Variations to Improve your Overhead Pressing: PART 1
Author: Nick Jacobs
‘Touch and Go’ (TNG) Overhead Press
Also referred to as “Continuous Pressing” or “Juggling Overhead Press”, this overhead press variation is perfect for those who lack pressing endurance and/or press technique.
Regardless of your pressing style, this variation is effective for both push-pressing and push-jerking. The idea is simple… besides the first and last repetitions, there is no time spent with the implement on your chest. As soon as you lower the barbell/log/axle to your chest, you initiate the next press. This variation is useful for 2 different reasons, the first being conditioning. This variation forces constant explosive movement until the reps for that set are complete. The greater the force output in a given time frame, especially repetitive force output, the more taxing the movement is on the cardiovascular system. With many strongman contests having a press-for-reps element, improved press endurance is encouraged.
The second reason this variation is useful is for technique refinement. If you don’t have sound technique throughout the set, it will be impossible to successfully complete all required repetitions. For example, let’s say you don’t lockout the first rep and are quick to bring that implement back to the rack position. That will likely cause you to incorrectly time the dip of the following rep or even disrupt the bar path enough causing you to drop the implement all together. Or worse, catch the implement too far forward and injure the shoulders, pecs, ribs, or wrists. When competing in a reps for time event, technique typically gets pretty sloppy towards the end of the time period. Continuous pressing is a great variation to help combat that issue.
Strongman Technique founder Zack McCarley is a big proponent of TNG Pressing, to which he says has been a huge benefit throughout his strongman journey. This is what Zack has to say about TNG Pressing:
“Mastery of the touch and go overhead press has been paramount to my development as a strongman athlete. I can go on about how it forces you to maintain perfect technique or how it can increase your work capacity and conditioning, but all that people really need to know is this…. In the sport of strongman we are judged on our pressing ability very frequently within a very limited time domain. This style of movement is the practice of mastering that discipline and skill. In short, master touch and go overhead movements and you will be well rewarded in competition!”
It is best to begin this variation at no more than 70% of your 1RM. As you become more familiar with the mechanics of this movement, TNG Pressing can be progressed by adding load, adding repetitions, and also by reducing the rest period between sets. Once you have mastered TNG Pressing, time under tension and pressing efficiency is optimized, which proves to be a massive upper hand in contest events with a time frame component.
The simplest way to understand this movement is through a demonstration, which you can find Zack expertly showing below.
Rack and Lockout Pauses
This overhead press variation is ideal for those that lack implement stability in the rack and/or lockout position of the press. Rack/lockout pauses involves extended holds of the implement in the rack and lockout position of the press. For example, pausing the implement for two seconds on the chest before you initiate the press, and pausing the implement for two seconds at lockout of the press before you bring the implement back down to the rack position.
I learned this variation from HW Strongman Brian Fletcher (@strongmanfletch). When he first introduced this variation to me… I was skeptical. I didn’t really understand how this variation would improve my pressing ability, but despite being hesitant, I did it anyway. I admittedly underestimated the movement and was completely wrecked for days. My shoulders, traps, rear delts, lats and abs were sore beyond belief after every session this variation was incorporated, and guess what happened in the weeks to follow? My pressing strength drastically improved!
As previously mentioned, rack and lockout pauses have one major benefit: improved rack/lockout stability. The longer you hold the implement in those positions, the more the supporting muscles are taxed. Forced adaptations occur over time, and those supporting muscles become stronger. The more stabile you are in the rack position, the stronger and more efficient the dip before the press drive. The more stabile you are in the lockout position, the less likely you are to lower or drop the implement before the judge gives the down command. When stabilizer muscles are stronger, each press is more efficient.
To ensure maximum effectiveness, perform this variation after your main pressing sets when stabilizing muscles are pre-fatigued. It is always advised to keep the load for this movement around 60-80% of your working sets previously performed, and a rep range of at least 5 reps. This variation can be progressed by adding weight, adding reps, as well as increasing pause length. Check out the video below for a demonstration.
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Last set of 8 with 3 sec rack hold and 2 sec lockout hold. Only good set from all of training yesterday. Terrible week! ——————————————————- #strongman #shoulders #press #triceps #power #iwillbestronger #kentuckymuscle #SwollenAndPale #nutrition #healthy #strengthcoach #powerlifting #bodybuilding #hatersgonnahate #paducah #kentucky #KYSTRONG #fitness #fitfam #gains #startingstrongman #strength #personaltraining #gym #workout #instagood #instadaily #CitizensGym #JacobsStrength #GHOST @citizensgym @strongmanfletch75
Pin pressing has advantages for all lifters because this variation directly addresses individual sticking points. The idea behind pin pressing is very simple; place the safety pin/bar height at your sticking point. The sticking point for most pressers is somewhere between the mid-forehead and 4in below lockout. However, if you have no issues driving the implement through that range of the press, then place the safety pin height closer to lockout. By initiating the press at your sticking point, you remove all momentum generated in the previous range of the motion. This forces you to generate all momentum at the most difficult portion of the press. Doing this ultimately improves your strength within that range.
When performing this movement, it is crucial that you keep your hips in a fairly neutral position… don’t turn the pin press into a standing incline press. What I mean by that is keep your head and neck in a neutral/upright position, glutes and quads tight, abs and lats engaged, and refrain from over-extension of the hips. In the video below, I have shown a demonstration of the proper vs improper technique for overhead pin pressing. That should clear up any confusion.
For demonstration purposes I kept the load in the video very light, however, it should be noted that you should not be able to handle more than 85-90% of your 1RM. Therefore, this exercise is most effective at sub-maximal load ranges with progressive load increases once you have adapted to this movement. Starting too heavy on this variation is almost guaranteeing an injury or at least major discomfort. Don’t underestimate how difficult this variation can be!
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Pin press is an easy variation to improve overhead press strength. Clip #1 is the CORRECT way to perform this movement! Glutes, abs, lats, and quads stay engaged through full ROM with hips and low back staying in a neutral position. Clip #2 is the INCORRECT way to perform this movement. Over-extension of the hips, disengaged lats, and excessive pressure placed on the low back. Easy way to injure yourself! This movement along with several other press variations will be addressed in our next article at strongmantechnique.com. Stay tuned! @zackmccarley @strongmantechnique ——————————————————- #overheadpress #strongmantechnique #smarttraining #strongman #education #strongmantraining #programming #gains #fitfam #strength #fitness #strongmancorporation #kentuckymuscle #strengthcoach #fit #gym #aminnowwillneverbeashark #slavetotime #improveordie #instagood #JacobsStrength
Possibly the most underrated press variation, and especially useful for developing strength and stability at lockout of a press. The basic idea behind this overhead movement is improved stability and nervous system function at maximal loads. By performing recovery jerks, you are essentially conditioning your nervous system and musculature to handle big weights. Pro Strongman Andrew Clayton has put up some monster overhead numbers, and credits part of his pressing performances to overreaching through the use of recovery jerks. This is what Andrew has to say:
“I find that jerk recoveries and supports are best used right before scheduled deload to prime the body for a big max and maintain that ability into the peak. Jerk recoveries are a form of overreaching so it’s important for deloading to follow since this movement is significantly more taxing than regular pressing. Generally, I will not go above 105-110% of my estimated max at the time. I’ll work up to the 110% from 95-100% over 2-4 sessions pending my preparedness and current needs of jerk correction. I will use this recovery style every other week with maybe pin presses on alternate weeks. It is similar to “future method” with bands (aka reverse bands). Do not make the mistake of going too heavy and training your ego versus training the movement. While it is common to do jerk recoveries as singles, it’s beneficial to work the movement into 5 reps to build endurance of stabilizers.
I prefer to complete a set of 2-3 repetitions, and on the last rep hold for 15-20 seconds. Sometimes, I will purposely walk around (stepping around with both forward foot and back foot) to make the upper body, core and stabilizers work harder in order to gain control of the implement… especially log. Log has a tendency to position itself forward, causing you to fight natural positions and reign the log in towards a more central balance.
I also recommend you use less support equipment, such as belt, sleeves, wraps, cuffs, etc., to get the full benefit of core improvement. However, if the movement pattern changes with supportive gear, then use the necessary supportive gear to make the movement more ‘sport specific’ (keep similar movement patterns you compete with).
The most effective set-up I have found is to start with your feet and body directly under the implement. (The height of the implement should allow for a proper jerk without dipping too low). Then, similar to finishing the leg drive of the press and going into a power jerk or split jerk, push under/jump down under the weight and finish the jerk. Once the feet hit, start to correct the jerk and stand upright. Doing the drill this way will teach you to immediately create tension, initiate core stability, and activate the shoulders when you go to “catch” the jerk. If you cannot immediately get tight and stand up with the weight, then the load might need to be reduced. For beginners, start with your feet where they would be when you land and just set up, no jumping down. This will teach you what it feels like to break the bar off the pins before adding a more dynamic element of jumping down into the jerk recovery.”
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Nothing that great during travel. But I did get to do overhead holds with a recovery and walking around. Can't do that yet with current rack set up. No supportive equipment (cuffs are stretched out 😔) to make harder. @builtbymike #runningstrongman #strongman #trainingstrongman #startingstrongman #theyforgot #shirtless #bear #stronger #fuckit
As a strongman athlete, you should have a good idea of what your specific strengths and weaknesses are for any particular lift. One of the biggest issues with strength athletes is accessory selection, and far too often I see athletes incorporating the lifts at which they excel into their training. If you want to become a better strongman, it is important to select appropriate variations that force adaptations to your individual weak points.
Once you have identified your overhead pressing weaknesses, select the variations that are best suited for the improvement of that weakness. As you improve this weakness over a training block or full training cycle, that weakness you once had may no longer be an issue. At that point you need to reevaluate your specific strengths and weaknesses, and once again select variations to improve weak points and repeat the process all over. For example, if you have no issues with pressing stability, there would be no reason for you to use rack/lockout pauses as an accessory lift in your training. In that case, you may find pin pressing is better suited to address a sticking point so that your pressing may be more fluid. It is important to note that not all of these press variations should be performed in the same training session!
Hopefully these pressing variations can be of use to your training and improving contest performance! At Strongman Technique, it is our goal to give you the necessary tools to become the best athlete of your ability. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for Part 2 of our pressing variations trilogy! At the completion of our three part overhead pressing series, we will provide a pressing guide to help you determine which variations and accessories will be of best use to you!
As a final note we would like to thank Professional Strongman Andrew Clayton for his time and help on the content of this article, go check him out and make sure to follow that beautiful beast of a man on IG! ( @RunningStrongman )