In powerlifting we often see lifters push their accessory lifts to bring up their weak points for a main movement. It’s a very simple way to program. Start with your main lifts like the bench press. The secondary movement should be similar but focus on building a weak point, like a two-board close grip bench. The sport of strongman should be no different. You will have weak points on events, and not focusing on bringing them up will leave you in the dust. The best competitors train their weak points, and that is where the accessory work comes in. In this article, we are just going to focus on improving the overhead press, which you will see at least once and sometimes twice in every strongman competition.

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The most common you will see are the log, axle, and circus dumbbell. Each of these implements has very different techniques, but accessory lifts can be can be very similar with a few tweaks. Mainly what we see here is a weak point at lockout. Since we are able to use our legs, getting the implement moving shouldn’t be an issue. The big pressers always have monster triceps, just as they do in powerlifting, so that’s what we need to work on.

Strict Press with the Implement

I always like to have a secondary day of pressing, which consists of a lot of bodybuilding movements. Having more meat on your shoulders and arms is never going to be a bad thing. I like to start with a strict press variation that will be similar to the event you are training for. For example, day one of your program would start with log press, so the secondary press day would start with log strict press. I also like to take the log out of the rack so that I don’t have to clean it. This is more personal preference, but you should give your lower body a rest and keep this day strictly upper body. Remember that this is an accessory day, so keep the reps higher, around eight to 10 reps. If you are pressing an axle in contest, you would strict press an axle, circus dumbbell, or dumbbells.


The Z-Press I feel is the most challenging overhead press that can be performed with a barbell. With the Z-Press you must stay perfectly upright as you drive the bar overhead. Your core will be greatly challenged, as will your shoulder stability — both of which are needed to press awkward objects overhead in strongman. Make sure you set the pins or straps about clavicle height so you won’t have much of a problem getting the bar into position. Drive your head through as the bar passes your forehead, otherwise, with a heavy weight you will fall backward. Again, you can keep this movement with the implement you are competing with. Give it a shot with a dumbbell one arm at a time — very tough!

Overhead Dicks Press

The overhead dicks press is deceiving in how difficult it really is, but your triceps will be screaming later. Begin by pressing the bar overhead and keeping your body extremely tight, especially in the glutes. From the bar being locked out, lower the bar right to your forehead. Proceed to skim the top of your head and bring the bar right behind the back of your head, but be careful to not go down too far. Think about just shaving the top of your head without actually touching the bar to your head. Once you reach the back of your head, bring the bar right back to the front of your forehead and press overhead. The breathing can be a little tricky on these but I like to take a big breath in while the bar is overhead, then breathe out and back in after a rep at lockout.

Tricep Tri-Set

Triceps are the key to a big press, and this is one that is guaranteed to build some massive triceps. I picked this one up from Josh Bryant a few years ago and have used it in my programming ever since. Start with a light pair of dumbbells, as this one will sneak up on you with how difficult it gets. You begin by pressing the dumbbells up in a neutral grip, do a triceps extension, then finish with a pullover. That counts as one rep. Give this a shot working up to three tough sets of eight.


Dips have always been a staple in all of strength sports, for good reason. As long as you can perform this movement pain-free, it should be in your program. I like to use a dip belt here if you can do them weighted, as chains around your neck can cause you to lean forward and incidentally work your chest more. Stay as upright as possible to hit your triceps hard, and keep the elbows tucked into your sides. If you do have shoulder pain here, which is fairly common, give these a try with the Slingshot. You can get a full range of motion pain-free, and also doing these weighted you can really overload the top, really hitting the triceps.

Make your press one of your strongest events with these accessories. Leave a comment if you have a favorite I left out.