Metabolic Stability Series: Pain Free Pressing
There are certain exercises that just invoke fear and apprehension in clients and coaches alike. They just have a reputation of causing bad things to happen. A great example is the idea of pressing overhead. In over 20 years of working with clients I almost never heard someone tell me they couldn't bench press because of their shoulders, but I had MANY that said going overhead was something even their doctors told them not to do in training.
I'm not going to tell you that there aren't certain people that shouldn't go overhead, but far too many people avoid this movement pattern out of fear. Sadly, they just don't realize that overhead pressing gives us so much information about our ability to create stability and mobility at the same time!
The success and ability to press overhead is largely a function of how we create core stability while moving the arm. In fact, the major reason that people find their shoulders hurting in pressing overhead is that they don't create the stable foundation of their core to develop the proper platform for their shoulders to function optimally.
Little Keys In Developing Successful Presses
It's great when we understand what the problem may be – the next part is to figure out how to create exercises and progressions to teach the concepts we want people to learn. One of the most transformative ideas you can implement in teaching HOW to use the core properly is focusing on tension at the hands and feet.
We know that being barefoot is powerful for the lower body, but it is just as impactful for the entire body. That is due to the chain reaction we get from the ground up. Being barefoot is good, but having an active foot is even MORE important. This is one of the big reasons we put people in different body positions to ensure they use their feet!
Using the feet is an important strategy of bracing even in the plank. That is how we solve the issue of proper hip positioning – DRIVE through the feet. This turns on the glutes and stabilizes the pelvis. The concept of the feet we learn in progressive planks is an idea we carry over into our standing pressing movements.
While the feet are a big part of our communication with the environment, the other half of the body has to be equally engaged. That means teaching people how to use the hands to bring in the connection of the grip to the core. We know that grip strength is related to rotator cuff health, but gripping with deliberate intent will also connect the lats and core in a simple way.
That is why the drills we use in this month's Metabolic Stability series isn't just about working or feeling your core, but teaching your body how to connect more successfully. When you learn how to create proper tension that stabilizes the core you gain better range of motion and stability in the upper body.
You may already know why through the PNF concept of "proximal stability creates distal mobility". The more stable of a platform that our body can create, the better the strength and mobility we find in our extremities. The key, though, is learning how to use the right tools and progressions to help clients successfully learn the movement strategies that make us feel stronger and more resilient.
The Smarter Toolbox
When you see how we use Mini Bands, Ultimate Sandbags, Infinity Straps, and Lever Bells, you will see the synergy these tools offer. Using these tools with the right intent can build progressions that teach people how to press overhead without imparting the fear that overhead training can cause. These strategies allow us to not only improve our upper body mobility, but teach clients the concepts of pain-free overhead pressing.
It isn't about having more tools, but having BETTER strategies to teach clients how to be successful. Pressing overhead is a foundational movement pattern that people have lost, not just because of issues with their shoulders, but because they have lost the ability to use their body in the most efficient ways possible. Try adding these progressions to your training programs and see how you remove discomfort and build success while still offering a challenging fitness program!
Josh Henkin, CSCS, is an international presenter on the topics of functional fitness, performance, and post-rehabilitation. Don't miss his and physical therapist Jessica Bento's brand new DVRT Shoulder Restoration Course HERE.