When we consider our innate structural anatomy everyone needs to perform some form of horizontal pressing motion regardless of their experience level, age, injury history, or training goals. This has been documented by top-notch coaches and scientific literature for quite a while now. Even if your day to day life wouldn’t require an exact pressing motion, you’d still need to make sure your deltoids, head of your pecs, biceps, and all other supportive anatomy that resides on the front of your shoulders could handle lifting, carrying, or throwing any object for whatever reason at any point in life. More so, as Dr. John Rusin has stated before, pushing and pulling motions are part of a standard developmental sequence of motor learning that happens to us early in our infant years and stays with us throughout our entire lives. We need to accept this fact and hone these neurologically engrained movements through recreation, sports, and or weight lifting.
If you happen to be in the early stages of your training career and have been fortunate not to have suffered any injury to your shoulders, I commend you. Stick with what you are doing presently, keep learning, and keep grinding. However, if at some point you started to experience some shoulder twinges and tweaks, you have any pain at the top or front portion of your shoulder with any overhead, bench press, incline press, front/lateral raises, or any other pressing exercises that you can conjure up, then the drill I’m about to show you may very well be a viable alternative to keep you pressing. This way your shoulders don’t undergo any more unnecessary atrophy (muscle loss), weakness, or other negative adaptations or deformities that could further promote the present pain or another source of injury leaving you also impaired and demoralized psychologically.
In the video below, I’m having one of my veteran trainee's, Dr. Gunderson, perform a little variation of the original floor press.
Since he has been training for over six years with me now, staying engaged and consistent with training sessions can become a chore at times. With his age, injury history, and poor leverages being that he is 6’7”, his overall upper body exercise selection becomes relatively diminished, and we have to search for new and creative variations of training and stick with what has worked in the past to keep him on track. If you are unfamiliar with the Floor Press, let’s take a quick minute to explain its purpose in a training program and it's origin. The exercise was pioneered by the powerlifting and bodybuilding cultures from the best of my knowledge. It was merely a means to press often and heavy still while limiting eccentric downward motion which naturally creates more overload, tension, and muscular damage as the dumbbell or barbell moves towards the ground. Not to mention more demand from generally weak stabilizing muscles of the rotator cuff which are required to center the head of the humerus in our shoulder joint at the bottom of pressing exercises.
Moreover, the floor press removes the support of the legs which causes the shoulders and surrounding stabilizer muscles to step up their game a bit more to offset the reduced leg support that is common with standard pressing exercises. Last but not least, you may be able to overload the top of the movement much more than usual since there is less total energy and work required with the floor press. The floor press is yet another route to help improve lockout strength that many athletes and clients routinely struggle with that prevent them from making serious gains.
So with all of that in mind, we took the traditional floor press and added in an element of instability with the foam roll placed parallel with the torso, and also facilitated the stretch of the nasty pectoralis minor muscle in the process. The Pectoralis Minor has attachments on the upper rib cage as well as the Coracoid Process of the shoulder.
One of Pectoralis Minor’s major functions along with inhalation is that it serves to rotate the scapula forward and tilt it downward and anteriorly along with the Levator Scapulae and Rhomboid muscles. Also, If you look briefly at the attachment in the photo above you can imagine these actions through the muscles designated line of pull. I will touch on this momentarily, but it’s this subtle downward tilting that the Pectoralis minor is largely responsible for that can wreak havoc on the shoulder over time, due to a very common condition called “Sub-Acromial Impingement. This is simply fancy exercise science jargon for a collapse of a joint onto another joint. Normally there is a small space measured in millimeters between two joints. The AC joint (top) and the GH Joint (bottom). For several reasons this natural gap that exists between each can start to shorten and then eventually tendons of several muscles will begin to become severed and eventually even tear in worst case scenario’s.
Keep in mind that impingement is indeed common according to research and real word experience, but if it’s excessive and forceful enough, then eventually something is going to breakdown. Pectoralis Minor tightness and over-activity is a big contributor that we can fix pretty easily with a few simple exercises and a constant promotion of proper form and body mechanics.