By Drew Springs

Overhead Press Specialisation Program

The overhead press – a simple movement that seems to the bane of most peoples’ existence. Like the majority of you, I used to absolutely HATE it as I completely sucked at it, so I developed a program to nail any potential weak points. Anecdotally, using this outline for 2 blocks (including 2 weeks off in between), I managed to increase my pitiful strict press from 80 to 100kg and improve my push press from 90kg to 120kg – not world beating, but it allowed me to go from bombing past OHP events in comps to winning or placing in them. It is a VERY demanding program – if you haven’t already gotten 3-4 years of training history, have any history with shoulder issues or have dubious pressing technique you should not attempt the program because:

  • if you have shoulder issues, your body will limit your https://store.startingstrongman.com/product/mobility-manual-upper-body/overhead strength to prevent you from injuring yourself more. Trying to continually get stronger when your body is preventing you from achieving it will only result in more injuries!
  • as there’s a lot of volume, the increased workload puts you at a significant risk of over-use injuries (supraspinatus tears/inflammation, AC joint impingement, etc). Adequate past exposure to high-frequency training is required!

While you are following this program, do NOT do any other form of pressing. Most people will find this much volume of overhead pressing will help them maintain their current flat bench press, and if there are deficiencies that this covers their bench might even go up! The program is pretty straight forward – you strict press, log press or push press (depending on what you want to improve the most) 3x a week for speed triples, followed by one accessory press to target a specific area you might be weak in, followed by three accessory movements. The speed triples are solely designed to be low volume and relatively low intensity, and focus on maximum power output. Start out with the bar and press 3 reps as explosively as possible, allow the bar to just drop on the negative (no slow lowering). From there, increase the weight in big jumps, slowly tapering off when the bar speed starts to slow down. As an example, a strict pressing day would go something like this.

  • Bar (20kg) x6 (only to warm up)
  • 40×3
  • 50×3
  • 60×3
  • 65×3
  • 67.5×3
  • 70×3

The weight you hit each day isn’t as important as you stopping the exercise where on your last set the third rep has started to slow down. Throughout the program the weight this occurs at may decrease or increase, which is to be expected depending on fatigue. The absolute last thing you want to do is push it for that extra set, and start grinding reps out – injury is almost guaranteed to happen with this much volume!

The program is designed to be run for a maximum of 4 weeks at a time, after that you should take an entire week off pressing then test or run again – if you run again I would limit it to 2 consecutive blocks. As there’s such an increase in frequency and volume, after some of the volume is dropped off I would expect your press to slightly go down with it, but fortunately most of the muscle mass you will gain following this program will last. The individual lift percentages are based upon the max for that lift, all the light accessory work should be done as a superset and trained to achieve a sweet pump (very hard but not taken to failure).

Week 1
Shoulders Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Alternate Press (push Press OR strict press) to 8RM
  • 4×12 Arnold Press
  • 4×12 Front Lateral Raise
  • 4×20 Seated Incline Shoulder Press

Triceps Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • 4x8x70% Close-Grip Bench
  • 4×6 Weighted Dips
  • 4×15 Lying Skullcrushers
  • 4×20 Reverse Barbell Curl

Back Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Klokov (Snatch-Grip BTN) Press to 12RM
  • 4×15 Reverse Flye
  • 4×15 Rear Delt Row
  • 4×20 Face Pulls

Week 2
Shoulders Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Push Press OR strict press to 6RM
  • 4×12 Arnold Press
  • 4×12 Front Lateral Raise
  • 4×15 Seated Incline Shoulder Press

Triceps Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • 4x6x75 Close-Grip Bench
  • 4×6 Weighted Dips
  • 4×12 Lying Skullcrushers
  • 4×15 Reverse Barbell Curl

Back Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Klokov (Snatch-Grip BTN) Press to 10RM for 2 sets
  • 4×12 Reverse Flye
  • 4×12 Rear Delt Row
  • 4×20 Face Pulls

Week 3
Shoulders Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Push Press OR strict press to 4RM
  • 4×10 Arnold Press
  • 4×10 Front Lateral Raise
  • 4×12 Seated Incline Shoulder Press

Triceps Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • 4x4x80% Close-Grip Bench
  • 4×6 Weighted Dips
  • 4×10 Lying Skullcrushers
  • 4×12 Reverse Barbell Curl

Back Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Klokov (Snatch-Grip BTN) Press to 8RM for 2 sets
  • 4×10 Reverse Flye
  • 4×10 Rear Delt Row
  • 4×20 Reverse Barbell Curl

Week 4
Shoulders Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Push Press OR strict press to 2RM
  • 4×8 Arnold Press
  • 4×8 Front Lateral Raise
  • 4×10 Seated Incline Shoulder Press

Triceps Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • 4x3x85% Close-Grip Bench
  • 4×6 Weighted Dips
  • 4×8 Lying Skullcrushers
  • 4×10 Reverse Barbell Curl

Back Day

  • Speed press to max triple
  • Klokov (Snatch-Grip BTN) Press to 6RM for 2 sets
  • 4×8 Reverse Flye
  • 4×8 Rear Delt Row
  • 4×20 Reverse Barbell Curl

Week 5
Day 1

  • 6×1 push or strict press at the heaviest triple you managed.
  • 4×30 Band Pull-Apart

AFTER 5 DAYS OF ABSOLUTE REST RETEST MAX

As you can see, there is a LOT of upper body pressing volume throughout the program, and apart from close-grip bench the weights aren’t prescribed as they will vary person to person. Try not to take the rep-max sets to ABSOLUTE failure, as this will unnecessarily fatigue you. Throughout the program you will need to ensure nutrition and recovery is high, to allow you to adapt efficiently. If you start experiencing pain in your elbows or shoulders that you haven’t felt before, have it checked out – I would expect some people to experience some sort of elbow or shoulder tendinitis through this much volume but it should be manageable. On the days where you aren’t pressing it would be advisable to do some form of very light pulling work – very light rows, face pulls, etc are all good. These should be done for very high reps (over 20) just to ensure your upper back stays tight and functional.

 

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