Heavy Upper Push

Heavy Upper Push

Training Notes:

A: This is a relatively uncommon movement so ease in if it's novel to you. Line up your normal grip and then rotate your hands until supinated to grip the bar. You're going to want to slide your hands about 0.5-1 inches wider than normal. Allow the bar to sit in the fleshy part of your hands. During the set, keep your elbows tucked and tight to your midline. You're going to be touching slightly lower on your chest than typical. Take your time working up to the top set here and make sure to have a spotter/lift-off for when the load starts getting heavy.

B: Now switch back to regular presses with a pronated grip. These should feel more stable. Note the pause in the stretch here as well. Full rest between these sets.

C: Nothing fancy here. Use a load that would be roughly your 10 rep max and take each set to technical failure. Use a semi-pronated grip and get a full ROM. Rest as long as needed between these sets and make sure to perform 1-2 feeders before the first working set.

D1: Note the tempo and get a deep stretch. Adjust load as needed for the given rep range even if you have to use bw or assist. Lean your torso forward slightly to get more pec involvement. Rest as long as needed before D2.

D2: Note the tempo and get a deep stretch. Keep the ROM limited to the bottom 2/3 of the rep to prevent tension from coming off the pecs at the top. Elbows should remain slightly bent throughout.

E1: Note the tempo. Get a full ROM here. Try to push the load. Rest as long as needed before E2.

E2: Note the tempo and make sure to allow the load to fully settle on the floor before initiating the concentric. Use appropriate diameter plates in order to get a sufficient ROM. Don't turn these into a press as you start to fatigue.


Goals Of This Session:

This is going to be about as "bare bones" as an upper body push session can be. There is nothing fancy here. We are just going to move some heavy weight at high intensities. Make sure to grease those elbows!

Warm-Up Recommendations:

-5-10 minutes of steady state cardio such as incline walking, elliptical, rowing, or ski erg

-Soft tissue manipulation in the form of 3-5 min of light foam rolling the mid-back, lats, and teres major. More specific work can be done using a small lacrosse ball (or something similar) and working through bound up tissue in the pecs, rear delts and scapular region. I would also recommend taking some time to apply the muscle tempering technique to your biceps, triceps and forearms if possible. 

-Specific mobility with band tricep pushdowns, wide pronated pulldowns and light incline hex presses.


Common Exercise Modifications:

Reverse Grip Flat Bench Press- Swiss Bar Bench Press, Close Grip Bench Press, Close Grip Floor Press, Neutral Machine Chest Press

Flat Bench Press- Machine Chest Press, Flat Pin Press, Flat Spoto Press, Barbell Floor Press, Slight Incline Bench Press

Incline DB Press- Incline Machine Press, Incline Bench Press, Incline Smith Press, Flat DB Press, Seated DB OHP

Weighted Dips- Decline Bench Press, Decline Machine Press, Dips (with bw), Machine Assisted Dips, Band Assisted Dips, Seated Machine Dips

Slight Incline DB Flyes- Seated Cable Flyes, Pec Deck, Flat DB Flyes, Chain Flyes, High to Low Cable Flyes, Low to High Cable Flyes

Standing Barbell OHP- Seated Barbell OHP, Machine OHP, Smith Machine Seated OHP, Swiss Bar Seated OHP, Deadstop Seated Barbell OHP

Deadstop EZ Skullcrushers- Flat EZ Skullcrushers, Flat DB Skullcrushers, Machine Tricep Extensions, Lying Cable Skullcrushers, Bent Over Cable Skullcrushers


Common Program Modifications:

Advanced trainees- Perform 2x4-6 (2RIR) with A. Switch B to only TWO sets but take each to 1RIR. After the last set of D1 and D2, perform a drop set of ~30% and take it to 1RIR. Take the last set of E2 to failure. 

Intermediate trainees- Switch A to Swiss Bar Bench Press. 

Beginner trainees- Eliminate A completely. B should be 3x5-8 (4RIR). C should be 3x8-12 (3RIR). Separate D1, D2, E1 and E2 and perform them separately. Move E1 up in the sequence to after C and perform 2x10-12 (3RIR) with it. D1, D2 and E2 should all be 2x10-15 (3RIR). Switch D1 to Machine Assisted Dips. 

Male trainees- Take more feeder sets before the working set of A. Volume may need to be decreased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (stronger trainees may need less working sets).

Female trainees- The option exists to completely overhaul the program to make the presses more delt-biased and less pec-biased depending on the goals of the trainee. D1 and D2 could also be subbed for heavy lateral work. Shorter rest between working sets and less feeders/warmup sets will generally be needed. Volume may need to be increased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (better conditioned trainees may need more working sets).


Common Injury Modifications:

Shoulders- We're going to have to pay close attention to biofeedback in this session due to the volume of heavy presses and the stress that can place on the shoulders. To start off, make sure extra warm-up/prehab work is dedicated towards getting blood into the shoulders and ensuring the scaps/upper back are ready to go. We have a good amount of straight bar pressing which could potentially cause some jamming at the joints especially if there are pre-existing issues. The first order of business would be to immediately move to Swiss Bar or neutral grip. Secondly, we can restrict the amount of shoulder flexion by using techniques such as Spoto or pin presses. Reducing load in favor of more extended tempos are also a good bet to take some pressure the joints. Lastly, DB flyes can be a bit tricky to align, and the resistance curve presents somewhat of a problem for achy shoulders. It's best to switch to a cable or machine flye in this case. 

Elbows- Similar to the above, this session is a minefield for painful elbows. Outside of diligently warming up through light extensions (band or cables), using eccentric or isometric work, and/or taking more feeder sets on all movements, there really isn't much that can be done in the way of exercise modification while keeping with the intent of the session. Severely ailing elbow joints might just be a disqualifier. 

Wrists- Though all of the loaded presses are going to put significant stress on the wrists for support, I'm going to really home in on the Reverse Grip Bench Presses here. The supinated grip with the straight bar is pretty rough even for relatively healthy wrists. The positioning is honestly just pretty unnatural (which is why we need a semi-supinated option ASAP!). If you give the reverse grip a shot and it's bothering you even at lower loads, I would recommend just switching to a neutral Swiss Bar. 

Low Back- This one is the easiest fix of all of the modifications because there is really only one movement that directly stresses the low back: Standing Barbell OHP. It's not necessarily load bearing like a deadlift or bent over row would be but the stabilizing requirements are still pretty substantial. Switch over to a seated version and side step this issue.


Additional Notes:

AHHH...Looking at this session brings be back to my high school years. Where maxing out on bench every other day was the norm and we didn't hesitate before loading up for heavy skullcrushers and overhead presses; things that make my present day joints squirm just thinking about. 

There are plenty of times and places when nuance is key, when vigilance is needed to reign in our inherent irrationality. But I would be misleading you if I said that the road to the top wasn't paved by those who walked a fine line between science-based fundamentalism and testosterone-fueled extremism. There is an art to pragmatic programming, but sometimes going in the gym and assuming the role of the village meathead for a bit is equally effective (though much less artful). 



Why is it that some people who always lift heavy seemingly make amazing progress regardless of meticulousness?


Well let me put my reading glasses on and pull up PubMed for a second...

According to scientific consensus, overload is, by far, the most important factor to consider in any resistance program; not exercise selection or a specific periodization model or even a defined goal to dedicate the training to!

In other words--if you did nothing else "right" other than train hard, physiology is on your side. You would still most likely make tangible progress (however you were measuring this) provided you kept increasing the magnitude of external stress. 

While this might be blasphemous to those that have built their identities/brands around telling us why we should care about strength curves and EMG readings, simplifying training down to a level that the lay-person is unintimidated by is crucial if we want to invite more people into this world and stop repelling them. 


This shit is already hard enough physically. We don't need to create intellectual barriers as well. 


I like to analyze training much like a computer scientist would evaluate code. To build a robust program, they have to perfect their use of data structures and memory allocation and recursion and algorithms. There are endless optimizations and efficiencies to belabor, but in the end, none of that time spent obsessing over the details means a damn thing if the code triggers a segmentation fault before finishing. 


Or if you don't speak nerd...don't forsake the big stuff for the small stuff. 


As much as I like to theorize over subtleties in training, I will also be the first to admit that Pareto's Law reigns supreme. Fill your arsenal with the things that make the largest impact and understand those concepts to the Nth degree. Most of the rest is just semantics used to ignite e-wars and not worth your time or energy.


I could attempt to wow you with reasoning for why I chose flat bench instead of a more anatomically aligned press. It wouldn't be too hard to reference some obscure training methodology from which I based the exercise sequencing. And there's honestly no limit to the logistical frameworks I can present to explain the thought process that went into synergizing the variations with their prescribed tempos, rep ranges and intensities. 

But the simplest answer is that deep, deep down in the depths of my subconscious resides a teenage remnant of my psyche, frozen in time and desperate to express himself, who really just wants to lift some heavy shit.

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