Training shoulders with an overhead press is nothing new or fancy. In fact, I'd argue nearly everyone who follows a fitness routine practices some variation of the overhead push pattern. Yet, even with such mass approval of the pattern, so few do it right.
It's important to note that doing something "right" doesn't mean you can't get results from it in regard to strength and hypertrophy. There are a ton of jacked humans out there getting amazing results from consistently hitting lifts that are far from perfect but full of intensity. Every damn day you'll see a video of some Hercules looking Mofo pull 500 off the ground with every vertebrae crying.
There is a time and place for just gripping and ripping and getting after it. Some days are best for kicking ass, taking names, and chewing bubble gum...until you are all out of bubblegum.
But most of the time you are going to want to take care of yourself and do the things that honor your structure, biomechanics, and overall wellness. Especially when it comes to your shoulders.
See, your shoulders are a bit of a miracle joint. There is so much muscle tissue, nerves, connective tissue, bones, and blood vessels that cross the glenohumeral joint. It's no wonder than a tiny bit of inflammation can throw the whole thing off. Add in the scapulo-thoracic region and you are looking at the most complex movement junction in the body. It is truly impressive to watch someone nail an Olympic snatch, a heavy push press, or Turkish Get Up once you know how easy it is for the shoulder to be unstable.
Stability, though, isn't genetic. It also isn't a training accident. It takes dedicated focus. Which is why I have been using the following exercise to groove my shoulders after a few injuries. This exercise has also done wonders to help my clients find stability in a joint that needs it. Check out what I've been calling "The Leaning Press".
If we want to get really technical I named this bad boy a "Wall-supported, leaning Neutral Grip dumbbell press." But who wants technicalities and fancy names anyway. Let's talk about the Leaning Press.
So, let's first acknowledge that I'm in no way some miracle exercise scientist who suddenly invented a way to put on 500% more muscle in one repetition. I haven't redefined the laws of gravity or torque. I simply made a logic jump from a popular shoulder variation; the seated dumbbell overhead press. I did so by limiting the range of motion by adding a wall and creating a mechanical advantage by adjusting hip position.
So, about the lift:
A traditional dumbbell overhead press done on a short bench usually ends up in a posture much like the one is this video. The hips begin working away from the crease of the bench as the lifter goes for more leverage and integrate the pecs into the lift. This is especially the case in your traditional ego lifter who emphasizes load over quality. Again, there is a place and time for that sort of lift and this ain't it chief.
The difference in the wall posture and traditional seated posture is that the lifter arches their back on the seat where as this position promotes core and glute activation by keeping the ribs (mostly) down and the pelvis pulled into a (mostly) posterior tilt. This sort of position helps stabilize the lumbar and thoracic spine into a stationary foundation that allows for a better emphasis on the scapulohumeral rhythm.
The neutral grip promotes a clean pressing motion by keeping the shoulder out of horizontal abduction and external rotation. For a healthy shoulder, those positions are fine. Yet, a little inflammation can make this position painful at best and dangerous at worst. The neutral grip hand position ensures that we keep the humerus in a stable position throughout the lift.
The addition of the wall prevents excess shoulder extension at the top of the lift. This is especially useful for individuals who practice Olympic lifting and heavy push press type movements where the barbell is often locked out behind the ears. While this position isn't wrong for performance, it can have detriment over time to tissues of the shoulder. The wall forces you to track slightly in front of your ear and keep the tension in the muscles of the shoulder.
Using one dumbbell with no stabilization from the other arm adds a anti-lateral-flexion element to the lift, a sort of training stimuli that should be more present in people's programs. Strong obliques and serratus muscles never hurt nobody. The single dumbbell also allows for a greater focus on form instead of total load.
(Bodybuilding bonus): This variation of a press absolutely lights up your front deltoids. Never a bad thing when you are looking to create boulders for shoulders.
Programming the Leaning NG DB Press:
So, here you are, wondering where the hell you wanna put it in your program. I recommend two places:
1. As a warm-up and preparation exercise that helps light up the rotator cuff and get the body in correct alignment prior to engaging in heavier overhead pushing patterns. Get loose and then get gettin'.
2. As a burn out towards the end of a workout in which focus and tempo cause the exhaustion instead of the load, total repetition count, or volume. Slow down and feel it.
I'd recommend only a few overhead pushing days per week (3 max) unless your goals are specific to the pattern. Train hard and enjoy. I'm always eager to know what you think of an exercise so shoot me an email at Kevin@Futuremindspub.com
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