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"To Press A Lot, You Must Press A Lot"

October 26, 2010 12:10 PM

In the RKC Community, the Press is the standard measurement for upper body strength. To achieve a Level 2 credential, a man must be able to press half his bodyweight in one arm and a woman a quarter of her bodyweight.

For some, this seems intimidating, but in reality, it is easy, if you know how to do it.

When Bob Hoffman was the coach of the US Weightlifting Team, someone once asked him what to do to improve the squat. Legend has it that Bob answered, "Squat." What a simple and profound answer in an age of complex distractions.

And this simple and beautiful answer fits right in with our practice of strength in the RKC. In order to get better at the Press, you must Press. But, unlike the Squat, you can, and must, Press a lot. The reason is simple – the Press is less taxing on the nervous system and can therefore be trained more frequently.

Three Ways To Press A Lot

There are three main approaches to pressing a lot.

They are:

1. Low volume, high frequency
2. Medium volume, medium frequency
3. High volume, low frequency

Let's take a closer look.

Approach 1: Low Volume, High Frequency.

This is a "grease the groove" approach to training the Press. You would perform a very low total number of reps per training session, usually 4 to 10, and train 3 to 6 times per week. The intensity of the weight used would be categorized as "moderate" – somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum Press.

Approach 2: Medium Volume, Medium Frequency.

With this approach, you would use a rep range of 15 to 50 reps per set, based on your fitness levels and would train 2 to 3 days per week. Usually a "light-heavy" protocol would be used here. One day is lighter on the volume of work performed, and one day a larger volume of work is performed. The relative intensity is kept between 70 and 90 percent of your maximum Press.

Approach 3: High Volume, Low Frequency.

This is the 1980s approach to bodybuilding and powerlifting. And it worked phenomenally well for many individuals, including myself, for gaining both strength and size. Typically, you would only train the Press one day per week. You would use a high (for you) volume of somewhere between 20 and 75 reps, with usually some assistance work included in that total volume. The intensity would be between 60 and 90 percent and would be cycled upward over the course of a longer cycle – 12 weeks or more.

Which approach is best for you?

That depends on you, your temperance, and the time you have to train. I actually suggest all of them in one way or another. Here are three possible combinations of the approaches.

1. Approach 1, Approach 3, Approach 2
2. Approach 3, Approach 2, Approach 1
3. Approach 2, Approach 3, Approach 1

Remember, the body adapts really well to contrasts in loading, according to Russian sports scientist Prof. Arkady Vorobyev, so the more variety of loading in your program, the better for your strength. However, remember that the more complicated your programming becomes, the greater likelihood that something can and usually will go wrong.

There you have it – three approaches to improving your Press. Now you have zero excuses for not becoming as strong in the Press as your mind will allow. For even more great programming ideas on pressing a lot, I strongly encourage you to check out Kenneth Jay's, Perfecting the Press, available through Dragon Door Publications.

Geoff Neupert, Master RKC, CSCS, has worked in the fitness industry since 1993 as a personal trainer, college strength and conditioning coach, and personal training business owner. He is a former weightlifting national qualifier and state champion. He has logged over 19,217 hours of one-on-one personal training and counting and has been training both his clients and himself with kettlebells since January 2002. For more great strength information, check out his blog, or