Having your body in perfect working order and being able to reach peak performance go hand in hand. Sadly, talking about training to keep the joints and muscles injury-free isn't "sexy" and a lot of people skip to the next article. Vassily Alexeyev (arguably the greatest Olympic lifter of all time) once said that the thing that a lot of athletes lack in regard to achieving their potential is a serious injury.
When it comes to performance lifting, I've rarely seen an intermediate and advanced gym rat who has never had nagging shoulder pain that prevented him from being able to progress.
And I've applied that to a "T" because pressing performance has always been at the top of my to-do list in the gym. Do you honestly believe that you can balance a 405 pound bench press with 15-pound dumbbell external shoulder rotations or a 25-pound cuban presses? In retrospect, the times in my life when I had the least shoulder issues was when I was doing the Olympic lifts.
Every other time in my life where I tried to bench press more than twice per week (without doing the power snatch) I'd get performance-stopping shoulder issues after two or three weeks.
Furthermore, I don't remember training with any Olympic lifter who had chronic shoulder issues.


You see, the way I teach and practice the overhead holds is to squeeze both shoulder blades together and then externally rotate the shoulders as you press overhead (show your armpits).
This way, you end up loading the externally rotated position under a significant resistance, not the 15 pound dumbbells you'd use for rotator cuff exercises!
John Schlecht (Synergy) commented while in the Biotest Training Lab that normally he needed 5-6 warm-up sets to be able to bench press pain-free. He said that the injury first forces them to reevaluate their training methods, then makes them realize what they're missing and how important a sturdy, injury-free body really is for performance. Most pulling exercises (rowing, pulldowns, chins) are done with an internally-rotated shoulder, or in the best case scenario, a neutral position. Even when I wasn't doing them for competition, and doing only the power snatch in my training, my shoulders were painless.
But I never put one and one together until I started working on overhead holds and re-learning the Olympic lifts. By doing overhead holds between sets, he was able to work up to 365 in two sets and to 435 in four sets, and his shoulders felt much better than they ever felt when bench pressing heavy.
Do some of your bench pressing with a reverse grip, which puts your shoulders in an externally rotated position.


Do plenty of overhead work, and on every repetition focus on getting into the perfect overhead hold position (shoulder blades together, show the armpits) and hold it for a second or two.
Start your workouts with the overhead band pull-apart drill I explained in an earlier Live Coaching Lab. I achieved my best bench press (445) when I was bench pressing six days a week, sometimes twice a day, but doing the power snatch daily too. But without the proper external shoulder position work to balance the heavy pressing, you simply cannot bench press as frequently without running into shoulder issues that will limit your rate of progress. And forget about having big lats balancing your pressing; the lats are actually internal rotators! In fact, my training was pretty much only the bench press, power snatch, and deadlift, with some occasional supportive work thrown in there for flavoring.




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