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  1. #1
    b-marz is offline Member
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    Default Strongman Training, I'm failing at the press...

    Hey guys, I know this isn't a strongman training forum, but quite honestly you seam to be the most useful forum I know when it comes to getting honest useful strength training info.

    Strongman is, almost always about reps with ridiculous weight. But I can't seam to get my press to grow in strength. I must be doing something wrong.

    My training thus far has been power lifting style training, and Pavel's books have been VERY helpful in that. My press still sucks though. I just can't seam to make them grow in strength. My squat and deadlift aren't half bad, and my bench is coming along, but my press won't grow, and I am trying not to write into the article my insane frustration with this. I'M VERY FRUSTRATED!!!!!

    When I compete, my press is junk, half the time I just can't get any reps out of the apparatus. My deadlift has never suffered. God build me to deadlift...not bragging just saying, it doesn't seam to matter what I do, my deadlfit grows, and I've NEVER had issue repping the wight. I'm not sure why that is, but I apply the same training techniques to the press, and I don't get the same results. In fact my pressing has stagnated the last year. My squat and bench seam to grow using the same training I use to grow my deadlift, just not to the same extent.

    If I can get my press to grow I can be competitive in my chosen sport, which would be great! I've never had issue with either squat or deadlift in competition, but I fail at any pressing or upper body based events and I can't figure out why.

    SO obviously your wondering what i've done for my press. Well for the last year and half I've done these things:

    warmup, top set of 5, 3 back off sets of 5 reps.
    Started light, added weight each week. Reset after 6 weeks.
    I did that basic routine for darn near a year
    I got to 175lb x5 but couldn't budge 185 off my chest

    Then for about 6 weeks I started doing pressing one day, and bench on another, but same deal warmup, max 5, back off sets. No growth, same damn 175lb x 5 at the end of it

    Then I started adding in pullups after my pressing, as I've heard that can help grow a press, and it certainly helps in the truck pulls. Yeah I got 185lb x 2 after 5 weeks with that.

    And the last oh several months, I'm not sure exactly on time frame I've been doing a westside style...I use that term loosly so don't hold me to critical in my description. But I have been alternating heavy pressing and speed pressing with both overhead pressing of dumbells and barbells and bench pressing with the same followed by pullups and bent rows respectively. I've been doing 3 week waves with 50% 55% and 60% of 1RM for 12 sets of 3 with each exercise for the dynamic effort days. Max effort days I rotated exercises every week, trying to max out each time.

    After about 6 weeks I got my press to 195. Yay....but now I've gone backwards. I moved across the country for a job this last month. That is good, but the stress of that set me back. I couldn't even press 175 the last time I tried a few weeks ago. 155lb was my max. I could rep it, weirdly, but nothing heavier would come off my chest.

    That is my biggest frustration with the press. I have found very consistently with ALL my other lifts, if I can rep something for 5, I can add 10lb and lift it at least once (not nececarily the same day though). But not with press. If I can rep a weight 5 times, it means I can rep it 5 times, but 10lbs heavier, and it won't move off my chest. And so I don't seam to be able to grow the press consistently because it doesn't follow the same rules, but I don't know what to do to get it to continue to grow. I'm 195lb body weight, and 25 years old, that weight class has pressing events over 200lbs all the time. I'm no where near that =(

    If you need more details to help me out don't hesitate to ask, and thank you in advance for your help. Most of the help I've gotten has come from reading previous posts, but I couldn't find anything on this topic.

  2. #2
    Jeff Steinberg is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    Strongman is, almost always about reps with ridiculous weight. But I can't seam to get my press to grow in strength.
    Strongman contests typically allow push presses or jerks in the "press" events, as well. When you say you're "struggling with the press," are you referring to a strict press, or a push press/jerk? If it is the latter, improving your leg strength and technique will do more for you than anything. If it's the former, I have some suggestions/comments below.

    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    God build me to deadlift
    This suggests you have long arms? Focusing on triceps strength is often key for long-armed lifters seeking improvement in the press. Replacing bench presses with high volume, low rep close-grip bench presses or reverse band bench presses can be very helpful for the long-armed lifter. Those lifts should be accessories to the primary pressing focus, though. IE- Press 5x/week, with reverse band bench presses done 1x/week after you finish pressing.

    A 6-8 week cycle replacing military presses with standing dumbbell military presses is also very good for long-armed lifters struggling with starting strength.

    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    I moved across the country for a job this last month. That is good, but the stress of that set me back. I couldn't even press 175 the last time I tried a few weeks ago. 155lb was my max.
    This is a non-issue. Your max hasn't gone down...you're just stressed out and tired. Getting settled and rested will bring you back to where you were before the move.

    Most importantly, you need to allow yourself time to improve. One of my favorite quotes (paraphrased from Norb Schemansky's): "To press a lot, you have to press a lot." You can only do so much pressing within a period of a few months, though. Press 5-7x per week for a year, plus; even if most of the pressing sessions are done for low volume, low reps, and with light-to-medium weights, over the course of the year you'll get much better at pressing.

  3. #3
    b-marz is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Steinberg View Post
    are you referring to a strict press, or a push press/jerk?
    The strict press. My reasoning being i should be good at pressing first, then the push press strength with follow naturally.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Steinberg View Post
    This suggests you have long arms?
    Well maybe, my torso is shorter than my legs, which makes me have decent leverage for deadlifting. That's was what I was referncing. I'm 5' 11" with a 6' 2" finger tip to finger tip span. I don't know if that is long or average. I'm not short armed though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Steinberg View Post
    Those lifts should be accessories to the primary pressing focus, though. IE- Press 5x/week, with reverse band bench presses done 1x/week after you finish pressing.
    Uh, hold on there, are you saying press 5 times a week and bench on the 6th day? I press twice per week. I don't want to knock it until i try it, but I go to the gym 3 days a week and have other things to do on the in between days...does one need to press that much to be good at it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Steinberg View Post
    A 6-8 week cycle replacing military presses with standing dumbbell military presses is also very good for long-armed lifters struggling with starting strength.
    What set/rep scheme would you recommend, and how many times per week

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Steinberg View Post
    Most importantly, you need to allow yourself time to improve. One of my favorite quotes (paraphrased from Norb Schemansky's): "To press a lot, you have to press a lot." You can only do so much pressing within a period of a few months, though. Press 5-7x per week for a year, plus; even if most of the pressing sessions are done for low volume, low reps, and with light-to-medium weights, over the course of the year you'll get much better at pressing.
    Ok how does one press 5 to 7 times a week? My squat/deadlift routine easily takes an hour, and I don't have a lot of energy after it. How would I balance out the lifts I perform? I certainly don't want to sacrifice my leg and back strength for the press. Is that a short term proposition just to get a good foundation?

    Could you go into a little more specifics about how you would structure a weekly routine to accommodate what you propose so I better understand it please?

    Thank you for help!

  4. #4
    RJ79 is offline Senior Member
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    b-marz the most difficult portion of the lift is of the chest. The two set rep schemes I've used are wendler's 5/3/1 and Bill Starr's 3x3 straight weight starting low and ending heavy tapering to a heavy single before i reset. This took my press from 170 to 225-235. I give a range because the heaviest single i've taken is 225.

    You may be better off practicing push presses as it uses leg drive to get past the hardest part of the lift. It is also what is used in competition.

    If you are set on strict presses make sure you don't use tons of momentum and stretch reflex at the bottom after your first rep. Doing this will give you a false sense of what you can get off your chest if you use a rep calculator.

  5. #5
    b-marz is offline Member
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    RJ79 do those programs have the volume necessary for strongman? I have looked at wendler's 5/3/1 and the volume looked low. Does it give you the power to rep out with a given weight?

  6. #6
    RJ79 is offline Senior Member
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    B-marz the great thing about 5/3/1 is its scalable in the volume. You can always rep out on your last set (not deloads) and he has one assistance template called boring but big where you do 5 backoff sets of ten reps for the main exercise. Its worth the $20 for the book or ebook. I don't want to give away his whole program here. Anyone who says it doesn't have enough volume has never read the book.

    Worth the investment if you want to learn different ways to look at cycling and programming. Its not earth shattering but you will learn more and having more clubs in your bag so to speak never hurt anyone. I would not try to piece it together over the internet because even the people that have the book seem to lack reading comprehension skills.

  7. #7
    b-marz is offline Member
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    $20 isn't bad, I'll take a look at it. By the way, how long did it take you to make that transition from 170lb to 225lb press?

  8. #8
    fatman is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    Does it give you the power to rep out with a given weight?
    As a general rule, handling more weight for a 1RM will increase your repping prowess at a lower weight. Of course, there's a point of diminishing returns, but you can always go back to higher volume once you're stronger.

    5/3/1 took my clean&press from around 185 to 225 in about 14-15 months, which isn't great, but isn't bad either as I was also bench pressing. Had I focused on the OH press only, I have no doubt that the increase would've been much bigger. After that I seemed to get better at doing more reps, but stalled 1RM-wise. I'd say it's worth a shot.

  9. #9
    Jeff Steinberg is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    The strict press. My reasoning being i should be good at pressing first, then the push press strength with follow naturally.
    I understand your thought process, but you may find the results of this approach to be disappointing. A good push press (or jerk) is heavily dependent on leg drive and coordination; a strong push press and strict press are not as closely tied as one would hope. If your ultimate goal is to push press big weights, I suggest focusing on leg strength and push pressing, moreso than strict pressing. My suggestion to train the focus lift frequently remains the same, either way.

    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    I'm 5' 11" with a 6' 2" finger tip to finger tip span.
    At face value, this ratio would be considered a positive "ape index" - ie, you're long-armed. You can tell for sure by checking your arm length measurement on a dress shirt. (Wingspan longer than height, with a short sleeve length, indicates a broad chest/shoulders. If that were the case, you would not likely be struggling with the press, though).

    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    Uh, hold on there, are you saying press 5 times a week and bench on the 6th day? I press twice per week. I don't want to knock it until i try it, but I go to the gym 3 days a week and have other things to do on the in between days...does one need to press that much to be good at it?
    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    Ok how does one press 5 to 7 times a week? My squat/deadlift routine easily takes an hour, and I don't have a lot of energy after it. How would I balance out the lifts I perform? I certainly don't want to sacrifice my leg and back strength for the press.
    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    Could you go into a little more specifics about how you would structure a weekly routine to accommodate what you propose so I better understand it please?

    Thank you for help!
    You don't have to exhaust yourself pressing everyday, but if you want to get good at something, do it daily. If it's not worth doing daily, it's not really that much of a priority, eh?

    In the simplest sense, becoming a good lifter is a cumulative effort. The purpose of daily training is to develop consistency in your lifting, and in turn, gradually increase your baseline strength. As your baseline strength improves, your neural efficiency and 1RM strength will improve as well. In a daily training plan, you don't push to the limit on any given training day, because that will signficantly hamper your recovery. While you recover from a limit effort, you miss out on the opportunity for several other productive training sessions (after which, your limit would've been greater). You compete in strongman, so those competitions are your opportunity to ignore self-restraint and make a maximum effort. You don't need to be doing that in your training, also.

    Structuring a weekly plan -
    Weightlifters don't sacrifice leg/back strength for the jerk, right? The press is no different. Train it before your squats/pulls and stay away from failure (don't push yourself to the point where you can't effectively train the following day). If you rein in your enthusiasm, you shouldn't be spending more than 10-15 minutes pressing on any given training day, especially if you're pressing from the rack (which requires less recovery between sets than pressing out of a clean). If you have time for TV/video games/messing around online/etc., you have time for 15 minutes of daily pressing.

    In a given week, you might press Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri. You would squat, etc. on Mon, bench press on Wed, and deadlift, etc. on Fri, leaving the weekend to recover (just as an example). In that type of scheme, you will not be as well rested for the bench press, and you won't want to push yourself so hard that the next day's pressing suffers. Therefore, you take a step back on the bench press and use it as an accessory lift...at least until you're happy with your press, and your priorities shift.

    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    What set/rep scheme would you recommend, and how many times per week
    Treat dumbbell military presses the same as barbell military press - frequent training, multiple sets, low reps. The only difference is that the dumbbells will do more for your strength out of the rack.

    Quote Originally Posted by b-marz View Post
    Is that a short term proposition just to get a good foundation?
    It depends how long the press is a primary focal point in your training. So long as improving the press is at the forefront of your training goals, prioritize the frequency with which you train it.

  10. #10
    b-marz is offline Member
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    Thank you Jeff, this has got to be the best lifting advice for the press I've ever gotten.

    I can't say as I'll be pressing every day. I have a wife and two kids and the in between days are the days I spend more time with them, but I will restructure my routine to be pressing Mon Wed Fri (I totally agree with the fifteen minute thing, but when you have to go to the gym it's not that easy, 10 minute drive after work, 5 minutes to change, 5 minutes to find a spot in the gym, 15 minutes of pressing, 20 minute drive home, it all adds up.)

    Now out of curiosity, why is it I can practice the deadlift, the squat, and the bench twice per week and see good gains but not the press? What is it about the pressing movement and the associated muscles that limits it's development under that scheme while the other lifts thrive?

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