This past week I have reached a rare milestone (by today's standard) that few e-lifters will ever reach:
A 300 lb Overhead Press!
It's only +5 lb above my previous PR, but it's a much nicer number.
A magic number, in fact ("...the magic number: 300" - Bill Starr).
I wish he could see the video, but I'm not even sure he has the Internet.
Things that I attribute to taking my OHP to 300 lb
1. Explosive Initial Drive
I wrote about it here on AllThingsGym.com, and it was further refined by pressing in a power rack with the bars on the safety pins instead of having to walk the weight out (One Weird OHP Trick).
When I first started pressing inside the rack off the safety pins, my OHP 1RM was a mere 265 lb.
Eventually, I managed to take my OHP to 295 lb.
The way I set up the barbell on the safety pins inside of the rack to press helps minimize any wasted energy from walking out the bar.
Basically get in position, violently explode up with my legs (thereby locking out my knees), have the bar slightly rise up, THEN crash back down to get a stretch reflex in order to propel the bar back up again. The momentum from this explosive start helps push the bar past the sticking point (around the top of the head).
2. Thumbless Grip
The bar is better positioned on the heel of the palm, above the bones of the forearms with the thumbs out of the way.
3. Increased Frequency
I increased my pressing frequency to about 2-3x per week. Before it was usually once a week (sometimes less).
The easy way to increase the number of times I press without sacrificing another exercise is simply to use the OHP as a warm up to bench presses.
The overhead press is a lift that requires both strength and skill. The more practice, the more efficient my movements are during the press, meaning higher numbers and more PRs.
4. Multiple 2RM PRs
I hit 3 2RM on the OHP in a short period of time (about 2 weeks). The weight, "groove", amount of effort needed to perform 2 rep maxes are more similar to a 1RM than say, a 10RM. There's probably less carry-over from improving a 10RM to a 1RM compared to improving a 2RM to a 1RM.
Reading some older articles from people who used to press well over 300 lb back in the day, a few of them favored multiple sets of 2 instead of higher repetition sets. I may have to experiment with this.
5. Frequent Failing At 300 lb (AKA Press Starts)
For the past month or so, just about every time I trained the OHP I would take a swing at 300 lb. Sometimes a couple of tries in 1 day.
I could get it to around my forehead level, but couldn't get past the sticking point.
There were a few comments on the interwebs advising me to stop going for the 300 lb 1RM, and just work on repetition PRs. But I knew that failing a 1RM OHP had it's benefits. First, by attempting to press 300 lb, there's a chance I might get it!
Additionally, a "missed" overhead press becomes a partial overhead press. The partial range of motion that is targeted is from the start of the press all the way to the sticking point.
Doing a partial press from start to sticking point is also known as a "press start" (see Bill Starr's article on the OHP, on page 6). It seems to be a rarely used exercise (at least deliberately) that's easy to implement, and, I think, has a lot of value because you're overloading the initial phase of the overhead press.
There were many times when I would attempt 300 lb, but all I would focus on is exploding the weight as quickly and pressing it up as high as I could. The goal was to generate so much momentum from the bottom that it would help carry me past my sticking point.
Road To A 315 lb OHP
The next goal is to take my OHP to an even more magical 315 lb. That's only 15 lb away, but if you've ever trained the press seriously, you know that you have to fight for every pound on the bar.
A few things:
- Refine Technique
- I currently employ a narrow grip, which is good for an explosive start, but from what some of the old school articles I read, is more difficult at the sticking point compared to a wider grip. So, I'm going to experiment with a wider grip.
- Maintain pressing frequency
- More core work
abs of steel Adamantium Abs™
- More frequent and heavier Press Starts
- I'm going to experiment with higher loads, maybe 320 lb.
- Partials reps, using a bar suspended by chains. This way, I can adjust the height of the starting position by adjusting the length of the chain.
Anyway, only 4 PRs this past week:
4 Personal Records
High Bar Squat: 475 lb x 8 (+20 lb 8RM)
Only needed 6 reps for a PR, but managed to summon enough powers for another 2 reps.
Overhead Press: 300 lb x 1 (1RM)
Finally in the 300 lb overhead press club.
Paused Bench Press: 345 lb x 3 (3RM)
I was thinking about going for 350 lb x 3 for a +10 lb PR, but shoulder aches a little from yesterday so only went for a +5 lb PR.
Sumo Deadlift: 500 lb x 2 (2RM)
Missed a 610 lb 1RM attempt (conventional stance). Got it past my knees, but couldn't finish. Maybe I should start doing rack pulls/mat pulls to strengthen my locking out power.
Took me a while to find the correct stance (I think) for the sumo deadlift. Haven't done sumo deadlifts in eons. Just because I'm Asian doesn't mean I'm naturally good at this Asian-themed lift.