Shoulder Setup

February 19th, 2014 by Laura

Since i have a knack for misinterpreting cues, the ‘squeeze your shoulder blades’ cue had me tensing and bunching soft tissue so tightly, I was in an awkward position and my arms were almost straight out to my sides for bench. My overhead work was awkward, too. For me, the ‘squeeze’ cue for bench has no stopping point. Maybe because I’m very flexible, or maybe just my skewed interpretation.

Retraction of the shoulder (as prescribed in the bench), to me, means push the shoulder blades down. Again, no real stopping point if you are a bendy person. I tend to overemphasize that movement with the overlying muscles (squeezing with no purpose).

I started reading about “packing the shoulder” regarding overhead movements at first.

Shoulder Packing
When Coaching Cues Attack! “Packing the Shoulder”

In a nutshell, you pull the shoulders into their sockets. There are a lot less ‘options’ trying this overhead than there are horizontally, so I spent some time getting acquainted with what this felt like with overhead movements:
retract overhead

Then I tried it horizontally.
retract back

Next, I worked with horizontal dumbbell retractions, straight arm pulldowns, and setting up properly for all horizontal and overhead pushes and pulls.

Moving on to bench, pulling the shoulder into the socket was a short and strong movement, like clicking a padlock shut. There is a definite stopping point – pull it in and that’s it. Click! (Or, NO click since my shoulders are now in a safe position).

This position was immediately stable. I felt the entire bra-strap back fat region light up (for lack of better term), which is the same area that I force to light by twisting the bar. I was able to pull out the bar with my lats and let the weight settle heavy in back rather than wobbling all over the bench. My ROM feels shorter.

I performed some heavy unracks with this setup and felt invincible. For some extra confidence, I partial benched weights that I hadn’t even been able to unrack in weeks prior.

At this time, this seems to cover most of my bench shoudler setup, and the leg drive into the bench is taking care of the rest.

Maybe this will evolve to figure out how to “squeeze” on top of what I am doing. Or, maybe the squeezing action is intrinsic with the retraction. There is an instant connection to the heel of the palm, a sturdy and straight wrist, pinky and ring finger, lats, and a tight grip.

This was applied to all upper body movements and diminished shoulder pain greatly. Overhead pressing performance improved immediately.

Video Comparison
In my first bench session after the shoulder setup revision, I easily benched a weight that I nearly failed 2 weeks before. It was not ‘perfect’, but there are obvious stability differences between the first clip and the second.

It is embarrassing to see the second clip in this vid. The bar is wobbling everywhere. Not sure why I decided to lift my feet UP and slam knees together when I normally rely so heavily on leg drive.