Upper Body Prehab Conditioning & A Review Of The Bench Press

So I had my second session with Todd at Elite Sports Performance in Spotswood, Melbourne this week.  So far I must say that I am super impressed by Todd’s Strength & Conditioning Conditioning Coaching.  He has been excellent in his professionalism, knowledge base and explanation of how they perform Prehab of the Upper Body before training as well as how he coaches individuals to improve their Bench Pressing technique to produce maximum power and strength.  For anyone serious about their training or wanting to improve performance, I would highly recommend checking out Elite Sports Performance.

So this week we looked at the upper body prehab conditioning work that must be completed before training the upper body at ESP.  The key focus on the prehab work was to get the upper body ready for lifting.  What was interesting to me was the number of exercises performed to get it fully ready before we started.

The following exercises were performed in the Upper Body Rehab Routine.

Upper Body Prehab Routine

  1. Dumbbell Frontal Raise – Thumbs Up (neutral grip position).  10 reps of a light weight (2-4kg)
  2. Dumbbell Frontal Raise – Thumbs Down (pronated grip position).  10 reps of a light weight (2-4kg)
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise to 90 degrees – Thumbs Up (neutral grip position).  10 reps of a light weight (2-4kg)
  4. Dumbbell Lateral Raise to 90 degrees – Thumbs Down (pronated grip position).  10 reps of a light weight (2-4kg)
  5. Standing Bent Over Posterior Fly – Thumbs Up (neutral grip position).  10 reps of a light weight (2-4kg)
  6. Standing Bent Over Posterior Fly – Thumbs Down (pronated grip position).  10 reps of a light weight (2-4kg)

Note:  for the Standing Bent Over Posterior Raise – I was leaning approximately 30-40 degrees forward.  The thoracic and lumbar spine were kept neutral and there was flexion through the hips and knees.

  1. Powerband Standing Posterior Fly – Pronated Grip.  10 reps of light powerband. The focus of this was to pull the shoulders together at the back, arms apart in front until the band hits the chest.  This was a great exercise for working the rhomboids, mid to lower trap.  10 reps.
  2. Powerband Standing Posterior Fly – Supinated Grip.  10 reps of light powerband
  3. Bent Over Powerband Standing Posterior Fly – Pronated Grip.  10 reps of light powerband.
  4. Bent Over Powerband Standing Posterior Fly – Supinated Grip.  10 reps of light powerband. 

Now I must say, by the time I had finished these exercises, my upper body was well and truly warmed up.  The key focus on all of the exercises was to create a stable base for the upper body to work.  This means keeping the Scapular retracted down and back with tension through the rhomboids, mid to lower trap, lat dorsi and associated scapular muscles. 

I will endeavour to put some video or photos up of these exercises in the next few weeks.

Learning To Bench Press All Over Again.

I have been training in a gym environment for probably close to the last 15 years and it was great for Toddy to go through and review the Bench Press technique with me.  Todd took me through a powerlifting bench press that is commonly taught for those looking to improve power and strength in the upper body.  Before I go on with describing the process, the key differences that stand out between how I had been typically bench pressing and this approach is:

  1. Shoulder blades need to be strong and firm against the bench rather than just sitting there relaxed.  A strong base through the body means a stronger bench press.
  2. Feet need to be splayed wide apart, flat on the floor and hold the legs tense.  A strong base through the body means a stronger bench press.
  3. Bringing the bar down to upper abdominals (lower part of the sternum) rather than higher up near nipple area.  This ensures that the shoulders and aren’t exposed to a greater risk of injury.  This pushing motion is also more reflective of how we would push to generate maximum power and strength in general day to day manual handling pushing activities or contact sports.

A Step By Step Look At Bench Pressing

Todd mentioned that he goes through a fixed routine before bench pressing and that it is important to have your own set routine to ensure a good workout and maximum results.  The following routine is one that I have adopted.

1.  Lie on your back on the bench with feet wide apart.  Feet flat on the floor.  When bench pressing, try to push the knees out to keep the legs tense and strong all the way up to the glutes

2.  Keep the shoulder blades hard against the bench to ensure a good stable base through the scapulothoracic joint.  It will feel like the lats and other posterior chain muscles are working overtime.  Keeping the scapulars hard against the bench also ensures that you don’t push to high up with the bar and roll the shoulders forward to expose the shoulders.  It will also reduce the overactivity of the anterior deltoid.  On review of my prior bench pressing technique and those that have attended my clinic, many people roll the shoulder forward which can increase the risk of shoulder injuries such as anterior impingement, biceps strain etc.  When trained this way, it will also lead to that anterior and internally rotated shoulder posture that we so commonly see.

3.  Gripping the bar.  Slightly wider than shoulder width. Use the markers on the Olympic bar to grip the bar and maintain symmetry.

4.  Lowering and pushing the bar.  Lower the bar to the upper abdominals/lower sternum rather than nipple area.  This keeps the elbows tucked in closer to the body.

5.  Breathing.  Remember to breathe.
We were lucky enough to utilise the testing equipment to measure the power output of the bench press.  This was performed by attaching the power device to the olympic bar and then measuring it using an iphone app.  This great little tool allowed us to measure the power generated in the pushing motion of the bench press over a number of reps.  We did this over 60kg, 70kg and 80kg.  The end result of this testing showed that I was able to maintain a higher amount of force over 3 lifts consistently at 70kg compared to 60kg where the bar was slightly light and 80kg was slightly heavy.  On the 80kg my force generated dropped off considerably after the 2nd rep.  I am hoping to review this process again as my learning of this new bench pressing technique improves to determine my optimal weight for training this.  This is a great tool for those competing in power lifting or those playing sport where there is a requirement to produce power.

Anyway, next week I am back seeing Todd to learn more in detail about Deadlifting and a few other accessory lifts to supplement my training.  So keep a watch out for my new post then.

Osteopath Heath Williams is owner and director of Principle Four Osteopathy, one of Melbourne City CBD 3000 leading Osteopathic clinics.  The clinic and studio are located at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne City CBD 3000 (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St).  To find out more about the clinic and our services, please go to www.principlefourosteopathy.com.   Appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online by clicking here.

Principle Four Osteopathy

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