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5 Exercises To Increase Your Overhead Press

Article By Kalle Beck

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I seem to be known for having a big overhead press (besides my great hair & tan) so naturally people assume it came easily or my favorite “You are built to press” I’ve been told on the ole internet in the same day before “You are built to press” AND “You are built to deadlift” Those are two very different things but apparently i am some anatomical anomaly. Here is the truth.

I made myself built to press and deadlift

When i started… I sucked by suck I mean I zeroed the overhead event in contests for my first two years of competing, It always seemed to be a 225lb log. I am a little stubborn… I was also stubborn to learn as I see a lot of other people starting out are as well. So here is how my mindset changed and my training evolved to flash forward half a decade or so I strict pressed a 270lb Log weighing 185lbs and strict pressing my bodyweight for almost 10 reps.

Strict Presses:

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I know what you are thinking, well of course! Yes I am sure you already know you should be doing strict presses but I feel like people need a reminder. Also I see people programming them in wrong. When I started my overhead was inconsistent, I might hit a 230 log in training but I would miss 220 at a contest, why? Conditions are not perfect at a contest, Try hitting a perfect jerk after pulling a semi truck. Chances are your leg drive will not be great. Equipment varies from show to show as well. Strongman is not standardized. When variables are thrown in your perfect jerk technique may fail you but you know what you can always rely on? Strength, strong is strong and strength will be there  when you need it.

Early in my training I would shy away from strict pressing knowing I needed to do it but I was embarrassed by how bad my numbers were So I would just stick to some form of push press or jerk. I think I hit 105 for about 8 reps in 2009. Another mistake I would make with strict presses is going for maxes constantly. Doing reps in the 1-3 range, Remember this is an assistance lift and should be treated as such. The goal is to get bigger stronger shoulders and more muscularity so do high reps. Work on hitting some good working sets at 3×8,3×10, 3×12, etc after you get used to the higher volume throw in some fun stuff like 2×20 or something. What I love to do is pick a weight you know you can hit for 15 reps and do as many reps as possible for 3 sets. A common set for me would look like this.

135×18

135×14

135×9

Once I was able to do 20/15/10 on those three sets I would bump up the weight. Notice every good presser you can tell they are good pressers? Big delts, big traps, upper backs, etc. You need to build up your muscularity to become a good presser.

3 way shoulder raises

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yes isolation work! Not only will these help give you cannon ball delts but once I threw them in I also stopped getting shoulder impingements, You can only do so much pressing before it is too taxing, this is the point of isolation work. To target muscles directly and get in extra work. I ike 3 way shoulder raises as they provide a great stimulus (pump) with minimal time. It is fluff at the end of a workout so just get it done and get out.

3 way shoulder raises consist of grabbing a pair of dumbbells and lets say you are doing it for 10 reps you would do 10 reps of side raises, 10 reps front raises and 10 reps of rear delt raises without setting them down or resting in between. As seen below (skip to 44 seconds). I prefer 2-4 sets of 8-20 reps

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Close Grip Bench

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I covered Why Strongmen should bench press already so I am not going to re-stress the point but the lockout is very important in Strongman and tricep strength is what you need. You can overload the triceps much more doing bench press then you can overhead so that is why I recommend it. Again remember it is an assistance exercise and should be treated as such I like to follow a basic 5/3/1 progression on my bench training to keep it higher reps but what I add is extra volume via the sling shot

Example

Week 1 55/65/75×8+ followed by 2×12 at 75% with the sling shot.

Week 2 60/70/80%x5+ followed by 2×10 with the sling shot.

Week 3 65/75/85%x3+ followed by 2×8 with the sling shot.

Reverse Ring flies 

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If you have problems stabilizing weight over your head increasing your rear delt and upper back strength will help solve that. Your upper back is essentially the bench press pad in the overhead press. You get your stability from it. The upper back can not be too strong and responds well to lots of frequency and volume.

I started doing these when face pulls became boring and easy. That being said this exercise is harder than you would think and if you can’t do a solid 3×8 I would stick to face pulls until you can progress. You can change the angle of your body, be on your heels or toes to make it easier/harder etc. aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12

Zydrunas Press

I feel somewhat responsible for the overuse of this exercise. It is NOT a cure-all and will not make you an awesome presser over night. It is simply another good assistance exercise. It lets you get in more volume while allowing a lighter load to provide similar stimulus by increasing the difficulty of the position you are pressing from. That is all.

I like the following rep schemes for Z Presses. 2×8, 4×6 or 3×5 rep scheme

 

Kalle Beck has been competing in Strongman since 2007 as a lightweight, with career highlights including 2012 California’s Strongest Man, 2012 Washington’s Strongest Apple, Numerous top 10 finishes at America’s Strongest Man and 6th place at the 2013 Arnold World Championships. 

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8 Comments
  1. Great article!! I’m obsessed with embiggening my shoulders and back, so this is just what the doc ordered. How frequently do you do shoulder assistance work?

    • I do overhead pressing and assistance work once a week and bench pressing with chest/tricep assistance once a week.

      Good luck with embiggening your shoulders 🙂

    • Alex Schindler permalink

      A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man!

  2. zvstrack permalink

    Great article. I love how the Z-Press feels almost as much as I love the confused looks I get at the traditional gym I go to.

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