Experiment for da ladies

Some females that lift still have weaknesses in their shoulder girdle or upper back despite the fact that they have lifted for at least one year. This is more common when the female is taller or has longer limbs because they won’t have large amounts of muscle mass to improve the angle of muscle attachment (this concept was discussed in this post — more on the same topic). Doing presses and rows are good at developing this musculature, but some times a specific deficiency needs specific work.

Band pulls are typically used in powerlifting programs to strengthen the shoulder girdle. Many powerlifters and their coaches despise overhead because it’s labeled as “injurious”. We know that by pressing correctly in external rotation and achieving a good overhead position is not injurious and is exceptional at increasing the strength and stability in the shoulder girdle. My hypothesis is that assistance work like band pulls were created to help keep shoulders healthy because there was an absence in quality overhead work. They were also developed in the realm of physical therapy to address muscle imbalances, which would be the case in a guy/girl who has a weak upper back.

Here’s the experiment: throw them in at the end of your training on a daily basis for at least a month. If “daily” won’t work, then do them at least three times a week. They can be done on the weekend, and could probably be done the day before a lifting session (though I’d avoid it before the heaviest session). Let’s see if there’s a significant improvement in pull-up strength, overhead strength, or the ability to stay in external rotation on the bench or press (elbows staying in and under the wrists). Guys, if you have issues with flaring elbows or a weak upper back, then do this experiment. They will only help the shoulder and won’t cause any harm. Remember that most of these “female topics” also apply to guys.

The video below explains how to do them. Cliff notes:
– use a light band
– use a supinated (underhand grip) that is at or right outside of shoulder width
– horizontally abduct shoulders (reverse fly)
– keep elbows/wrists straight
– control out and in (don’t flop back in)
– use 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
– wear cool sunglasses

19 thoughts on “Experiment for da ladies

  1. I’ll have my lady try this out and report back.

    I finally got a photo of us training together: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m46e6gqzS01rve6qxo1_500.jpg

    This video reminded me of these things, which seem to have been replaced by rubber bands. http://hi.atgimg.com/img/p400/5654/schestexpanderl.jpg I remember April O’Neil found one in the second scene of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4AGOtF4oJg#t=0m35s

    When I was a kid I wanted one becuase I figured it was one way the turtles got to be so jacked, along with eating pizza of course.

  2. Those are great, I use them as shoulder prep for pressing movements and also in between sets of presses. I find they really keep the shoulders “happy”. I’ve never tried them with a supinated grip though, I’ll definitely give that a shot.

    Nice post

  3. I’m all over this. I have a relatively weak upper back and I feel like it’s impeding my progress, particularly in the snatch. I’ll give this a try. Thanks, Justin.

  4. Great exercuse. Seems to really help my entire “yoke” area stay healthy, especially because I handle a good deal of pressing volume (both bench and standing).

  5. Off topic but:

    Justin, can you explain more about how to intelligently transition from linear progression in the press to what you mentioned in your “Pressing a Dead Horse” article?

    For example, “The first thing to play around with in programming is to use some heavier weight, but not to abandon old rep schemes. One example is that I have developed an ascending 3×3 and 3×5 rep scheme that alternates every week on the press and bench with great success.”

    If someone was pressing 150 x 5 x 3 when they exhausted linear gains, what would you recommend they do next?

  6. Would it make a huge difference if this were incorporated into one’s warm-up rather than done as assistance work post work-out?

    In any case, the cool sunglasses are ready to go.

    That would depend if the person were weak/deficient or not — in this case I’d want them to do it at the end of the session. In a normal (i.e. healthy) pair of shoulders, there’s no reason to use these as part of the warm-up if mobility is good and there is an active warm-up on the shoulders. It wouldn’t hurt to use it, but it’s not mandatory.


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