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1. Do Vertical Pressing Before Horizontal Pressing
If you are going to do some form of military press and some form of bench press in the same workout try doing the overhead work first. I have found this to be a great way to avoid pain and strengthen your shoulders. I cant explain exactly why but the overhead work just seems to prepare you better for the bench pressing variations. I have had numerous people try this (many of whom had pain with any form of benching with a bar or dumbbells) and they all reported feeling significantly better.
2. Begin the First Rep of Any Set of Military Presses with a Slight Leg Drive
You dont have to turn the whole set into push presses but you do want to use a slight leg drive to at least get the very first rep moving. The reason for that is because pressing the bar off your front delts from a dead stop with no momentum can be very stressful. Its the most stressful part of the entire rep. Unless you are competing in some kind of strict pressing contest Id recommend using the leg drive. If you have preexisting shoulder injuries you may want to do a slight push press on every rep.
3. At the End of Each Set of Military Presses You Do Hold the Bar in the Top Position
This is sometimes referred to as structural integrity work and can help strengthen, stabilize and bulletproof the shoulders. I recommend holding the bar up there at lockout (the joints are meant to lock and support load so forget about that myth that you should never lock out) for three to five seconds. On the last set of the day you could hold it up there for ten seconds or longer.
4. Use a Swiss Bar Instead of Straight Bar for Horizontal Pressing
The Swiss bar allows you to press with your palms facing in towards each other which is far more natural and a lot safer. If you train at home or some type of small warehouse gym I highly recommend ordering. I would ALWAYS make that my bar of choice if I were ever to bench press again.
5. Swap Out Bench Presses For Low Incline Presses
Most regular readers know by now that Im not a huge fan of the flat bench press. But I do like having big barbell movements in the program as indicator lifts. The low inline press, with the bench set to somewhere between fifteen and thirty degrees was a favorite chest exercise of six time Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates. This variation hits the pecs more effectively and is less stressful on the shoulder. Even better is the low incline press with the Swiss Bar.
6. Never Bench Press With a Wide Grip
In powerlifting its known that using a wider grip reduces the range of motion and thus, theoretically you should be able to press more weight. The downside is that the wide grip puts your shoulders through hell so you should really consider avoiding it and only benching with a close to medium grip width. The widest I would ever recommend is pinkies in the rings and even closer than that for most people. You have to think long term and remember that if you shoulders are destroyed you wont even be able to bench the bar eventually. The great Konstantinovs knows the importance of this and has discussed it in the past. Here he is in the video below benching 507 for 3 with what many might consider a close grip.
7. Always Keep Your Shoulder Blades Fully Squeezed Together During Horizontal Pressing Movements
Whenever you are lying on your back and pressing a bar or dumbbells you want to maintain a very tight, bunched up feeling in your upper back and never allow your shoulder blades to come apart. This keeps the shoulders in a much stronger and safer position.
8. Do Dips on Gymnastics Rings Instead of Parallel Bars
Unlike the bars which keep you in more of a fixed plane, the rings allow you to move naturally and you can work around the pain.If I could only do one upper body pressing exercise to build and strengthen the chest, shoulders and triceps this would probably be it.Thats not to say that dips on parallel bars arent great, because they are. But if you cant do them due to injury this could be a better option for you.
9. Eliminate the Eccentric Component of Olympic Lifts by Dropping the Bar
Olympic lifting variations can be hard on those with shoulder injuries mainly because of the stress that comes from lowering a heavy load so rapidly. If you do high pulls with a lot of weight it can yank away pretty good at those shoulders on the way down, no matter how good your technique is. The simple solution is to simply do singles and drop the bar between each rep.
10. Use a Sled for Explosive Pulls Instead
Louie Simmons turned me onto sled work back in the 90s and I have found it to be an invaluable asset in the training of clients ever since. A great way to use the sled is to replace barbell Olympic lifts with explosive sled pulls.Simply hook up a pair of TRX straps to the sled, get in the same position you would be to start a high pull (except that your hands will be out in front of you holding the straps instead of by your knees holding the bar) and then explode up the same way you would with a bar, shooting for triple extension while pulling the straps up toward your chest. Walk backwards to pull out the slack in the straps, bend over and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.This is an awesome way to get explosive pulling in and simulate Olympic lifts when you cant do them due to shoulder problems.
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