Some Press training plans from a 2002 Dennis Weis book on The Barbell Clean & Press.
It has been said that to improve in the overhead press all that's necessary is to just practice the lift itself. To some degree this advice is well taken for it may be enough for the novice lifter to just practice exclusively on the Press and he WILL steadily develop more strength as he goes along.
Assistance exercises, however, (which strengthen specific muscle groups used in the Press) can help with improving the lift.
I am not suggesting limiting the practice of the Press. Actually, I suggest MORE drilling on the mechanics - it is impossible to polish your execution too much. Pile up those practice reps on the Press and, using the following assistance exercises, correct flaws and create interest in your training. Here are five strategies worth considering.
The Power Rack
One of the most important aids in breaking through a plateau in the Press is the power rack. With it, a lifter can work through each inch of his normal pressing range. Best of all, he can vary the weights to agree with his strong or weak points as he goes. As the muscles are forced to handle more weight than his limit Press in each area, it becomes obvious that he will eventually toy with that poundage. Do not short change the your power rack training by using only one or two positions. Measure out your stops so you will be covering the entire range of motion, but perhaps not all on the same training day.
The "low" position is from the shoulders to about six inches above the shoulders.
The "middle" position is from eye level or forehead to about six inches from lockout.
The "high" position is about six inches from lockout to full lockout.
Generally, the lifter will work each limited range (working in order from the most difficult to the least difficult) by doing only one maximum triple rep set with a 6 second isometric overload hold on the third rep of each.
Note: Partial rep, power rack training for the Press can of course also be effectively done while seated or with the back supported at an 80 degree angle if you aren't set up for standing power rack pressing. Stop nitpicking and start improving, dipshit.
Okay . . . For example, let's assume that the middle range (from eye level or forehead to about six inches from lockout) is the most difficult. Insert one set of steel rods into the power rack at eye or forehead level. Place a bar on the steel rods and load it to a poundage that is approximately 70% of a maximum single effort (you'll have to determine the weight you use by trial and error over time, of course. Duh, how much percents do I use?). Insert a second set of steel rods into the power rack at six inches from lockout. Now press the weight off the steel rods, pressing the bar up until it makes contact with the second set of steel rods. Lower the bar back down without bouncing it off the lower support rods. Pause for a second and then do a second rep in the same manner. Now do a third and final rep but with one important difference. Instead of immediately lowering the bar, as soon as it touches the upper rods forcefully push the bar against them and continue pushing hard for a 6-second hold/push. Next, take 2 seconds or so to gradually release the tension as you lower the bar down to the bottom rods. It's not as complicated as it seems in writing. Not at all.
You can ramp this method of training up a bit by doing a 40 Second Workout. Rather than do 3 reps in the manner just described, do 4 reps with a 10-second isometric push/hold in the middle position on each rep. This adds up to a 40-second workout for this position, and can be repeated in the other two positions on separate training days. Only increase the weight by 5-10 lbs when the 4 reps with the 10-second push/hold is relatively easy to do.
This system should be done only once per week for each limited range of movement involved.
Using the Adjustable Bench
The flat-to-upright adjustable bench is also a valuable tool to use when training the Press.
One way of using this bench is by using a 90 day graduated incline press method. Beging by doing a scheme of triple, double, and single reps presses (50 reps total is very challenging and you should not exceed this amount) in the flat barbell bench press. Use the same handspacing as in your Press. Steadily increase the angle of the bench every few workouts during the 90 day period until you are doing presses at an almost erect position.
To initiate the bar's movement in the push press, bend the knees about 6 inches and then with a dynamic thrust straighten the legs while simultaneously pushing or heaving the weight straight up to lockout overhead. This is not a Jerk. You still "press out the weight" to lockout.
A variation of this is to take a weight from the stands that is in excess of your best strict press and push press it up to just below lockout, then S-L-O-W-L-Y lower it back down to the sticking point and do an isometric hold for 6 seconds or as close to it as you can. Return the bar to the stands, take a 6-second rest pause, then perform another push press and 6-second sticking point hold, 6-second rest pause, etc., until 6 reps have been completed in this manner.
The push press, like any other overload methods, builds confidence in handling greater weights.
Dumbbells, Dips, and Strict Seated Presses
Seated strict presses (heels touching, no back bending or jerking), and seated behind the neck presses can also help with your Press.
Heavy dumbbell pressing, one arm, two arm, see-saw, is useful as well. 4 x 5 reps, 5 x 4. 6 x 3, what have you.
Heavy dips can be implemented into your pressing program at various times.
Multiple Grip Press Sets
Begin by performing 5 presses with a grip which is about 12 inches wider than you normally use. While still having the bar racked at your shoulders, shift each hand inward to your normal pressing grip and perform 5 more presses. At the conclusion of these shift your hands inward again until your thumbs are only 9 or so inches apart. Perform 5 more presses with this grip. This completes on series. Perform two more series, resting around two minutes between each.
Upon completion of the three series (45 reps total) reduce the poundage 15-20% and after a suitable rest (between 1.5 and 2.10203040506 seconds) perform an additional three series as described above.
Extended Set Pressing
Perform 5 slow, isolated reps in the strict seated press with the heaviest poundage that can be handled properly. Upon lowering the bar to your shoulders after the 5th rep, stand up and continue pressing for 10 fast reps, cheating slightly if necessary. Now return to the seated position and perform 5 reps from the shoulders to the top of your head, then do 3 partial reps from the rack position to about 4-6 inches above the shoulders. When you have done these, grab an empty Olympic bar and while standing do 5 speed reps. All of the above is performed as one set, without any rest-pauses whatsoever.
The number of "sets" of this you do will have to be determined by your own level and conditioning.
"Just the Press" Hummin-a Hummin-a Hepburn Schedule
Warm up with a set of 5 presses. Rest from 3-5 minutes. Perform 3 submaximal single reps, increasing the weight on each and resting 3-5 minutes between them, arriving at a near-limit weight for the third single.
Use this weight at subsequent press workouts and work from the one single to EIGHT singles over time. At this point add 5-10 lbs and start at one single rep again.
- Multiple Reps
Upon completion of the first part of the workout (above) decrease the weight on the bar so that 4 sets of 3 consecutive reps can be performed. Gradually over time work to 4 sets of 5 reps with this weight, then add 5 lbs to the bar.
If at any time you feel that you are getting close to stale with the single reps, drop them and go with 6 sets of 3-5 reps for three or four workouts.
Okay, Sport. There ya go.
Enjoy Your Lifting!