Training

Weak Shoulder Press Solutions | Lifting Tips

May 31st 2020

Nobody wants to have a weak shoulder press but is there any way to get a stronger press?

Based on my training experience, I have recently overhead pressed 157.5lbs for 4 reps at a ~180lbs bodyweight (I have microplates).

It may not be 185lbs but this has been a recent rep PR for myself and I believe I can shed some light on how you can start to strengthen your overhead press.

You do not need to do anything fancy.

You do not need extra equipment.

All you need to have is an open mind to change and some effort to train.

Why do I have a weak shoulder press?

You do not train it hard enough

If you are a beginner, doing a full-body general strength program is an average way to build up your overhead pressing strength.

For a majority of first-time lifters, this works out great.

In fact, I would say I had average success from just overhead pressing once a week, followed by twice a week in the following week - this will total 3 overhead pressing sessions in 2 weeks.

But as you progress, you will understand how much volume and intensity you need to build up a strong overhead press.

For many lifters that want a stronger ohp, this is not enough volume or intensity.

You need to do more for better results. 

Not enough training time

After one year of training, if you do not have “amazing” results due to your genetics or heightened response to training (here is a strength chart for overhead pressing), you will need more time dedicated to training.

You need to be patient.

After one year of solid training, you should have a good idea of what worked (and what didn’t).

Learn from that experience and continue to train smarter and harder.

One question you might be thinking is that you want to get stronger NOW. Or by next year.

My response to that is… what is the rush?

Are you trying to win a competition or become a world champion?

Because let us be brutally honest, if you were destined to be great in lifting, wouldn’t your results show it after one year of training?

With that said, not all hope is lost but you can still achieve great results from sheer dedication and consistency.

You will be better than 99% of the population if you hold your standards high and continue to do the right things.

 

For beginners that have not trained for one year, you need to trust your program and continue to follow its progressive overloading and deload procedures. 

Depending on your program, only do accessories if you program allows you to.

Otherwise, your program will most likely have 3 sets of 5 reps for overhead press each pressing session that is not the bench press.

How to get a stronger overhead press

Now that we got all of the issues exposed, let us go into several solutions on how to build a stronger overhead press.

This is under the assumption that you have plateaued from a beginner program.

You have stalled and you need new ideas in order to progress your overhead press without injury.

If you are still a beginner or only had a couple of months of training, this would not be the ideal article for you.

In fact, you can read more about how I first achieved a 135lbs overhead press, or even my training log about Starting Strength, a general beginner strength program. 

More pressing volume 

You need to add more volume, with different rep ranges as well.

Use Strongman logs, axle bars, dumbbells, whatever.

You can even do more tricep or bench accessories for more overall upper body strength.

Some of the more popular exercises are, but not limited to:

  • Regular bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Close grip bench press
  • Seated overhead presses

As a result, you will need to get a stronger dumbbell shoulder press, regular bench press, Arnold press, basically all upper body movements.

One reason why you are not progressing in the overhead press is that your body became efficient with the barbell overhead press.

You need to change it up just a tiny bit

Speaking of changing your routine…

More pressing frequency

If you are only pressing once a week, that might be your issue.

Try to increase your overhead pressing frequency to twice a week, with one heavy day or one light day.

Have adequate shoulder flexibility and mobility

This should be a given but it is important to bring up this point again. 

You should have enough shoulder flexibility to hold your overhead press.

Otherwise, there is no way you can get stronger safely. 

We do not want anyone to get hurt.

Have great form

Again, another concept that is overstated but it has truth behind it.

For instance, some of the things you should already be doing include:

  • Tightening your core
  • Squeezing your glutes
  • Have a narrow grip for maximum leverage
  • Driving your head through once you lockout overhead

Here is another video that demonstrates what you should do during the overhead press:

Summary

Typically, an intermediate program should address most of the weaknesses that your beginner program faced.

You should have more volume and exercise variety to break through any stalls you faced in the past.

Be sure you do not deviate too far from your program.

Otherwise, you risk injury and potentially delaying your progression even further.

You should already be building great training habits while steadily increasing your overhead press work capacity with exercise intensity, volume, or a different combination of training factors.

It is frustrating and you might feel that you are not making any progress workout to workout. 

Or even week to week.

You might even feel as though you regressed in the overhead press.

I am here to confirm that as long as you are following a structured program where you are training your overhead press at least once a week without injury, you ARE getting stronger.

Each and every day.

And soon, all of this positive momentum will allow you to achieve a greater OHP PR. 

So, stop worrying and just enjoy your training.


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