Enter the Landmine

My name is Sandeep, and I have bad shoulders. A childhood spent in front of the computer playing videogames, and an early adulthood ambition to do a lot of pull-ups resulted in terrible shoulder mechanics that have caused me pain and frequent bouts of neck spasms. At first, I figured this was a unique problem. I told myself I had a long neck, weak shoulders and all other kinds of rubbish. But it wasn’t. The more folks I coached and saw move around me, the more I noticed that everyone suffered from some version of this problem.

What am I talking about? Obviously, not everyone has shoulder pain or some kind of neck issues. But be it due to our modern lifestyles and all the sitting hunched over, our propensity to being chest breathers or even one too many ‘chest days’, most of us lack the ability to reach over our heads without compensating elsewhere in our body. The most common version of this is a lower back arch. If overhead pressing hurts your lower back, this is probably why.

At the Strength System, before every overhead pressing day, we test our trainees’ range of motion in flexing their shoulder joint (taking their hands overhead) using the back-to-wall shoulder flexion drill.

Here’s a great video by coach Eric Cressey on how to do it –

If their thumbs hit the wall, boom, let’s press. If they don’t, as is common with folks with a hunch or with tight pec/lat muscles, we have them substitute the overhead press with a landmine press. This allows them to comfortably press in the range of motion that their body allows them without creating compensations. This is a movement that, in addition to teaching good shoulder mechanics, allows us to load them up and continue training the pressing pattern, while we also simultaneously work on their shoulder mobility through corrective exercises such as YTWs, lat and pec stretches.

If you’ve been having shoulder pain or back pain when you press, we highly recommend trying out this approach to it. Test, and if you fall short, try the landmine press.

 

Sandeep

sandeep@strengthsystem.in

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SMFR 101


Bro, do you even Self Myofascial Release (SMFR)? Even if your tongue protests at having to pronounce that, you’ve definitely done it at some point if you’ve ever trained with us at Strength System. Remember the foam roller and the lacrosse balls? We like to have all our trainees start their sessions with about 5 minutes of SMFR using these tools. If you have a desk job, or lead a generally sedentary life (and yes, working out 3 days a week and doing nothing else is sedentary), or spend a couple of hours every day driving, you will probably benefit from some SMFR.

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A quick primer: fascia refers to the layers of connective tissue that envelop the body all the way from the toes up to the skull. Most relevant for us, fascia also envelops our muscles (hence the term ‘myofascial’). Theoretically, SMFR helps to break up ‘adhesions’ that develop in our fascia from overuse, imbalances, and the general stresses of life. This prepares our muscles and joints to move through a larger range of motion than they previously could. While the science behind why SMFR works is still hotly debated, we’re just happy that it works.

While specific problem areas depend on the individual person, we typically find that most people will need to prioritize their glutes, upper back, chest, lats, and hip flexors. As a general rule, make about 5-10 slow passes up and down each muscle group that you’re targeting. If you find a tender spot, pause on it, and take a couple of slow, full breaths, and think of sinking your body slightly into the roller.

Just one warning: don’t expect the foam roller or the ball to cure all your mobility ills. You can’t roll out your thighs, hop off the roller, and do a split for the first time ever. At best, it gives you a short window of opportunity to use your new flexibility superpowers to work on your basic movements. And always remember the 80% rule: you should be in significant discomfort, but never in pain. Bro tip: if you’re holding your breath, don’t!

-Varun Srikanth
varun@strengthsystem.in