Tips to Improve Your Overhead Press


Recently I hit a nice milestone on my PRESS- 185lbs.

This is the most I've put overhead since I hoisted 200 lbs before the most recent shoulder injuries.

I haven't reached my goal yet but I have improved significantly since I RE-started at 95 lbs.

As a coach, I take what I learn from my own training, and apply the fundamental principles to my clients.

Here's a few tips I've learned that can help you with your Overhead Press or as Mark Rippetoe calls it "The Press".

Tips to Improve Your Press


Total body tension is crucial to lifting heavy weight overhead. Squeeze your butt, brace your abs hard, lock in your lats, keep your feet grounded into the floor, and grip the bar tight.


It may seem impossible to press the bar in a straight path overhead because of your face, but when you look at your lift from the side, you should see a path that is close to straight.

The bar needs to be locked-out directly over the middle of your head/midfoot.

Follow the same path on the way down.


You will encounter a rep that will slow down and almost stop. Fight for it. Don't give up on the rep. Stay tight, keep pushing upward. You will be surprised how many of these reps you can finish if you don't quit on them.


Most of your work on THE PRESS should be around 5 reps per set. These should be the meat and potatoes of your Press training.

It doesn't have to be straight sets of 5 either. (same weight each set)

For example- I recently did sets of 4 with 165 lbs. The next set I reduced the weight to 160 for 4 reps and then a final set of 155 for 5 reps.

Sprinkle in some sets of 3 and 8 reps on a second day of pressing to mix in a different stimulus and expose yourself to heavier weight AND higher reps.


If you press just once a week now, add in another day to increase the volume of your weekly pressing.

For example: my heavy press day is one top set of 1-3 reps then 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps.

My second Press day is lighter. I may only do two sets of 8 reps or 3 sets of 5 with a reduced weight from the heavy session.

Put those tips into action on your Press and see the numbers start to climb.

If your Press has been stuck, don't worry, it happens to everyone!  It's not an easy lift and it requires plenty of patience.

One other tip I have used with my clients is to buy some fractional plates (1-1.5 lbs) and use them for your pressing exercises.

This works great when you can't add 5 lbs. to your press but you CAN lift another 1-2.5 lbs overhead.

For a custom 4 week program, check out my Strength Essentials 716 online coaching programs: