We all know the old saying by Russian powerlifting coach Boris Sheiko, “to press a lot, you must press a lot.” While for most of this may mean training the bench twice a week for others like Sheiko’s trainees it could mean training the bench everyday! In either case this motto simply means you must practice the skill of bench pressing by using the bench press drill with heavy weights in order to put up huge numbers on a regularly scheduled basis. The inherent problem here is the fact that there will be a “pattern overload” of sorts in that the extension muscles of the upper torso may be over utilized in one particular posture such as the competition style bench press. One way to counter act this problem is that full meet lifters will get ample upper back work during the deadlift. Another way to counter act this is to include a bit of an upper back routine where the extension muscles are counter acted by working the muscles of flexion. But as most full meet lifters know the combination of all three lifts is hell on your shoulders leaving one in painful predicaments often enough to not have the wherewithal to continue with any type of movement after your main lifts are done. Well, if you want to stay in the game and continue to PR well into your golden years; lifters of all kinds must suck it up and begin to train those abused areas with respect to restoring balance and dexterity. For most of us competitive lifters and recreational lifters alike the internally rotated (i.e.- “walking ape”) look is often times a warning sign of a potentially injurious situation in regards to the muscles responsible for balancing the humerus and decelerating horizontal adduction.
Here is a prehabilitative list that you can plug into the end of your bench training.
1) Halbert Cleans: Named after Westside bench great George Halbert. You simply perform a dumbell clean a la Westside except your body is inverted, lying prone on an incline bench . Higher rep ranges are best and you can also perform them for timed efforts.
2) Barbell Muscle Snatch: take a wide or close grip on a barbell in standing position and proceed to “snatch” the barbell utilizing only your upper body muscles. This will surely engage everything from your traps, levators, rotators, and serratus in a deliberate concerto of shoulder girdle mechanics.
3) Seated External Rotations: take a seat on a flat bench while propping one leg up on the bench with the knee bent and in front of your body and foot held flat on bench. Situate your arm in “L” formation with the elbow held on top of the knee of the propped leg (you would obviously use the arm of the same side in this drill). From here hold a dumbell or low cable handle in your working hand with the arm in internal rotation (hand should be at crotch) forcefully externally rotate the arm until the hand is in a direct line over knee. You can use reps as low as 8 here but this is no maximal attempt drill.
4) T-raise into External Rotation: More of a mobility drill here. Lie prone on an incline bench with dumbells in hand. Start by holding the bells in front of your chest with your thumbs facing each other. From here horizontally abduct both arms as in a rear delt raise while rotating the thumbs to the ceiling. Get through 15 reps if you can.
The use of one, or all, of these exercises after your bench training will mean an extended longevity of your shoulders and the chance to train productively without interruptions from injury.