More Pressing Matters

I've never been someone who struggled with the overhead press.  I might be terrible at other press variations - namely, the bench press - but I'm somewhat of a freak when it comes to putting heavy weights overhead.  

So when I fell short of completing the Beast Tamer in August, I finally realized what the overhead press is like for normal people.

But becoming a Beast Tamer is one of my lifetime strength goals. I decided I could 1) give up or 2) work to press the 48k (106 lb) and make it look easy.  Naturally, I chose the latter. 

To help, I turned to this program by SFG Team Leader, Tim Almond.  The premise is simple - press and pull-up your way to progress.  And do very little else.

I was trying to wait another 2-3 months before writing this post, but the results have been so significant that I can't put it off any longer.  Besides pure strength gainz, here's my weight and body fat before and after I started the program:

After (October 23rd):
193 lbs, 9.6% body fat

Before (August 18th):
188 lbs, 8.7% body fat

And to answer the elephant in the room - yes, I've kept my diet and nutrition the same since before I even started the program.  Tim Almond wrote that he put on 15 kg (33 lbs) of gainz during his 5 months on the program, while still being under 12% body fat.  Surely, my 5 lbs gain in 2 months is not a surprise.

In fact, if you're looking for the scrutiny of federal regulators, this program will make you too big to fail.

Movement Prep:

  • Before each session, perform 10 total get-ups - 5 left and 5 right.
 Human Get-Ups are fun too..

Human Get-Ups are fun too..

The get-up is an essential part of your toolbox if you're trying to get stronger overhead.  With a blend of mobility and stability required to do a decent looking, heavy weight get-up, I've even heard it referred to as "loaded yoga."

Start with a weight on get-ups that you can perform just after rolling out of bed.  The goal here is to move your body, get warm, and prepare for the heavy volume that's about to come.  When they feel easy, move up.  But remember: get-ups are not the main course of this program, they're merely a supplement.

The Program:

After 10 get-ups, you're ready for the actual program.  As with many of my favorites, it's simple but not easy.  

The exact sets and reps are below but they all take place in a ladder format.  Meaning you perform the first rep, then step away.  Now perform two reps.  Step away.  Now do three reps. Repeat until you've finished the prescribed reps.

With pull-ups, fit these in after each set of your presses and weight them if necessary. Sometimes I did them in a ladder format like the presses, or I'd do the total number in the set in a row (1-2-3 would be 6 pull-ups without stopping).  I'm a rebel like that.

Anyway, onto the program:

  • Week 1
    Day 1: 5x 1-2-3
    Day 2: 6x 1-2-3
    Day 3: 7x 1-2-3
  • Week 2
    Day 1: 8x 1-2-3
    Day 2: 9x 1-2-3
    Day 3: 10x 1-2-3
  • Week 3
    Day 1: 3x 1-2-3-4
    Day 2: 4x 1-2-3-4
    Day 3: 5x 1-2-3-4
  • Week 4
    Day 1: 6x 1-2-3-4
    Day 2: 2x 1-2-3-4-5
    Day 3: 3x 1-2-3-4-5
  • Week 5
    Day 1: 4x 1-2-3-4-5
    Day 2: Rest
    Day 3: Rest

Because this program is a "step program," you're constantly increasing either the frequency or intensity.  I started with two 28k's for the presses (61 lbs each) and with a 16k (35 lbs) for the weighted pull-ups.  Start lighter than you need and enjoy how easy it seems - it won't last long.

I'm about to start my third month of the program and have graduated to double 36k's (79 lbs each) and 20k (44lbs) on the pull-ups.  While I don't quite have the Beast set in my crosshairs, I will in just a few months.

What Else?

Ambitiously, I attempted to keep some other exercises in my program.  That was a mistake.

Between all the get-ups, pull-ups, and presses three days a week, I was only able to muster one additional day of deadlifting. You can't continually improve in everything, so my next few months are about improving in those four exercises.

For conditioning, I decided one day of snatches and one day of swings was sufficient.  I used the same protocol as when I was trying to improve my bodyweight pull-ups.  One additional day of long, slow work on the Air Assault bike is necessary, because the aerobic system is the straw that stirs the drink.

Along with the body composition changes I mentioned above, here's proof of my improvements in strength - double 32k presses (141 lbs total) for 8 reps, leaving 1-2 reps in the tank: