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Can not overload the press

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I started SS a few weeks ago, and I'm stuck at 55lbs on the press. I started at 45lbs which also felt really hard, but I can get through 3x5. At 55lbs, I can only get through one set of 5 reps. On the 3rd rep of the first set, I already feel my shoulders burning. This is probably from holding the weight up. Should I just keep the weight at 45-50lbs until it feels easy? Or should I keep trying 55lbs until I can finally complete the full 3x5? 



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That worked for me when I bombed out on 45 kg. My recovery was rather sucky that time so instead of keeping on bombing out, I dropped to 40 kg and worked my way back up again. I think I blasted 42.5 kg for 2-3 sessions until I was pressing it at a satisfying speed. When I got back to 45 kg it was all smooth sailing... Well not necessarily smooth but I was sailing nevertheless.

Another option would be microloading, maybe buy some microplates or DIY. You'll use them at some point anyway, no reason not to do so if you're hitting some rough patches.

No body, no mind.

My Battle Log: A Weightlifting Story


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It makes sense that you're having trouble progressing the press as quickly as the other exercises.  The shoulders only have so much muscle in them, and women in particular have a lower distribution of upper body strength.  So the press will probably be the "weakest" lift for anyone, but it tends to be even more difficult for women than men.  Not that that changes much about the training itself.  Men and women follow the same methodology - the same exercises, the same volumes - it's just that the rate of progression is usually different.


If you're following SS exactly, I think there's a concept of "3 strikes."  If for three workouts in a row you either 1) couldn't do the full first set, or 2) missed 3 or more reps from the total 15, then the weight is too much and you need to decrease.  Personally, it sounds like you should decrease from 55lbs to 50lbs.  There's a rather exhaustive FAQ about it here.  Just take Rip with a grain of salt.


There are some other things you could do for progression, but since you're already following a program (SS) you might as well stick to what the program says when you're missing reps/stalling.  Try that for a bit, and if it doesn't work just post again!

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Thread moved, lifitng knowledgebase is more for articles/posts for people to read and learn while questiosn and such should be in the general forum here. Thanks!


As for the topic at hand, varying rep ranges at lower weights (working your 3x5 up to a 3x8 at 50 for example) work as raf said, mocing your 3x5 weight now faster, pushing as hard as you can the whole time, can both help you bust through plateaus.


Press is the slowest progressing lifts and there will be many stalls along the way. Learning how to deload, work back up, and how varying the rep schemes works for you is all part of the path to strength. I've been lifting almost 3 years now and my press has only gone up 50-60 lb.

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^ I agree with Gainsdalf about playing with volume to possibly progress the OHP. I would sometimes have to do 3x5, then 3x6 up to 3x8 of the same press weight to be able to make the next weight increment starting with the 3x5s again.  On the flip side, sets of 10s just absolutely kill my shoulders, so you will have to find your happy medium with what volume you respond the best to  :)


Also do you have fractional plates available to you?  Some times a 5lb jump is just not going to happen for the OHP.  I will take every half pound I can put on that lift!

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Thank you for the replies! Gainsdalf, sorry for posting in the wrong place, and thank you for fixing it. 


To raf, JPrev, and Gainsdalf: I think I will follow your advice and deload to 50lbs until it feels a little easier. And by easier, I think I'll keep it at 50lbs until I can do 3x8.


OperaChica: I do not have fractional plates, but I just saw a nice thread on making them with some things I can get at Home Depot. I just hope I can find that thread again. 


As for shoulder strength, I agree that my shoulders are much weaker than my other muscles. My other lifts, squats, DLs, and bench has been going really well. 


I will workout the press again on Saturday! 

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OperaChica: I do not have fractional plates, but I just saw a nice thread on making them with some things I can get at Home Depot. I just hope I can find that thread again. 


You can also get bat weights from a sporting goods store, they're usually about 1lb each and 2in internal diameter, so they fit on a barbell pretty well.


Also, I have a few fun tricks for plateaus from various places that you can dork around with:


Overwarm Singles: basically as part of your warmup you'd work to a single (1 rep) of a heavier weight than your 5 rep for the day. So if you're starting from an empty barbell, you may warm up with 45x5 50x3 55-60x1 (you'll have more steps as your working weight goes up), then you drop back down to your working weight for the day and bust out a set. I've had good luck with it, makes the working weight feel so much lighter (also gets you some exposure to heavier weights).


The Greyskull Reset: Johnny Pain was doing this before he broke away from Rippetoe's fold, but basically he advocates a program similar to SS (his working sets are 2x5 and one more of at least 5 (5+)). So when you miss a weight consistently, you drop 10% off and start over. The goal during this period of lighter weight is to set rep PRs on that last set for lighter weights.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.― Mark Twain


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Fractional plates. It's been said before, but was worth saying again. I use a 1 kg jump now, and for a while I was using half kg jumps to break a plateau. I've added about 10 kg to my press in the past six months using fractional plates.

I will do today what others won't, so that I can do tomorrow what others can't.

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I found the thread I was talking about, and some people also said that Play It Again sports has some cheap fractional plates. I might go check out the store sometime and see what they have. Thanks for the advice everyone! 


I bought 4 1.25 lb fractional oly plates from Play It Again for about 3 bucks total (felt like winning a weird little lottery), but don't be discouraged if you don't find them on your first try. It took me a few visits over a few weeks or months to luck out. I'd even called previously and asked them to save the ones they confirmed they had, got to the store and the dude had actually set aside standard plates. They did not have any Oly that day : (.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.― Mark Twain


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