Developing the Overhead Press

By Brooks Kubik

Dinosaurs know that the overhead press is one of the KEY exercises for strength, power and muscular development, as well as being one of the very best tests of a lifter's strength. We all want a bigger and better press. Here are some important tips on how to build a better press. In his "Guide to Weightlifting Competition," Bob Hoffman listed what he considered to be the 14 best assistance exercises to improve the two arm press. Here they are. How many of these exercises have you included in your training program over the past 12 months?

  1. Heavy dumbbell pressing. Harry Paschall also rated these very highly. Virtually all great pressers excel on the dumbbell press.
  2. Seated presses, both with dumbbells and with barbells. The seated barbell press was one of John Grimek's favorites.
  3. Pressing behind neck. Yuri Vlasov did these.
  4. Alternate presses, where you perform a military press, then a press behind neck, and so one, back and forth, alternating the two from rep to rep.
  5. Incline bench pressing. Use a 60 degree incline. A favorite of Dave Sheppard and Jim George. It brought Sheppard's press up from 286 in 1954 to 341 in 1958. It brought Jim George's press up from 220 in 1954 to 297 in 1958.
  6. Bench pressing. A favorite of Doug Hepburn. Also used by John Davis.
  7. Push pressing. One of Hepburn's favorites. Also a favorite of Paul Anderson. Lower the weight slowly, using arm power alone.
  8. Wide grip pressing. Press as wide as possible at first, and as you add weight, gradually bring the hands closer.
  9. Handstand presses. Sig Klein's secret weapon. Grimek's secret weapon. Terlazzo's secret weapon. Hepburn's secret weapon. Need I say more?
  10. Partial presses from the shoulder -- use more than you can press and see how far you can press it. A favorite exercise of Paul Anderson. Shown in my power rack training tape with over 400 pounds. A related exercise: the jerk with a heavy weight, and then lower the weight as slowly as possible.
  11. The Bradford Special. Hoffman said that 297 pound Jim Bradford had the broadest shoulders and biggest deltoids he had ever seen, and this was Bradford's favorite exercise. Press a heavy weight to the top of the head, lower it behind the shoulders, press back up to top of head, lower to chest, repeat.
  12. Forward raise with barbell. A favorite of John Davis, who could perform the exercise with 175 pounds. You also can perform the exercise with two dumbbells. The dumbbell variation was a favorite exercise of John Grimek.
  13. The bent-over lateral raise. Helps to build supporting and stabilizing strength.
  14. Pressing a single dumbbell. A favorite exercise of Paul Anderson. Chuck Vinci performed this exercise while holding onto an overhead bar, which makes it a very strict movement. So there you have it: 14 terrific assistance exercise to help you build a world class press!

Editor's Note: Some additional exercises for increasing overhead presses, include: The Sots Press (go into a full squat and press a dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell from that position), Side Press, and the TNT Cable Press. Many of you are probably wondering how to incorporate all of these exercises into your routine. I would use Louie Simmons Conjugate approach. Pick one exercise and focus on improving that for four week. Then switch to another exercise. Every six weeks or so, test the primary exercise that you re trying to improve (Double Kettlebell Press, Barbell Press etc). This is one of the things that I do with many of my online clients.

For more info on Brooks Kubik, visit his site at www.brookskubik.com, and make sure that you sign up for his newsletter. If you do not have a copy of Dinosaur Training, pick up a copy today.

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