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Once upon a time the shoulder press was the king of upper body exercises. Now the bench has laid claim to the throne but it doesn’t lessen the effectiveness of the good old military press. In my opinion, the military press is a better exercise than the bench, when performed correctly! A healthy shoulder joint is something we all must work towards, especially with the way modern life has us all in a constant protracted state. Sitting behind computers all day, driving cars and general inactivity has lead to the majority of the population having restrictions in their scapula and shoulder. For a lot of us, starting on a barbell may not be the smartest option. Single arm work using a dumbbell or kettlebell may be the safest and wiser option.
Things to remember when pressing:
DO NOT lean back and load the lower back just to get more weight above your head. the goal is to move weight SAFELY and CORRECTLY. Leave the ego behind. When you lean back you are effectively giving up stability for mobility. I.e you do not have the shoulder/scapula mobility to press directly above your head, so your body cheats and gives up the stability in your trunk to allow you the MOBILITY to get the weight in a position above your head. Unfortunately what this actually means is you are now performing a standing incline bench press rather than a strict military press.
Create as much stability as possible. Standing is actually a pretty complex movement, even though we think of it as an easy, everyday movement, it requires a lot of work for the CNS (hence why it takes babies a long time to get to this stage). So when you place a weighted object over your head, it means even more stress for the CNS. The more tension you can create throughout the body, the more strength your CNS will grant you.
If you find you cannot get into the correct position, drop to single arm work and do a TON of scapula/shoulder mobility drills.
We focus far to much on pushing exercises and nowhere near enough on retraction. When you add in all the sitting behind computer screens/mobile phones/tablets 90% of us do everyday, it all adds up to bad posture. Rounded shoulders, tight pecs and a locked up T spine. One of the best retraction exercises that everyone can do is the inverted row. We are going to focus on 5 QUALITY rows, done at an angle that we can manage 7 or 8. The movement should be controlled and our aim is to get ourselves completely horizontal. If you can already do this then look at adding difficulty by placing feet on a stool or putting a weight vest on or plates on to your chest.
Turkish Get Ups:
There are loads of ways of doing the TGU but the way I show it is straight out of the Strength Matters Kettlebell manual. (Check the link for full tutorial.) Its how I have done it for years and I feel it is the safest and best way of building strength. The TGU is an exercise often overlooked but if you know about it then you understand how effective it actually is. Take a bell, stand up with it over head and then lie back down. It sounds easy but when done correctly, it builds massive amounts of strength. WORD OF WARNING!! Do not attempt a TGU with weight unless you have got the movements correct. Remember never load dysfunctional movement.
A fantastically simple exercise for working the scapula. Hold on to the handles of the KO8, lock your elbows out and create a slight angle, you honestly won’t need much for this to be effective. Using the scapula, pull the handles apart, so as you come to a vertical position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, before controlling yourself back to the start position.
Barbell Russian Twists:
Yet another exercise I think is never utilised to its full potential. We do not live in a linear world, the body is designed to move in all directions so we cannot forget about the transverse plane aka rotation. Wood chops are a great tool but bang for buck, IMO, the Russian twist is one of the best. This is another exercise I prefer to do using a tempo 4:0:4:0. Remember to keep tall throughout the movement and focus on using the mid section for control.
The KING of exercises. The movement responsible for more strength gains than any other. This really s a bang for buck exercise as it hits nearly every muscle in the body. There are two schools of thought on the deadlift. Some like to use a deep hinge, others like to do a cross between a hinge and a squat. I’m of the deep hinge school of thought, mainly because I believe a strong hinge is the best way of loading the posterior chain (the hamstrings, glutes, back etc). A lot of people may find themselves restricted and unable to actually get into the correct position, if you find this is you, I would advise spending time on mobilising the problem areas and in the meantime use the chop & pop drill or the Bulgarian Goatbag swing as an alternative exercise.
The next part of our program will focus on the mobility drills that will accompany the program.
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