This is an excerpt from New Functional Training for Sports-2nd Edition by Michael Boyle.
As mentioned in the section on vertical and horizontal pulling, straight bars determine the bar path and the shoulder motion for the lifter. Like the individual handles on the newer functional trainers or the handles of a suspension trainer, dumbbells allow the shoulder to have more freedom. This is a huge plus over using a straight bar for overhead presses. Overhead work will begin in half kneeling to stabilize the lumbar spine and to force the lifter to use the shoulders.
The most common mistake in overhead pressing is creating a backward lean or a lumbar arch that effectively turns the overhead press into an incline press. The backward lean allows the upper pecs to become active as in an incline press. However, the trade-off is a large stress to the lumbar spine.
Half-Kneeling Alternating Kettlebell Press
My choice for where to start overhead work is with a half-kneeling stance and kettlebells. The offset nature of the kettlebell produces a natural external rotation moment at the shoulder, and this seems to recruit the subscapularis (a key shoulder stabilizer). Often athletes or clients who complain of overhead presses being uncomfortable will find the alternating kettlebell version to be completely pain free.
Begin with both kettlebells at shoulder level with the thumbs touching the front deltoids. Elbows are about 45 degrees to the torso. Press up with one kettlebell, driving the shoulder into internal rotation (thumb toward the face) (see figure 8.14). Reverse the motion in the descent and switch to the opposite side. Perform three sets of 5 to 10 repetitions.
Half-kneeling alternating kettlebell press.
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