1 and set 2 in the video above and you will see what I mean along these lines. In set 1, I am still tight and restricted. My shoulders are pulled forward and I need to do all sorts of leaning in order to groove the dumbbells up.

After very aggressive work to loosen things up in my chest, it felt SO MUCH better to really extend through the thoracic spine, my shoulder blades felt like they could move more freely, and as a result, I was able to get better quality reps and one more rep, to boot.

For set 3, again, the torso felt better, thoracic extension felt easier, the scapulae were tracking better, and I was even able to get a 4th rep.

My next pressing workout is scheduled for Tuesday this week, BUT it is a deload workout with Mighty Mitts coming up, so the programming isn’t working out to push for a new PR, just yet, but I definitely plan on continuing the aggressive soft tissue work between sets.

In fact, I have been continuing the aggressive soft tissue work on non-upper body training days, because I really want to keep this momentum going.

I will report back soon.

SPECIAL NOTE: I absolutely feel that this kind of work to loosen up your tight chest can help for any type of overhead pressing, whether with dumbbells, barbell, axle, log, et cetera.

FEEDBACK WANTED: Is this kind of information something you’d like to see more of here on the site? Most of the content I post here is in article format, and this entry was more of a narrative report than anything else? I am interested in what you think, so please leave a comment below.

Thanks and all the best in your training.


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7 Responses to “What’s Working Now – Pressing Improvements”

  1. j Cox Says:

    Jedd love this type info on training . Big difference in sitting and standing shoulder press also.

  2. Jedd Johnson Says:

    Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the feedback.

  3. Josh Says:

    Nice pressing Jedd! Ironically I’ve also switched to primarily dumbbell work for pressing (and handstand pushups… fun!) and I’m noticing some improvements, although it is humbling at first. I totally agree with you that a HUGE part of it relates to scapular stability. Great post, thanks!

  4. Mike Rojas Says:

    Great job brotha!

  5. Frank DiMeo Says:

    It’s good to see someone explain the things they are fighting through
    And how it’s working. Good stuff!
    Also, your guest post by Bud Jeffries was great, I have known Bud for
    Several years, and have hosted his Strongman Seminar.

  6. Jessica Says:

    Wow – thank you for this! I’ve been struggling with my OHP for awhile now, and I was wondering why my success would vary so much from day to day… Some days I’d be able to get 60lbs, other times the empty bar seemed like a struggle! This is just the motivation I need to stretch out my tight pec minor .. I actually have signs of thoracic outlet syndrome, so very interesting that this all may tie together. Thank you!

  7. Ronn Says:

    Right on the money Jedd! Loved the info and the narrative style too. I am working on kettlebell presses right now and would love to hear about it from you.

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