by Mike Scialabba
Squats, bench press, overhead presses, conventional deads; they're all killer lifts, and we all know it. But here's a couple of variations of movements you're probably already doing that will help maintain strong, efficient hips, and proper moving shoulders with superior upward strength.
1. Trap Bar Deadlift:
You've seen that diamond shape looking bar right? Well it's a Trap Bar. If you're gym doesn't have one, consider looking into double suitcase dead lifts. However for now, let's talk about the new and improved trap bar.
Old school trap bars were completely flat, and the handles were at the same height as the collars. The new bars have an elevated handle, and allow a more efficient hip movement pattern. If the bar available to you doesn't have elevated handles, find some blocks, rubber pads, or aerobic step boards to elevate the load onto.
Execution: Stand square inside the bar, with feet hip width apart. Firmly grip the handles and drive your hips back towards the wall behind you. Your hips should be above the knees, however your back should not be parallel with the floor. This is not an RDL. Pullyour shoulder blades back and tilt your chest slightly upward looking approximately 15 feet in front of you. Do not try to look straight up. Tighten your back, and press your abdomen into your groin. Take in a large gasp of air and hold the diaphragm tight. Clench the glutes and drive the hips forward underneath you while trying to drive your traps into the ceiling.
Make sure your arms stay in a locked position and that you're not pulling with the biceps. Return the weight the same way you executed the lift, and repeat for sheer pleasure.
2. Overhead Barbell Shrug:
I'm sure you're shrugging, but I'm also sure you're not overhead shrugging. This movement will aid the low, mid, and high trapezes muscles, strengthen the serratus anterior and create better range of motion in the shoulders. You should be able to press your shoulders from a depressed state, nearly into your ears. Some of you may be lacking serious strength and mobility in this department, so work slowly, and perhaps consider starting with a dowel.
Execution: Clasp a bar (unloaded), right outside the shoulder. Press upward and lock the elbows. The biceps should be in mid-line with the ears. Slightly retract the shoulder blades and press your knuckles toward the ceiling. Lower and repeat. If your ROM is small, don't give up. You need it to increase, so practice like you would anything else!!
Overhead Barbell Shrug - Top
Overhead Barbell Shrug - Bottom
Enjoy stronger hips and a better shoulder girdle!
This exclusive article (and others) can be found in the latest Wannabebig Serious About Muscle Newsletter - September 22nd, 2010
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Last edited by Joe Black; 09-22-2010 at 04:12 AM.
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I am a huge fan of the trap bar deadlift. It keeps my lower back much healthier than conventional deadlifting. I'll have to try the overhead shrug. It looks interesting.
I tried the overhead shrug today and my rom is about an inch. My shoulders barely move and I have to sort of push them forward to get even that. If I keep my arms dead vertical and retract the shoulder blades then rom decreases to almost nothing and I feel a weird stretch on my lats.
Should I just practice, practice, practice? My overhead press also sucks big time so I wonder if there's a correlation.
I love the Trap Bar Deadlift (or squat lift). I'm a little confused about you comment on raised handles. The raised handles would shorten the range of movement. Wouldn't a full range of movement be better and involve the hips and legs more?
Don't worry though a weak/underactive serratus is fairly common - do you have any issues with your shoulders?
And that weird stretch might just be your serratus anterior. Not my area of expertise this one, but I use various shrugs/presses (push-up plus) like this to strengthen a weak serratus anterior.
And a weak serratus anterior will certainly hold your overhead pressing back. Normally it gets worked in overhead pressing work where the shoulder blades are free to move vs bench press where they are not but sometimes they can just be weak or underactive.
Try it without the bar. Imagine touching the ceiling and try having your palm face the ceiling (vs your fingertips) you should cramp up right in the serratus (alongside the ribs below your arm-pit/diagonally down from the pec), which'll be your cue for where you should be feeling it when you have a bar and ultimately plates.
J.C. - Daniel pretty much nailed that on the head for you. One of the major benefits of the overhead shrug is creating better strength of the serratus anterior and strengthening scapular stability. If you're ROM is short with the load and high without, then you're probably just a little weak (or under-active) in the serratus, and possibly a little tight in the levator scap. If the 'pull' or stretch in your lat you're experiencing is behind the armpit to the back side of the rip cage and below, then this may be a small issue with very tight lats, which may in turn restrict your range of motion. Try doing a little SMR on the lats, then stretching them, followed by a few serratus anterior activation exercises ( the push up plus as Daniel mentioned) before even going into the overhead bb shrug, and start with just using a medicine ball. Placing your hands in a neutral grip or palms facing, can aid some people within the range of motion.
Off Road - Sometimes people can get a little to low when mounting into the trap bar. Often people forget it's a 'dead lift', and not a squat, so a pull vs. a push. If the hips are at knee level or below, and the torso is greater than a 45 degree angle, then it's likely that the exercise will mildly convert into a pushing motion from the quads vs a pulling motion from the posterior chain. Many lifters have the ability to mount correctly into a flat handle trap bar, but it seems as though the elevated handle of the newer bars has helped many trainees tremendously get into proper position of the pull.
Hope that helps!
I have always done an OHP shrug on the reps in my warmup sets on OHP. I don't do that on worksets as I dont want to compromise my working sets. Rip mentions something about it in Starting Strength.
"The deadlift is more functional in that its very hard to imagine a more useful application of strength than picking heavy *h*t up off the ground" Rip
Max 3x5 Goal 3x5 by 12/31/11 *1X5
Bench (245) (275) 285x1x1 335
Dead (385)* (445) 435x1x1 505
Squat (320) (355) 355X1X1 405
Squat (195) (275) 20 Reppers!
(950) (1075) 1075 1245 Goals (Not including 20 reps)
5'10" 288Lbs 02/01/2011 Goal Weight 230 On my way back from a Break!