Seven Ways to Train for a Stronger Press – Part One: The One-Arm Push-Up
Recently I was asked if I had written any posts about press programming for a stronger press. I’ve written a lot about pull-ups and tips and programming for pull-ups but not many about pressing.
Pull-ups come easily to me, whereas pressing, even though I am strong for my size when it comes to the press, as soon as I started to work towards pressing anything heavier than 20kg (44lbs) I had to work a lot harder for it. I have had quite a journey as I’ve worked towards a 24kg (53lbs) press, which is almost half my bodyweight, and I have kept very detailed notes along the way. As a result I know what has worked to help improve and strengthen my press and what has not.
Reflecting upon my training for the past few years there are seven movements or combination of movements that I have trained that have significantly helped to improve and make my press stronger. With that I present to you this seven part press series that will cover each movement, what I discovered training each movement, and example program design. I will cover a different movement with each post.
In this first post I will talk about the One-Arm Push-Up (OAPU).
How did the One-Arm Push-Up help my press?
The One-Arm Push-Up helped me to learn how to generate and maintain proper tension for my press.
The One-Arm Push-Up improved my press strength. If you can press your bodyweight up from the ground, against gravity, with one-arm, then it is a no-brainer that you are going to increase your overhead press strength. Two arm push-ups are hard enough for people, never mind a proper one-arm push-up. One week after I achieved my one-arm push-up I pressed 22kg (50lbs) on both right and left sides.
The One-Arm Push-Up taught me patience. It took me about two months from the day (May 8, 2013) that I started to train OAPU progressions three times a week to get my OAPU on July 6, 2013. Not only did training the OAPU teach me patience because it took two months for me to achieve it, but also, it taught me patience about not rushing the movement because I did not once attempt it from the ground during the entire 8 weeks that I worked towards it. I kept to training it from an elevated surface so that I would have success each time.
For a very long time the thought of pressing would be self defeating for me. Training the One-Arm Push-Up helped me to get out of my head about pressing and obsessing about whether or not I was going to have a “good” press day or a “bad” press day. It helped me to mentally let go of the stress that pressing often used to induce for me because I was focusing on learning a completely different pressing skill that did not involve pressing iron overhead.
How did I learn to train the One-Arm Push-up?
I followed the guidance and one-arm push-up progressions from the book The Naked Warrior, by Pavel Tsatsouline. In the book The Naked Warrior, Pavel explains the technique necessary in order to train the one-arm push-up.
How did I Program the OAPU?
I trained one-arm push-up progressions three times per week and I trained a fourth day of heavy overhead kettlebell presses with 20kg (44lbs).
When I started to work on my goal of a one-arm push-up I found an elevation that I could train 3 sets of repetitions of 4, 3, 3. I trained this set and rep scheme for four weeks, gradually lowering the elevation each week as I was ready.
Then in the fifth week I was strong enough with the progressions to add variety to the set and rep scheme. I still trained OAPU progressions three times a week but I would train them as follows:
Day One: 2 sets of 5 repetitions (this would need to be a higher elevation because I was training 5 repetitions per set.)
Day Two: 3 sets, 5 repetitions, 3 repetitions, 2 repetitions (I used the same elevation for each set; a lower elevation than Day One. e.g. Day One was 5 risers with step and Day Two was 3 risers with a step. Since on Day Two I was only training one set of 5 repetitions, I was able to complete it successfully at the lower elevation.)
Day Three: 5 sets of 2 repetitions at the same elevation as Day Two.
For the second four weeks, I only adjusted the elevation on Day One to match that of Days Two and Three.
Around the eighth week of training I was on vacation and felt strong and rested enough to see if I had my one-arm push-up from the ground and indeed I did:
First Time Doing OAPU from the ground on July 6, 2013
One week later on July 12, 2013 I was having a very strong press day and decided to see where I was at with a 22kg (50lbs) press. Sure enough I pressed it for 3 singles. Below is a video of the third single from that day. My pressing has definitely improved since then, in that I generate more tension now and wedge my body underneath the weight properly, but still not bad for a first time pressing 43% of my bodyweight.
22kg (50lbs) Press on July 12, 2013
After I reached my goal of a One-Arm Push-Up from the ground, my next goal was to be able to do 2 sets of 5 repetitions of OAPU from the ground. I would follow the rule of 10 repetitions and train what I could with good from the ground, e.g. two singles from the ground and then train the remaining repetitions from an elevation.
By Week 3 of getting my OAPU from the ground (or week 11 from the day that I started to train OAPU progressions) I was able to train 5 sets of 2 repetitions from the ground.
By Week 4 of getting my OAPU from the ground (or week 12 from the day that I started to train OAPU progressions) I was able to train 3 sets of 3 repetitions or 4, 3, 3 from the ground and I mixed that with 5 sets of 2 repetitions over the course of the training week.
Week 5 of getting my OAPU from the ground (or week 13 from the day that I started to train OAPU progressions) I reached my goal of 2 sets of 5 repetitions from the ground.
My current focus for training the press has been on overhead kettlebell pressing, both single and double kettlebells. Therefore, at present, I train the One-Arm Push-Up once per week just to maintain it. I usually train it from the ground for 3 sets of 3 repetitions, unless I am not happy with my form that day and I will elevate it.
If you choose to train the One-Arm Push-Up, then I recommend that it be your only or your primary press focus for your training for 8 to 12 weeks. It’s scary to walk away from the weights and focus on a bodyweight press for 8 to 12 weeks, but it will increase your press weight significantly. Trust me.
In the next installment of this seven part series about how to train for a stronger press, I will talk about the Bottoms-up Press. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions about the One-Arm Push-Up!
Are you interested in learning more about Iron Body By Artemis’ secret to achieving Superhuman Strength? Then I hope that you will join me for my workshop, “I’m Not Afraid to Lift” on September 6, 2014 at Drive495 in New York, NY! Read more about this workshop and register HERE.