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Pressing Considerations for the Older Lifter – Part 2

Pressing Considerations for the Older Lifter

Part 2

In Part 1 of this article series, we discussed the importance of a proper warm-up and how immobility in the upper back affects the movement and optimal functioning of your shoulders.  In Part 2 we will discuss how to reintroduce tension, and therefore stability, back into the bench press movement pattern.

As you know, the central nervous system or CNS drives everything.  You also know that when you have injuries, pain or you’re just generally jacked up, your CNS responds by locking you down.  It doesn’t want you to injure yourself further so it inhibits muscle contraction and tries to limit when and how far you move.

This can be a problem because movement will still occur and “override” the present dysfunction, but unfortunately, it happens at a cost.  Because the appropriate muscle groups aren’t “firing” the way they should, the supportive musculature kicks in and has to do the main job. But they were only meant to support the prime movers, so they will become strained and overused.  This is when form breaks down and bad movement occurs.

As an older lifter, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon without knowing it.  It has just become the norm over the years that you started bouncing the weight off your chest or you’re stopping short about your chest.  You have been driven to stay in whatever pain-free range of motion is allowable by your current limitations.

With Tips #1 & #2, we’ve starting to re-establish our potential for loading the bench pressing movement pattern again by including a good comprehensive warm-up and opening up the mobility of our upper back.

Now we will begin to get the muscles contracting again so that they can function the right way and at the right times.

Tip #3:  Get More Tension

Once we open up the potential for movement, we need to activate our muscles through the desired (patterned or unpatterned) range of motion.  We do this in the push AND pull direction to create a bulletproof and balanced system.

Dynamic isometrics provide us with a great means for getting the muscles firing again, and do so at our own pace.  We can setup in different positions along the movement pattern and hold for time, typically 5-10 seconds.  As mentioned, we will develop this static strength in both directions.  For the bench press, we will use a push-up and inverted row.  This tension and strength endurance starts to develop stability along our intended bar path in both directions.  Something we had lost due to our previous injuries and long-term poor movement.

After we become proficient at dynamic isometrics we will transition to eccentric quasi-isometrics, or EQI, through the eccentric phase of the press and of the pull (pulling bar to chest).  EQI are performed by moving slowly through the eccentric phase of a movement, which elongates the muscles under tension.  Because of this, EQI’s are amazing for development deceleration strength potential, injury rehab and for dynamically stretching the restricted upper body soft-tissue associated with an older lifter who has 15-20 years in the workforce.  It might seem strange that we are developing the pulling pattern as well as our pressing strength, but as you know from my how to bench video, you must pull the bar to your chest, not just relax and let the weight drop.

Dynamic isometrics involves holding a position (highest) along the push or pull movement pattern for 5-10 seconds and then moving to another position (midpoint) and hold that for the same amount of time.  The hold is repeated one more time at the last and lowest position (3/4 range) before a second repetition is completed.  For example, for an inverted row, we would hold the chest against the bar for 5 seconds, lower until the arms are 90 degrees for the next 5 sec hold and finally, drop to 3/4 position and hold.  This will be repeated for 3 times through for one set and then done for 2-3 sets.  Dynamic isometrics should be done with push-ups and inverted rows.

Dynamic Isometrics – Push-ups

Dynamic Isometrics – Inverted Rows

3 sets x 3 repetitions (each rep has three 5 sec hold positions) – rest 60 seconds between sets

Conversely, EQI’s will be more of an intense, longer duration effort.  For the inverted row EQI’s, you will hold your chest against the bar to start and only lower as fatigue sets in and because you can’t hold the position any longer.  Keep fighting against gravity and don’t reach the bottom of the movement until you can’t hold the tension any longer – or as long as you can maintain proper form.  A good target to shoot for is around 30 sec-1 min.  For the EQI push-up, you would setup in the 3/4 (right before) lockout position and hold.  As the set goes on, you will slowly begin to lower until you reach right above the bottom push-up position.  Stop, rest for 60 seconds and repeat 2 more times.

EQI Isometrics – Push-ups

EQI – Inverted Rows

3 sets x 3 repetitions (each rep held for ALAP) – rest 60 seconds between efforts

Finally, here is a cool developmental exercise you can use to promote tension at the bottom of the bench, engage the lats for better strength potential and stabilize the shoulders.  You will perform isometric rows against a foam roller that is placed under your shirt.  This unique variation will also teach you how to keep your thoracic (upper back) extension, while under a heavy bench press.  It will also teach you how to row the bar down.  Many lifters collapse in the hole because as we discussed, their body won’t allow them to maintain tension.  This exercise will re-groove the proper positioning.

Setup on the bench like you’re lifting a heavy weight. Use an unloaded bar and with great tension, row in powerfully INTO the foam roller, maintaining your good positioning.  Do NOT collapse at the chest.

Isometric Rows Against Foam Roller

3 sets x 3 repetitions (each rep 5 sec hold) – rest 60 seconds between sets

Tip #4:  Push-ups are Beast

Bench, bench bench – I have to bench on Monday’s or my world will fall apart.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Straight bar bench is tough on your body.  It locks in your wrists, elbows and shoulders and the bar forces you to restrict your movement.

Don’t think of push-ups as a regression to barbell bench pressing, think of them as their own, very unique training tool.  Push-ups are much more of a natural movement, as well as, a great core exercise – a double threat.

There are tons of different push-up variations and you are only restricted by your imagination.  Create a new push-up variation by:

– overloading them with weight vests, chains, bands or plates

– varying the foot position or height

– varying the hand position or height

– destabilizing the hands or feet; by utilizing rings, med balls or taking away a base of support (i.e., one foot or one arm).

When you can’t bench, do push-ups.  They will build insane amounts of muscle and serious strength and give you a break from barbell benching.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this series where we really get creative!

By on March 24th, 2012

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