These are Spirit Fingers: An Overhead Press Emphasis program

Once again prep for cheer nationals is upon us and so we are working on putting together our routine along getting our athletes in shape for it. One of the athletes that we have on our team is a decent tumbler and has good power, but currently lacks enough upper body pressing strength to be able to get more height on their toss along with do more advanced stunts from hands. With this in mind I have put together a simple program for him to follow to work hard to increase his pressing strength (really overhead strength), while still hopefully being able to survive practice. This athlete also has issues with stability and holding stunts directly overhead where they tend to push things in front of them so the workout program is tapered towards building strength and confidence in the positions that they are having some difficulties with.

Basic program for upper body

The idea here is to hammer upper body pressing strength and then do enough pulling exercises to give them balance. The arm work at the end is really just for vanity and let’s be honest that is what college aged guys are gonna do. For the push press the goal is to hold the weight at lock out for a second and then lower it as slowly as they can (up to taking 5 seconds to lower the bar back down). All pressing work aside from the bench press will be done while standing with feet inline, not one staggered in front of the other. The sets and reps for each exercise only includes the actual work sets, not the warm up sets. The goal is to improve from one workout to the next. This might mean add in another rep to the set, or add weight to the bar. Don’t go for both. Also do 100 total reps of band pull aparts during each upper body workout, break it up in to sets of 10 or more reps and do it in between the other sets you are performing. DO NOT do extra upper body pushing on this program, and when stuff start to get real with nationals practice go ahead and drop out day three. Stop this program completely and just rest when you are final just one week out from nationals (maybe even two weeks out).

Day 1 2 3
Exercise 1 Push Press Barbell Snatch Standing DB shoulder press
Sets x Reps 3×5 5×3 5x10e
Exercise 2 DB military press Barbell military press Close grip bench press
Sets x Reps 3×10 5×5 4×6-8
Exercise 3 DB Rows Pull ups Chest supported rows
Sets x Reps 5×10 5×10+ 5×10
Exercise 4 Arm work Arm work Arm work
Sets x Reps Pump up Pump up Pump up


Simple lower body work

The lower body training is meant to be far briefer and with less volume, so that we aren’t going to be over stressed, but this will still help increase total body strength and power. The goal here is not to light the world on fire like it is for the upper body training, but still try and add load slowly but surely. Focus on full range of motion with the squatting movements and pyramid the weight up on each exercise for a top set and then move on. Just like the upper body training, warm up sets are not included on each of the exercises.

Day 1 2
Exercise 1 Cleans Front Squats
Sets x Reps 3×5 5×5
Exercise 2 Barbell Back Squats Deadlifts
Sets x Reps 5×5 3×10
Exercise 3 Lunges (hold DBs) Bulgarian split squats
Sets x Reps 3x10e 5x10e
Exercise 4 Hanging Leg raises Side bends
Sets x Reps 5 sets 5 sets


I wouldn’t suggest doing both the upper and lower body training on the same day, but it is an option if you are cramped for time and need to get the work in.

Post workout nutrition

This guy needs to gain weight (period). So after each workout immediately try to get in 40 grams of protein and another 80+ grams of carbohydrates. To do this on the cheap just do a protein shake while you are eating candy. You can also just do this through fruit juice or even Kool-Aid type products (also 4 bananas). I really don’t care, just get the calories in immediately post workout (even drink some of them during) and be sure that you are still eating at least three real meals each day and getting your bodyweight to slowly increase as the weeks go on (about one pound per week tops).

Example of a standing log press. Not put anywhere in the program, but they are awesome and I suggest anyone who is strong try them at some point.


This is not a long term training program, this is more of a two month blitz where the goal is to put on some solid muscle and upper body pressing strength. Feel free to give this a go, but keep in mind this is not a long haul training program, this is a specialization program designed to only be used for a finite amount of time. I hope this has been useful to anyone who reads this and thanks again for taking the time to give it a read, if you know someone that might need this type of help feel free to share it with them. Also, I’m debating recording a lot of the exercises I refer to and putting them on youtube, if you like that idea please like the post or comment on it about that. Right now I’m just relying on people to google the exercises if they aren’t familiar with them.


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