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Pressing Considerations for the Older Lifter – Part 1

Pressing Considerations for the Older Lifter

Part 1

Everyday I get about 20 emails from guys who have shoulder issues.  Sometimes it is from an old {insert any sport here} injury, while the other emails detail a bad benching experience.

These guys are in serious pain yet they will not stop benching.  They keep pushing through the pain, flaring their elbows and shortening the range of motion.

In this multi-part article series, I hope to offer some important tactical strategies and alternatives for the older lifter who has been in pain and struggling with any type of pressing movement.

Let’s get started.

Tip #1:  You Must Have a Good Warm-up

I mean really, this should go without saying.  If you’ve been part of #teamdiesel for a while, you know the warm-up is critical for everyone.

It sets up everything that happens in the workout and helps to overcome all the bad stuff we did all day.  You know, like slouch in your chair watching YouTube videos and LIKE’ing stuff on Facebook.

I’m not going to tell you how the warm-up charges up your CNS, increases your soft-tissue quality and extensibility, improves your posture, activates inhibited muscle groups and yadda yadda yadda.  You already know all that.

It is important. Do it.

Start general and slow and more to specific and fast.  It should progress and ramp up right into / or continue during the workout (auto-regulation).

3 Insanely Effective, FAST Upper Body Warm-ups

Tip #2:  Improve Your Thoracic Mobility

This can be done during the warm-up and throughout the workout.

When our thoracic spine gets locked up, it affects everything.  It is a trickle down effect that has ramifications across the kinetic chain.  Specifically for benching, we can’t get in a good position with our torso to create proper stability, we can’t move our shoulder blades into a good packed and down position and we can’t prevent excessive humeral extension at the bottom of the movement.

We lose thoracic extension and rotation for a number of reasons, including poor breathing habits, long term poor posture, poor hydration and hypertonic muscles that negatively impact the quality of our upper body movements.  The list goes on and on.

Quick Ripple Effect

To see how just one of these reasons can devastate our posture and movement, let’s look at poor breathing habits.

Poor breathing habits => destabilize the core (affecting intra-abominal pressure and inner core stability) => create overactive muscles (traps and spinal erectors, further facilitating Janda’s predictable patterns of dysfunction, upper and lower cross syndromes) => change the slideability of our soft-tissues (stiffen, glued down, the mechanoreceptors and smooth muscle cells in fascia responding to the increased pH of our body). (Ward, 2011)

What the hell does this mean to us?

It means you won’t be able to create tension through the full range of motion of the bench because when the CNS senses pain it inhibits muscle contract.  It doesn’t want you to get injured further so it just shuts down whatever hurts.  Our upper back provides the stability for the movement and when it has dysfunction and we can’t create tension, we could rely on passive structures for our stability.

It also means that your thoracic immobility will affect the position and function of the scapula, i.e., scapulohumeral rhythm.  We might not be able to retract and depress the shoulder blades properly or keep them packed throughout the entire set.  That is a big difference.  I talked in a previous article about pressing out of your arch.  It means you set up properly, but lose that good position after the first repetition.

So you can see how good thoracic mobility is important to our ability to bench and keep the proper positioning and tension.

Here is a killer video with some innovative strategies.

Amazing Upper Back Mobility

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series when we start to get real-real.


Killer 20 Exercise Warm-up – The Shawn Phillips
Supercharge Your Workout –

Breathing and Soft Tissue Tension – Patrick Ward

By on March 21st, 2012


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Comments (6)

  1. Posted by - Brian Rene on March 21, 2012

    Fantastic material! I used many of these techniques in small group classes and I have seen much better trunk flexion and mobility than ever!

    • Posted by - Smitty on March 23, 2012

      Thank you!

  2. Posted by - Morningskyfarm on March 21, 2012

    Very helpful video and site! Found some great new exercises that actually look like fun- THANKS!!

    • Posted by - Info on March 23, 2012

      Thanks for reading.

  3. Posted by - Sean Hyson on March 22, 2012

    Great vids, Smitty! What kind of camera do you use?

    And what do you recommend for elbow pain due to pressing?

    • Posted by - Smitty on March 23, 2012

      Thanks Sean. I typically just use my iPhone, but I was using a Sony mini and before that a flipcam.

      As far as elbow pain, we change the arm angle to typically find a pain-free range. We also begin looking at the upper back for any restricted movements. Many times, however, elbow pain goes away with some simple band-resisted supinations and pronations thrown in at high volumes for a few weeks.

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