On Starting Strength, the lifter is only supposed to be doing bench press every other workout, and similarly for overhead press, so that one is only bench pressing (or overhead pressing) three times every two weeks, assuming that one does only three workouts per week, as is recommended in the program.

If someone wanted to specifically target/increase their bench press or OHP (especially after stalling), would it be a good or bad idea to add more volume and frequency (and thereby 'grease the groove') by doing that lift more than three times every two weeks, anywhere from four times to six times (i.e. every workout)? For example, one idea would be to bench press a bit lighter on the OHP day by doing 2-3 sets of 5 at 80% of the current 3x5 weight. So then one would be benching every workout, with three heavy days and three lighter days.

Any thoughts would be appreciated!

3 Answers 3


Welcome to the Fitness SE!

Stalling, or plateauing, is a very common occurrence. It will happen time and time again, and it happens to all of us. Knowing how to deal with it will help you overcome them though, so I'll be focusing on that.

The problem with altering your program

I would caution against altering a tried-and-true program. The numbers and frequencies are chosen with care.

One of the possible problems you will encounter if you increase the volume/frequency of pressing movements only, is that the muscles involved here will overpower your back muscles, resulting in poor posture.

Particularly bad is the idea of a beginner making their own programs. This is a very common mistakes that usually have less-than-ideal results, because programming a good routine requires pretty substantial knowledge in order to not overlook important factors, and avoid exercises that are straight-up bad for you.

Also, beginners who make their own programs tend to place too much focus on the bodypart they have the highest hopes for. For most guys, this would be chest/shoulders and arms, neglecting back and legs.

Greasing the groove

The alteration you suggest isn't really "greasing the groove". GTG is more based on doing exercises throughout the day. Not just by adding a few sets while you're at the gym, but by doing sets every waking hour of every day.

While this could be a solution, it has to be done with a mindset of including every big muscle group. You might be inclined to do pushups under GTG, but then you're again at risk of poor posture. Instead, you should be doing pushups AND pullups AND squats, or some other combination that includes both pressing, pulling, and legs.

My suggestion

Keep it simple. If you have reached a plateau, it's better to find a different program - a different full-body program, that is - in order to challenge your muscles and central nervous system in a new way. As I mentioned, variation is key. And for that reason, programs should be switched out and in, avoiding stagnation.

There is a plethora of different programs out there. Personally, I'm a fan of Wendler's 5/3/1, and I know a lot of people have had great success with Stronglifts 5x5.

Trying one of these for 6-8 months, and then the other, you will probably have an easier time breaking plateaus. And with this, you will gain more experience, find out what works best for your body in particular, and you can have a wiser look next time you hit a plateau. And you will. We all hit them. Knowing how to break them instead of becoming demotivated is very important.


Yes, Starting Strength does have quite low pressing volume, and you can add more weekly pressing volume by increasing frequency if your bench press or overhead press is stalling, and you feel that lack of volume is the culprit. (You'd want to be sure that it wasn't actually other common factors, like insufficient food intake, sleep, or rest between sets. But if it's only your presses that are stalling and not your squats, then it's less likely to be one of those causes.)

Pressing movements are nowhere near as systemically stressful as squats or deadlifts, and so you have much more latitude for increasing pressing volume without accumulating more stress than you can recover from.

Have a listen to the following podcast, which describes approaches for managing the transition from novice to intermediate training: Barbell Logic episode #53 - Minimum Effective Dose

In this episode, Scott Hambrick describes exactly the same approach as you propose, in that he has his intermediate trainees do 6 pressing sessions per week, where on a bench day they will add lighter than usual overhead press sets after benching, and on overhead press days will add lighter bench press sets after the overhead press, such that each workout still has one of bench or overhead press alternating as the primary pressing movement for that day.

Matt Reynolds then says he prescribes 5 push workouts per week, where powerlifting trainees would bench press three times per week and overhead press twice, strengthlifting trainees would overhead press three times and bench twice, and other would alternate between 3BP+2OHP and 2BP+3OHP each week.

They also discuss this in greater detail in episode #93 - Build Your Press with Better Programming.


It's often suggested to not focus Overhead Press and the Bench Press on a 1:1 ratio, if you are focusing on powerlifting. You can sacrifice OHP so you bench press two times a week and OHP once a week.

But if you have been doing starting strength for a while, it might soon be time to switch to a more advanced program? Usually the rule is that you switch when you can't progress linearly anymore.

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