I'm following a bodybuilding workout in which I want to do dumbells overhead military press every 2 days in order to increase my reps and my weights faster than on the others exercises.

So I'm doing every 2 days dumbells overhead military press at 24kg per dumbell (53lbs per dumbell).

  1. I can do 4 sets of 5 reps at least. I would want to be able to do 4 sets of 6 reps at 24kg. Finally, after two months, I would want to be able to do 4 sets of 16 reps at 24kg (I think two months is reasonable).

  2. So 2 days ago, I tried to do 5 5 5 6 but I was unable. I did 5 5 5 5.

  3. Today I tried to do 6 6 6 6. Idem I failed. I did 6 5 5 5.

  4. Within 2 days, I will retry 6 6 6 6. In order to be sure I really can't.

  • But what I am wondering is: should I try to increment the 2 last sets to progress better? I mean, at next work out should I try 5 5 6 6 and next work out 6 6 6 6?

  • Or even: at next workout I would try to do 5 5 5 6,and next work out 5 5 6 6 and next work out 5 6 6 6,and next one 6 6 6 6?

  • Should I work out every 3 days instead of 2 days?

Is there anyone else who struggle with overloading at this exercise in terms of reps?

  • 1
    Isn't StrongLifts a 5x5 program? It's okay if you're doing a different progression scheme but it might help to clarify what you intend to be doing. Apr 16, 2020 at 16:31
  • Yes 5x5 but I do 4x4 :) Apr 16, 2020 at 16:32
  • 1
    It doesn't seem like you're doing 4x4. 4 sets of 6 reps is 4x6. Apr 16, 2020 at 16:32
  • 1
    Yes, I see that, and it's a good idea. But it's definitely not StrongLifts anymore. Apr 16, 2020 at 16:35
  • 1
    Yes, it could be helpful to describe your program accurately so that other people understand what you're doing. Apr 16, 2020 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


Upper-body progression is hard, and often needs more time to acclimate to higher loads. A program that goes 4x4, 4x5, 4x6, add weight, 4x4, 4x5, 4x6, add weight (etc.) can be good for overhead press. When I'm using such a program and can't do my given reps, I'll try to overload in other ways.


Sometimes I'll use accessory work of a similar kind, such as push-ups, dips, Hindu push-ups, handstands, or lighter sets for more reps. The goal there is to add muscle.

More sets

Another method I like is to do add more sets at the end, with the same weight but for fewer reps per set. So I might want to do 55kg 5x5, but on the fourth set I fail at the fifth rep. So instead of 5,5,5,5,5 I'll recognize the problem and go 5,5,5,4,3,3,3. (With deadlift, where after a near-failure I feel smoked, I might do 5,5,5,4,2,2,2,2,2.) I don't try to force the fifth five-rep set, but I'm still getting my work in--in fact I do more reps than scheduled, and at the same weight. The goal here is to get used to handling the heavy weight, and to increase my total volume.

Rep Scheme Variation

If I find myself plateaued at a particular weight/number-of-reps for a while, I consider working above and below it for a while. Same example:

  • originally wanted 55kg x5,5,5,5,5
  • got 55kg 5,5,5,4,4
  • next workout: reps! 50kg x8,8,8,8,8
  • next workout load! 56.25kg x2,2,2,1,1,1
  • continue alternating between higher-reps and higher-load until you can go back to 5-rep sets at 55kg and kill it

The goal here is to get better at two separate and necessary attributes: the skill of lifting heavy heavy weight and the muscle-endurance to keep pushing weight overhead after the first few reps.


If what you're doing now is 24kg x5,5,5,5 and you want to do 5,5,5,6 but failed, I would recommend more sets: 5,5,5,5,5 and then 5,5,5,5,5,5. Or even 5,5,5,5,4,3,2,1 then try for 5,5,5,5,3,3,3,3 and see how it goes. The one certainty is that you have to add workload. Because it's not always possible to add workload in the exact same exercise for the same weight simply by doing another set of the same number of reps, the goal is to find a way to add workload another way. Attack the problem sideways.

  • Thank you! I will add several short sets to have my 5 5 5 6. At next work out I'll try 5 5 6 6. What if I can't (i. e. 5 5 5 6 done)? Should I add short sets too? If yes: after the third set or after the last set? Apr 16, 2020 at 21:36
  • 1
    I switch to short sets as soon as I have to, and I push the total volume as much as I feel I can. Apr 17, 2020 at 8:27

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