If we were to talk superiority within the workout world, I’m sure a lot of Strength coaches, myself included, would turn to you and say that “Squat is King” and no other movement really tackles the core’s sequencing; however, if I were to challenge myself, I would consider overhead work to be a horribly close second with its accessory movements being equally as important for the health and wellness of the athlete… The bracing sequences utilized to maintain a neutral and safe spine are great, both athletically and cosmetically, to develop the core, lumbar, glute and t-spine. From there, the use of assistance work helps to develop and strengthen the shoulders and rotator cuff limiting injury and developing those cannonball delts.
First and most dominant of the movements is the Overhead Press. Keeping it simple and solely strict, we always start from the ground up bracing through grounded feet, tight glute and hamstring and a tight core. From here, with the lats engaged, grip on the barbell braced forward and stable. The barbell is strictly pressed upwards while trying to maintain the best neutral spine possible without hyper extending to accommodate Range Of Motion. (If the spine hyperextends, rebrace or decrease the weight being used). The bar is then locked overhead with the head pushed through to achieve a brace and spine is neutral. Return is subtle and controlled, back to the shoulder, and the movement is then repeated.
Breaking things down from here, delt raises are then implemented to engage/isolate the anterior and medial deltoids. Using a very light plate or dumbbell, again with a neutral stance and bracing sequence, the lifter raises each hand with a straight arm/soft elbow to a parallel level activating either the anterior delt with the front raise or the medial delt with the side raise. These are done to max effort to accumulate volume, fatigue the tissues and stimulate growth as well as force stabilization.
Banded Lat Pulldowns are a great way to develop not only the lat which assists in stabilizing the shoulder girdle but the posterior delt as well. Just like a typical lat pulldown, the individual seats themselves with a neutral spine. With a band rigged to the top of a pull up bar or rig, using a rope or bar and keeping a slow tempo, the individual pulls downward from scapular elevation to scapular depression while also pulling the hands downwards and elbows to the sides.
Lastly, to tie together the bracing sequence we throw in some banded pull throughs. Though this is a glute isolation movement, it is a great addition to developing T-spine strength through bracing. With a band rigged to the bottom of a support around ground level, the individual pulls the band through the legs while standing much like a stiff leg deadlift. The hips begin neutral, feet in squat stance and band being held at the hips. The lifter then hinges at the hips allowing the band to retract and a stretch to be accomplished through the hamstring. This is the point where the T-spine is challenged so it is important to maintain neutrality throughout. From here, the glute is activated and hips are extended back to neutrality.
Here is what the workout looks like:
OH Press 8rm
90% x 8, 80% x 8, 70% x 8
Anterior/Medial Delt Raises 3 x ME (Max Effort) with light weight + Slow
Banded Lat Pulldown 100reps (rig a band from above and either stand or sit, row the band to the chest)
Banded Pull Throughs 100reps (rig band low on rig, pull between the legs like an RDL focusing on T-spine engagement)
Max Distance Sled Drag w/open sled or light weight 10min
With the appropriate addition of lower extremity conditioning through sled work and other unique bracing sequences, not only can one accomplish great shoulder hypertrophy and development but also great athletic application through spinal strength and foundational health and safety.
Written by Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning
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