jevanses said: I can send you old vidjas because I have been instructed to halt pressing by the PT until my tendinitis chills. My grip was quite wide, hands just outside my shoulders. I would strongly doubt that my form was healthful.
Ya, definitely send me the old vidjas so I can see. But the wide grip and lack of active shoulder/shrugging hard at the top of the press is definitely a culprit in the damning of the press by many PTs and some well known strength coaches. Changing these two things, along with proper positioning of the barbell in your hand, generally turns the press into the best overall exercise for shoulder health and strength.
So I’m gonna use this as a launch platform to discuss the Press. Based on what you’ve told me, they’ll likely be helpful for you and allow you to resume pressing basically immediately, assuming correct implementation (though I can’t say with absolute certainty without being there to go through with you in person, and without seeing the video of how you were previously pressing).
Anyway, that said, here’s some fixes. The pictures are from SS:BBT3 and the text is a mixture of adaptation from there, and my own stuff:
Thing 1 - Grip Width
The grip for the press is determined by basic mechanics. The width is such that it places the forearms in a vertical position as seen from the back or front:
The grip will likely be narrower than you want it to be. I’m a pretty big guy and I put my index finger *just* outside the border between the knurl and the smooth (on the Rogue B&R Bar, which I think has a slightly wider smooth than standard). Take the bar out for yourself and adjust your grip till your forearms are vertical.
Too wide a grip creates moment arms between the grip position on the bar and the elbows, between the elbows and the shoulders, and between the grip and the shoulders. These moment arms are extra leverage you will have to overcome that doesn’t need to be there. The weight is heavy enough; no need to move it inefficiently.
In the pic you can see the moment arms that are created by an incorrect grip. In Pic A, between hand and shoulder, and between elbow and shoulder. In pic B, between elbow and shoulder. In Pic C, between wrist and bar.
The right side image in pic B is one you’ll see some weightlifters do, especially if they’re used to jerking with a high elbow rack. Setting aside that discussion for a moment, it’s not optimal for pressing.
Thing 2 - Grip Position in Hand
A correct grip puts the bones of the forearm directly under the bar, to eliminate any leverage produced against the wrist from having the bar too far back in the hand. The best way to position the grip efficiently is to set the grip width at your index fingers, and then rotate your hands down into pronation by pointing your thumbs down toward your feet. Then lay your fingers down on the bar and squeeze the fingertips into the bar. Don’t try to wrap your fingers around the bar; doing so will tend to put the bar further back in your hand towards your fingers, and will lead to the bent wrist seen in figure B below. Just lay your fingers on the other side of the bar and squeeze.
When you take it out of the rack, the bar will be on the heel of your palm and directly over your forearm bones:
A is good - no unwanted moment arm between wrist and bar. B is for bad! Strain on the wrist and inefficiency in the moment arm between wrist and bar.
Thing 3: Active Shoulder
During the press, once the bar is over your head correctly, lock your elbows and shrug up your shoulders to support the bar. The arm bones are lined up in a column by the triceps and deltoids, the shoulders
are shrugged up with the trapezius; and the arms and the traps must work together to support heavy weights overhead. Imagine someone behind you gently pushing your elbows together and pulling them up at the same time. As if you can’t possibly press the bar high enough. Try to push it all the way up into the ceiling with your shrug.
The combination of locking the elbows out and shrugging the traps up at lockout, with the bar directly over the ears (and over mid-foot, if you continue the line straight down all the way), produces a very firm, stable position at the top that involves all the muscles of the shoulder girdle and prevents impingement.
And here’s where we get annoyed at the well meaning PTs and Strength Coaches who say not to press. The thought is that the tendency of the rotator cuff muscles to become impinged - trapped between the humeral head and the coracoid and acromion processes - makes the press a bad choice.
Let’s delve into this more to see why a press performed and described above, with the Active Shoulder, avoids this issue entirely.
The coracoid and acromion overhang the head of the humerus where it articulates with the glenoid. The supraspinatus and infraspinatus overlay the head of the humerus and underlay the subacromial bursa. So the thought is that pressing will mash the bones together, thus trapping the tendons in between, impinging them.
But this ignores the fact that the scapula attaches to the shoulder girdle only at the AC joint. It’s otherwise free to float through its range of motion in a sheath of muscle and fascia, so its position relative to the other structures of the back and arm can change. For example, it can be fully abducted (like in a bench press), fully adducted (like in a barbell row), or shrugged and rotated (like at the top of a press, as described above).
Shrugging not only actively reinforces the traps’ support of the shoulders and bar, but also pulls the scapulae together at the top, rotating them medially and pulling them upward. This motion makes the glenoid cavity point upward to support the humerus directly from below, and pulls the acromion and coracoid processes away from the humerus. So the shrugged scapulae are basically in a position in which anatomical impingement of the cuff tendons is impossible.
However, this assumes a correctly performed press. If you don’t shrug into the lockout, impingement is quite possible.
Does this mean we shouldn’t press? That pressing is dangerous? As Rip says, driving your ca is dangerous if you drive into a big rock. You don’t get to redefine the exercise and then claim it’s dangerous. Just like incorrectly performed squats can be bad for the knees or back, incorrect presses can be bad for the shoulder.
The solution, of course, is to press correctly, just as the solution is to squat correctly.
Hopefully this has explained how and why to do so. This info can be found with much more detail and many more pics in the 3rd edition of Starting Strength.