I don’t think there is anything worse than finding a lift that you straight up can not improve on. It’s like winning the lottery but getting an IOU, who the hell wants that?
Today, I’m going to tackle the Overhead Press as many of our Masters Athletes seem to have a hard time increasing weight on this lift. I’d say of every lift in the catalog, the OHP is the hardest to develop
Over the past several years of working with Crossfit Athletes, I’ve come to the very bold conclusion that nobody has patience. Everyone is in such a rush to increase numbers and feels if they are not setting world records each week, then they’re not training “hard” enough.
This is where I as a coach need to be the elephant in the room and say “shut the hell up.”
For the beginner into weight training, you will absolutely see an increase in “pr’s” weekly, sometimes daily. It’s because that person has not accumulated a baseline for maximal strength, and their body has not been beat up from years of heavy aggressive training.
Now, flash forward five years to that same person, and those pr’s will drop from week to week, to once a year at maybe a 5/10lb increase. People hear this and they are dumbfounded that someone would be excited over a 5lb increase after a year of training. But the fact remains that you got stronger that year, and that is the main goal right? Nobody ever said they wanted to get weaker… Or did they?
But with the Overhead Press, this can be the one movement that humbles you right up. It’s always been a lift that I’ve had to work 20x more to develop, and that’s exactly what it takes. You need to not just want to increase your overhead press, you need to treat it as serious as you do squatting and deadlifting (If you’re not taking those lifts seriously, stop reading and go pick up a barbell, NOW!)
Here are a few tips that I highly recommend for you Masters athletes that are looking to build a stronger press.
- First and foremost, know that you need to improve your mobility and flexibility in your shoulders and torso. For every imbalance that continues to go without fixing, you’ll never see the true potential of your capabilities for not just the press, but most any other lift. If you’re tight as all hell, and wondering why you’re not increasing weight, chances are your range of motion could be the limiting factor, and a heavy dose of mobility and flexibility drills would improve that drastically. Here are a few that have worked wonders for me.
Pec Minor Doorway Stretch
Foam Roll Thoracic Spine
Thoracic Spine Extension
- Developing a strong midsection, lockout strength, and speed. Three elements that can get overlooked in your Overhead game, that have the biggest turn over for upping the numbers on the press.
You are only as strong as your core. Think about a tree for example. If the tree has amazing branches but a weak core, eventually, it will tumble and crash destroying those beautiful limbs. Work from the middle out always.
Here are a few go to’s for me and anything I program
Hanging Leg Raises
Turkish Get Ups
L-Sit Chin Ups
When I think about lockout strength, I think about the most crucial point in the movement. For example, in a Deadlift, once you get past your knees, even if it’s a grinding brutal set, you should be able to drive your ass and hips and finish the lift. If you don’t make it past your knees, welp, you’re in for a long ascending pattern that may or may not finish the way you’d like. With an overhead press, once you clear the bar over your chin and a little past your nose, you should be able to finish the lift. If you’re coming from the rack position and can’t even clear your chin, chances are that lift is not happening at that given moment. Where most people struggle is actually their Tricep Strength. This is hands down one of the biggest components to a ferocious lockout for an overhead press. As much as I favor and love Banded Push-Downs, just doing those won’t have as big a turn over in your overhead press. Here are a few tricep movements that you should be implementing if you’re struggle bus’n it. With a stronger midsection and diesel triceps, your speed on your press will jump through the roof *literally*
Close Grip Bench Press
Reverse Grip Bench Press
- Grip on the bar. When’s the last time you tried a different position? Are you too wide? Too narrow? For me, I’ve changed and tried just about anything and everything under the sun to see what effect it would have on my press, and have come to a position that works for me. I switched to a false grip, and position my hands so they’re just outside of my shoulders. I found that because my triceps have a fair amount of strength, this position recruits your triceps a lot more and from the rack position, found I was able to go for a 1rm, and from the max effort attempt, could initiate a stretch reflex at the “big” attempt, and drive a heavy external load like it was a warm up set.
- Try A False Grip, again, this does not work for everyone and may feel horrible for you, or it could change the game for you 100% Try narrowing your hand position so it’s inside of the first circle on the bar, or just outside your shoulders. Also, at the top of the lock out, try rounding your hands (as if you were dunking a basketball) so the top of your fingers are facing the ceiling, as opposed to your palms. Once you do this, pretend you’re ripping the bar in half and develop as much tension in your lats as possible. You’ll also save your wrists from straining too much, as it’s a release of the flexion from the rack position.
One thing that has had a huge turnover in my Overhead Training is mixing up my presses. If you’re strictly doing Barbell work, getting away from the bar (I know those Fireball shots are tempting) can and will have a drastic change in stimulus. Unilateral training will always show many imbalances and weaknesses in the press, which is why I’m a huge advocate of adding this into your routine. That said, here are a few other protocols you can add into your routine.
DB Single Arm Press
Half Push Press *Until Height Of Eyes*
Don’t get down on yourself if this is taking a long time for you to develop, it takes time but with time and patience comes reward. Keep your nose to the grind, enjoy the process, put the brakes on and don’t be in such a rush.
Tear It Down