My Overhead Press is Terrible

I’ve been following 5/3/1 for a few months now (a couple breaks in between for challenges) and I feel like my OHP (strict) just isn’t progressing like it should. @Mods feel free to move this to a different subforum if needed.

Per Wendler’s recommendations, I’ve been using the 1RM calculation (weight x reps x 0.0333 + weight = 1RM) and my calculated 1RMs are as follows…
Deadlift: 576lb
Squat: 443lb
Bench Press: 339lb
OHP: 210lb

(Body Weight: 225lb)
OHP is subpar, no?

My form breaks down when overhead pressing, mostly from core instability (feeling extra shaky in hips, abs). I can seated press a good bit more than standing press, so I don’t believe the issue is with my shoulder strength.

In attempts to bring this lift up to par, should I increase volume of the lift - going off-track of the 5/3/1 template? Open to other suggestions - doesn’t have to be 5/3/1 guidance.

No. Not subpar.

DL 2.5x bw
SQ 2x bw
Bench 1.5x bw
OHP 1x bw

If you decided to focus on your OHP and get those last 15 lbs you’d have it by thanksgiving.


Do you use a belt on your pressing?

For stability, I find rear delts pretty crucial. I do a bajillion band pull aparts. It seems to help.


Please tell me what is your ohp 1rm? what was your bw for that lift? thank you.

Most I ever pressed in my life was 5x241 followed by a single of 266 and a very near miss of 276

Was weighing between 210-215 at the time.

No idea what my 1rm is currently. Or my bodyweight, haha.


With the OHP, a calculator 1RM may be very off of what you can actually do. It isn’t weird to take off 15 lbs off of the 1RM OHP and be able to do 3-5 reps.

I’ll say your OHP would be lagging if you were a strongman competitor. They train overhead a lot. If you are not trying to be a strongman, I think you are actually pretty on par. Some lifters really suck at the OHP an are far behind you. If you’re close to 210 lbs, then I think that shows you train it.

It is a tough lift. I haven’t trained it as much as bench, and I have a larger gap between the two than you do.

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Can you ohp your bw for a single?

I can. Not sure if you were asking me though?

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I was.

I haven’t been using a belt for any lifts as it feels like a crutch, an unnecessary one at that. If I have a weakness (I do) it makes sense to fix it head-on I think.

I should do these more, but I do them quite frequently as is. Sky is the limit - they never stop helping.

This. I neglected OHP for a looong time; did plenty of seated DB and BB, just not standing - hence the shoulder strength but lack of core stability.

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Not gonna lie: I think that’s silly, haha.


Do you wear knee braces because your knees are weak - or do you strengthen your knees so you don’t need the braces?

I don’t wear knee braces…

But I wear a lifting belt so I can lift more weight, which makes my muscles bigger and stronger. And I train my core directly so that, when I wear that belt, I can lift even MORE weight.


I am with @T3hPwnisher on this one, and for squatting, I do wear knee sleeves (not a brace exactly). It is more about longevity than needing them. They provide a lot of heat to knee joint, as well as a bit of compression (mine very little since they are too big). My knees were pretty consistently sore the day of and the day after squatting. That doesn’t happen with knee sleeves. I will say they are a bit miserable in my hot warehouse gym though. They are just so damn hot.

FWIW, I thought that I read a study that said wearing a belt actually strengthened the core more than without it. Could be that more weight was lifted? But I thought core engagement was higher with the belt?

I’d look at a belt as a tool to use your core, not as a crutch. I think that is a more accurate description. You can still do your warm ups or most of your warm ups without it.


Was asking more empirically, not as in you specifically having weak knees. I think we’re just of different opinions here - I don’t use any wraps, sleeves or belts. Only straps for deadlifts because I don’t want to do the over/under grip and be lop-sided.

Of course, saying this out loud - the exact argument could be used to justify using a belt… so maybe it’s time to use a belt for OHP :man_shrugging:

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I have found, in my pursuit of physical transformation, having MORE tools and methods has been infinitely more valuable than having fewer.

LIFE will give you restrictions. I’ve got a torn muscle right now that is limiting my deadlifting ability. Artificially constraining yourself is just limiting yourself.

Think of it like this: say you can press 215 without the belt. You put on the belt and can now press 235. You keep the belt on and get that press up to 275. Do you imagine your beltless press will have gone down during that time?

I use straps for everything and my grip strength just keeps growing. You might have a similar experience using a belt.


I have always been able to do much more than Wendlers formula says i could.

Anyways… if the problem is in core stability you can try using one of these exercises :

I also like an extra variation of the last one he has here. Just sit on the floor, legs straight in front of you and do dumbbell presses.

Anyways, your numbers are good imo. And unless you are really obsessed about strenght, dont care too much about how much you lift imo.

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Calculated 1RMs are dumb, especially when doing higher reps. My Deadlift C1RM is about 575 and I can barely pull 500. So, even if your OHP was out of wack based on this metric (I don’t think it really is), I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

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Agree/disagree. I won’t go bragging saying I can pull 575 because my calculation says so, especially if I can’t actually pull 575 lol.

Where I disagree is that they can be used as an effective gauge of strength for heavy movements without having to actually hit 1RM’s (which I rarely do). I don’t really care that my calculated 1RM is out of whack, it’s that my actual 1RM is for sure out of whack too.

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depends on a lot of things.

Notes on the OHP:
There are far more moving parts to the lift than the other big 3 so it has far more variation lift to lift, day to day. There is some randomness to how well all the parts line up. How worn out your core or legs are is going to have impact for example.

There also tends to be far more variation in technique and ways people “cheat”. Not that shoulder bounce is wrong, but it’s going to be a confounding variable in progress unless you are super dialed in on using the exact same technique every lift.

It’s also a smaller muscle, so it’s just not going to progress the same way and in the same absolute amounts. Combined with all the noise in the signal mentioned above and progress can get hard to measure.

That said, decide on a technique and make sure you are always doing it the same. Use little plates an understand that 5 pounds more is significant. Work into it, but don’t be afraid to turn up some frequency or volume. If you really want to get good overhead, you may want to take some steps back from bench training, heavy bench work may not be your best use of resources. You can do all this within 5/3/1 if you want. Back off you bench TM, maybe don’t go to failure. You can add overhead assistance to bench day, maybe some z-press volume or something with variation. You can change bench day to an incline. be creative.

FTR I think my best reasonably strict press was 245: