Why Is My Standing Barbell Press Stuck?

The most obvious reason is that it's undertrained compared to the bench press and other related pressing exercises.

You should be able to strict military press 60% of your max bench press – both in good form, of course. If you're bench pressing the minimum macho poundage of 3 plates per side (315 pounds) it means that you should be able to strict overhead press at least 190 pounds.

Someone who's considered a strong overhead presser is said to be able to lift at least his body weight in the military press. But few people can do that because this old standard was established when the military press – not the bench press – was the main upper body lift.

And what did people do when the military press was the main upper body lift? They did what most guys now do with the bench press: they trained it more often and harder than other lifts.

So my first recommendation if you want to increase your overhead press is to overhead press more often! Here's a basic form tutorial:

Most people aren't comfortable, nor technically efficient, pressing weights over their heads while standing up. As a result, they're not good at displaying their full strength on that lift.

I'll take a page from Pavel Tsatsouline and say, "To overhead press a lot, you must overhead press a lot."

If you really want this lift to take off, train it three times a week. One of the workouts should be strictly for the overhead press and it would include training the overhead press heavy and doing your assistance work for that lift.

The two other sessions should be technique work on the press (and then doing your regular workout). It's also important that you reduce bench press work while you're trying to jack up your overhead press.

Day 1 – Technique

A. Military Press

  • Week 1: 5 x 5 at 70%
  • Week 2: 4 x 5 at 70%, 2 x 3 at 80%
  • Week 3: 3 x 5 at 70%, 3 x 3 at 80%
  • Week 4: 2 x 5 at 70%, 4 x 3 at 80%
  • Week 5: 5 x 3 at 80%, 1 x 5 at 70%
  • Week 6: 6 x 3 at 80%, 1 x 1 at 85%
  • Week 7: 5 x 3 at 80%, 2 x 1 at 85%
  • Week 8: 4 x 3 at 80%, 3 x 1 at 85%
  • Week 9: 3 x 3 at 80%, 4 x 1 at 85%
  • Week 10: 2 x 3 at 80%, 5 x 1 at 85%
  • Week 11: 6 x 1 at 85%, 1 x 3 at 80%
  • Week 12: 7 x 1 at 85%

Do your regular workout after that.

Day 2 – Heavy

A. Military Press

  • Week 1: 1 x 5 at 70%, 1 x 5 at 80% 1 x max reps at 85% (aim for 5)
  • Week 2: 1 x 3 at 75%, 1 x 3 at 85%, 1 x max reps at 90% (aim for 3)
  • Week 3: 1 x 3 at 75%, 1 x 3 at 85%, 1 x 1 at 90%, 1 x max reps at 95%
  • Week 4: Work up to technically solid 1RM (use that weight to calculate the percentage for all the workouts for the next 4 weeks.)
  • Week 5: 1 x 5 at 70%, 1 x 5 at 80% 1 x max reps at 85% (aim for 5)
  • Week 6: 1 x 3 at 75%, 1 x 3 at 85%, 1 x max reps at 90% (aim for 3)
  • Week 7: 1 x 3 at 75%, 1 x 3 at 85%, 1 x 1 at 90%, 1 x max reps at 95%
  • Week 8: Work up to technically solid 1RM (use that weight to calculate the percentage for all the workouts for the next 4 weeks.)
  • Week 9: 1 x 5 at 70%, 1 x 5 at 80% 1 x max reps at 85% (aim for 5)
  • Week 10: 1 x 3 at 75%, 1 x 3 at 85%, 1 x max reps at 90% (aim for 3)
  • Week 11: 1 x 3 at 75%, 1 x 3 at 85%, 1 x 1 at 90%, 1 x max reps at 95%
  • Week 12: Work up to technically solid 1RM (use that weight to calculate the percentage for all the workouts for the next 4 weeks.)

B. Assistance Exercise for the Overhead Press

Here you'll select one basic exercise to strengthen the weak point in your overhead press. Use this table to help you select the right exercise:

Weak Point Cause Assistance Exercise Choices
Start from Clavicle Anterior delt and/or clavicular head of the pecs High Incline Bench Press (60-75 degrees)
Nose Level External shoulder rotators Cuban Press or Seated Dumbbell Clean & Press
At Forehead Medial or posterior delt Bradford Press or Arnold Press
Lockout Long head of the triceps, shoulder instability, or lack of mobility Overhead Top 1/3 Pin Press, Push Press, or Military Press with Hanging Band Technique (shoulder stability)

Change the assistance exercise every 4 weeks. Train it in the 4-6 rep range. Yes, try to increase the weight, but not if form is sacrificed.

C. Vertical Pulling Exercise

Here you'd do a vertical pulling movement trained for sets of 6-8 reps focusing on full range, control, and mind-muscle connection. Do 3-5 sets.

D. One Isolation Exercise for Lagging Muscle Group (see table)

Day 3 – Technique

A. Military Press

  • Week 1: 8 x 3 at 65%
  • Week 2: 10 x 2 at 70%
  • Week 3: 12 x 1 at 75%
  • Week 4: 3 x 3 at 65%
  • Week 5: 8 x 3 at 65% (new weight based on 1RM of session 2)
  • Week 6: 10 x 2 at 70%
  • Week 7: 12 x 1 at 75%
  • Week 8: 3 x 3 at 65%
  • Week 9: 8 x 3 at 65% (new weight based on 1RM of session 2)
  • Week 10: 10 x 2 at 70%
  • Week 11: 12 x 1 at 75%
  • Week 12: 3 x 3 at 65%

Do your regular workout after that.

Related:  Question of Strength 50

Related:  The Shoulder Friendly Overhead Press