Four Weeks to an Overhead Press PR: Week 1

Four Weeks to an Overhead Press PR: Week 1

The Conjugate Method provides the platform necessary to train a variety of athletes. One sport that can particularly benefit from using Conjugate Method training is the sport of strongman. Our methods address and improve absolute strength, explosive power, muscle mass, and work capacity, so it is easy to understand how the methods can benefit a strongman competitor.

The overhead press is to strongman what the bench press is to powerlifting, a foundation lift that will dictate the success you can achieve in the sport. In the sport of strongman, if you fail to possess a strong overhead press, you can expect to struggle as you climb the competition ranks. Nowadays, to compete amongst the best, it is nearly a requirement to have an overhead press over 400 lbs.

Fortunately, a correctly organized Conjugate Method program can rapidly improve, and continue to improve, the overhead press for a strongman competitor. Over the next four weeks, I will describe a sensible way to design a max-effort upper training plan to attain a PR lift in the overhead press.

Here is what is recommended for the first week of training:

Main Exercise

The strict press will be the main exercise for week one of the four-week PR-focused overhead press training plan. The strict press is a great exercise to include when focusing on mastery of the overhead press, considering the technical discipline the strict press reinforces.

Unlike a typical overhead or push press, which both include leg drive, the strict press forces an athlete to brace the torso to begin the press.

From there, the athlete will use the posterior and anterior shoulders, upper back, and triceps to move the weight throughout the entire range of motion. The strict press helps to build brute strength in all pressing exercises, especially the overhead press.

Additionally, the emphasis on bracing and using the abdominals will help carry over to the overhead or push press, leading to better technique.

Regarding the set and rep scheme, it is recommended that athletes work up to a top set of five reps. If upper body strength is lacking, it can be beneficial to take smaller jumps leading up to the top set to increase the total training volume of the day. When performing multi-rep sets with strict press, it is important to reset your brace after each rep correctly.

Accessory Exercises

No matter the movement, all upper-body pressing exercises place a demand on similar muscle groups. This includes the anterior and posterior shoulders, pecs, back, biceps, triceps, and forearms. At Westside, we focus on these muscle groups twice per week, every week. On an average upper body training day, we will perform a main exercise and four to six accessory exercises.

Our accessory exercise choices often address one of two training issues; directly involved and weak muscle groups. We want to continue to build and strengthen all involved muscle groups, but we also want to be sure to provide additional emphasis to lagging or weak muscle groups.

Considering this program is not designed for an individual with specific weaknesses, I will instead provide a list of accessories that provides all primarily-involved muscle groups with adequate levels of training volume. The max-effort main exercises build absolute strength, and the repeated-effort accessory exercises build muscle mass and work capacity to allow continuous improvement.

Here are the recommended accessory exercises for week one:

Close-Grip Bench Press - 4 x 5-8

Barbell Row - 4 x 8-10

Rolling DB Triceps Extension - 3 x 12-15

Hammer Curls - 4 x 12-15

Lateral Raises - 3 x 15

Plate Front Raises - 3 x 15

As you can see, we address the triceps, shoulders, mid and upper back, biceps, and forearms. The training weights used should match the set and rep scheme. Use the heaviest weights possible while completing all prescribed sets and reps properly.

Does this mean using the absolute heaviest weight possible? No. This advice encourages athletes to push themselves and get the most out of each exercise. If the above advice is followed correctly, all training weights should be taxing but doable with proper form.

We do not assign exact training weights during accessory exercises due to fatigue caused by the main exercise of the training day. Considering it is impossible to predict how strenuous a max effort main exercise will be to an athlete, it is better to follow the simple advice above to ensure an athlete gets the most out of accessory exercise training.

Conjugate for Strongman

The Conjugate Method works excellently as a platform for building strongman training programs. Considering the athletic demands and competition event variations experienced by a strongman competitor, a strongman competitor must choose a method that provides them with ideal levels of volume, intensity, and training variation.

Not only will our methods strengthen an athlete, but they’ll also become more durable. By training at max effort levels of intensity each week, an athlete increases strength and conditioning and bone and tissue density. So, not only will max effort training make an athlete stronger, but it will also make them tougher.

If you are a strongman competitor and are struggling to improve your abilities, consider the Conjugate Method. Our methods address all aspects of athletic ability and provide a strongman competitor with a training platform that can be customized to bring about a variety of training outcomes.

No matter the lift or event an athlete may need to prepare for, the Conjugate Method can deliver results.


Simmons, L. (2007). Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Westside Barbell.

Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. C. (2009). Supertraining. Verkhoshansky.

Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics.

Burley Hawk

Burley Hawk

Burley Hawk is the Digital Content Manager at Westside Barbell and a Conjugate Method strength coach. Training and studying under Louie Simmons over the past decade, Burley has attained the experience, knowledge and understanding necessary to master the Conjugate Method.

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