When chasing bigger numbers on your overhead or bench press, you’ll eventually run into a roadblock.
Because when you’re pressing over 90% 1 RM or you’re training to beat your 1 RM, working with heavyweights uncovers sticking points: the point in the press where no matter how hard you try; the weight doesn’t budge or move very fast. (1)
And the Pin Press is one way to attack these sticking points
You set the pins in the squat rack below your sticking point and lift the barbell from there. And unlike board press or pause press, Pin Presses takes the eccentric muscle contraction out and focuses on concentric muscle contractions to overcome sticking points.
What are Eccentric and Concentric muscle contractions?
Eccentric contractions involve the muscle lengthening while under tension due to an opposing force (gravity or added resistance) being greater than the force generated by the muscle.
Think of lowering the barbell down in the bench press (slow eccentric) or the preparation for a plyometric movement like squat jumps (fast eccentric).
As fewer motor units (functional unit of muscle contraction) of the muscles contract during the eccentric phase, the muscle can generate 1.3 times more tension than the concentric contraction.
Concentric contractions happen when force generated by the working muscles overcomes the resistance, and the muscle shortens. Think of pushing the barbell away from your chest.
And this is where most of the sticking points occur when the muscle cannot overcome force.
Muscles Trained in the Pin Press
- Triceps- all three heads of the triceps are equally involved in the bench and overhead press.
- Pectorals- the upper chest in the overhead press. The bench press both the upper and lower pectoral are stressed evenly.
- Shoulders– mainly the anterior deltoid for both overhead and bench press.
How to set up for a Pin Press
1. Find out where your sticking point is by using your best judgment or get your training partner to video your lift.
2. Set up the pins (in the squat rack) just below your sticking point you got from step 1.
3. Get tight in your set up for either the overhead or bench press and unrack and slowly descend the weight to the pins.
4. Once you’ve hit the pins, press the weight powerfully and slowly lower the weight down and repeat.
Reps and Sets
There are a few ways to use Pin Presses in your training.
Use at the beginning of your training when you’re fresh. Doing this as your main movement and work up to a max single. Keep adding weight until you can move it no more.
And then working on the same lift using a full range of motion with 70% -85 % of your 1 RM in your accessory training.
Or when you’re using for accessory exercise, work up to a challenging set of 3-6 reps, and then do 3 sets of 3- 6 reps using that weight.
Pin Presses work for strength and hypertrophy.
When working this for the strength it’s best to do it for straight sets.
However, when you pair this with a mobility exercise it assists with recovery and may help improve your pressing technique.
1A. Pin Press 3 sets 3-6 reps
1B. Forearm slides 8 reps
Because pin presses work your triceps, pairing them with a full range of motion triceps exercise works well if you want to increase the size and strength of your guns. For example:
1A. Pin Press 6-12 reps (using 70-80% 1 RM of your regular press)
1B. Overhead triceps extensions 12-15 reps
Note- As this puts a lot of stress on the triceps and elbows (like the JM Press) this is best done in 4- 6-week training blocks. And please let pain be your guide.
Advantages of the Pin Press
1. It improves the size and strength of your triceps as the reduced range of motion focuses specifically on your triceps.
2. Using concentric contractions can help lessen the pain of muscle soreness caused by Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS is mainly due to eccentric muscle contractions. (2)
3. The Pin Press allows you to focus on your sticking point at the exact ROM it occurs.
4. Strengthening your weaker points will allow you to lift more weight overall which will increase overall strength. And if you’re lucky, you’ll improve your 1 RM.
Ignoring your pressing sticking points will not make them go away. Instead, attacking them with a partial rep method like the Pin Press helps you bust through plateaus and improves the size and strength of your upper body.
1. Sports Med. 2017 Apr;47(4):631-640. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0615-9.The Sticking Point in the Bench Press, the Squat, and the Deadlift: Similarities and Differences, and Their Significance for Research and Practice. Kompf J1, Arandjelović O2.
2. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2018 Aug;41:154-159. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2018.06.003. Epub 2018 Jun 6. The effect of eccentricexercise and delayed onset muscle soreness on the homologous muscle of the contralateral limb. Hedayatpour N1, Izanloo Z1, Falla D2.
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