Saturday, May 25, 2013

More thoughts on pressing

I had a discussion this morning about pressing, and I want to sort of expound on my incline press article a little bit.

In my opinion, just benching and overhead pressing is not enough. The one constant you will find through the history of strength is that most great pressers, besides having great leverages for it, also did a ton of reps, did dumbbell work, did incline work, did overhead work, did bench work, did dips, did everything.

Not only that, they placed a huge emphasis on arm work. Have you ever met a guy that had great pressing strength that was in possession of spaghetti arms? Probably not (and please don't post a god damn exception to that rule, I hate that with a passion).

Over the last few years, I have rotated in the following movements on a consistent basis.

Incline barbell and dumbbell press

Close Grip and Dumbbell bench

Press Behind the Neck, Clean and Press, Seated dumbbell press

Now, as far as overhead work goes, this whole notion that you have to be standing is ridiculous. You overhead press to work the shoulders. You're not in line at Six Flags. So it doesn't matter if you're standing or seated, you're overhead pressing. And that means building shoulders. Guess what? You can do both seated AND standing. There is no law against that.

For dumbbell work, I recommend picking weights where you can at least hit 8 reps. It's a pain to get heavier dumbbells into position. So pick your dumbbells like you pick the person you're about to bang it out with.


Since you're going to all of that trouble, you might as well pick something you can lay down with for a while.

For pipes, everyone knows I love 100 rep curls now. Great for elbow healthy AND arm growth. Don't care what anyone says. It works.

I can't do a lot of extension type stuff anymore for triceps, but since I close grip over 400 on a regular basis now and my inclines are narrow, I can get by with some rope pushdowns (which are easy on the elbows) and some overhead rope extensions AFTER the rope pushdowns.

I also recommend doing a lot of pause work with all of your flat pressing because this will build tremendous bottom position strength. If you really want to implement this, pause ALL reps and pause the last rep of all your sets for the longest.

Rep out sets are great as well for pressing. If you want any kind of idea about the kind of pres I'm talking about, for the base building method there will be two main rotations. One is a target intensity at 5x8 all reps paused, and another is 5x3 all reps paused. When you throw in the 350 method you're talking a LOT of rep work in a given workout.

I also don't think you need to press twice a week to get stronger pressing either. Some guys do, and some guys don't. I'm just saying, my joints won't take it anymore, and I'm still hitting PR's at a pretty regular clip by simply pressing once a week. I know it's all the rage to train a lift 18 times a week now, but lots and lots and lots of brutally strong pressers train/trained the press once a week.

So to narrow it down -

Train press variations

Get a shit ton of work in (sets and reps)

Train the press once or twice a week, but figure out if you can get away with less because your joints will eventually thank you for it

Train to get big pipes too



  1. Big arms aren't functional, said no one strong ever. Splendid article.

    1. So very true. I've never met a guy with incredibly large muscular arms that wasn't a great presser.

  2. Just out of curiosity, how big are your arms measuring these days Paul?

  3. My arms have gotten bigger this year, and my press has gone up considerably. Probably not coincidence, huh?

    With DB bench, I've seen two variations -- one of which is touted as superior by Wendler. Variation 1 is what all the body builders do, arms out to the side like you have a bar. Variation 2 (Wendler's preference) is DBs at your side, and press straight up. I've been doing them Wendler's way, but do you have any strong preference one way or the other on them?

    1. I do em the same way Wendler does. Palms facing.