An Old School Pressing Program!

Hail to the Dinosaurs!

Here's an interesting training
question from an old English
magazine called VIGOUR. This is
from the June, 1947 issue.

John Barrs, one of the editors
of the magazine, gave the answer.

I'll offer my own comments after
the question and the answer from


Dear Mr. Barrs,

I have made good progress with
my lifting since my last letter
to you . . .  but now my press
has got stuck.

I can't get past 160, yet my
snatch has moved up to 165 and
my clean and jerk to 210 or 215.

I have been using the 5/4/3/2/1
system. 135 x 5, 140 x 4, 145
x 3, 150 x 2, 160 x 1. I do this
at the beginning of my schedule
and again at the end with all
weights 5 pounds less. I work
out three times per week.


A change of programme and more
frequent pressing is indicated
in this case. Good results should
be obtained by employing the fixed
poundage method -- 8 or 10 sets of
3 presses at a time with about 75
percent of your maximum weight.

125 pounds will be quite enough to
start with, but this weight should
be increased about 2 1/2 pounds
every fortnight.

Leverage exercises with dumbbells
are not especially helpful towards
press improvement. The answer is
to press, press and keep on pressing.
Limit try-outs should be made not
more often than once a week


I think John Barrs nailed it! If you've
read Dinosaur Training, you know that I
discuss the following progression:

1. Train on 5 x 5 for awhile.

2. After a couple of months, change
to 5/4/3/2/1.

3. After a couple of months try something
like 5 x 3 or 5 x 2.

Note that the above are work sets, so the
idea is to do some progressively heavier
warm-up sets before the work sets. Thus,
5 x 2 might really be 2 x 5 progressively
heavier warm-up sets, 1 x 3 ditto, and then
5 x 2 work sets with the same weight.

You need to follow sensible set/rep schemes
at all times, but you also need to change
them up from time to time.

Barrs' suggestion of 8 - 10 triples with
75% is a tough schedule. You might want to
try 5 x 2 with 75% and add one set per week
(or once set every two weeks) until you get
up to 10 x 2.

Three times per week pressing will be too
much for many trainees (especially older
trainees). Once per week will work better
for many of you.

But over-all, John Barrs gave a great answer
and some great training advice. Follow it,
and you'll make good gains in the press!

As always, thanks for reading and have a
great day. If you train today, make it a
good one!

Yours in strength,

Brooks Kubik

P.S. The legendary John Davis was a six-time
World Champion and two-time Olymnpic Gold
medal winner. He followed a unique training
program that's very similar to the John Barrs
pressing program. Check it out in Black Iron:
The John Davis story:

P.S. 2. For more tips on how to build world
class pressing power, grab this:


Kindle e-book:

P.S. 3. My other books and courses are
right here:

P.S. 4. Thought for the Day: "If you're going to
train, you might as well do it right." -- Brooks