Friday, December 26, 2014

Reverse Dumbbell Bench for Healthier Shoulders

So the bench press is an exercise I don't really seem to be able to do anymore. In fact I can't really do most of the powerlifts with the exception of maybe some light deadlifting. My body is just in need of repair so I've sorta adopted an approach that uses more of calisthenics, functional movement and rehabilitative type exercises.

Not really building pure strength here since the big three hurt me quite a bit and I only do cleans and snatches on-and-off since if I go too heavy I'll tweak my back.


I'm getting kind of bummed that I can't bench any more or squat and rarely deadlift. I miss those meathead Mondays which also happens to be the universal bench press day. There is no way in hell I could bench 225 lbs anymore I'm like somewhere probably around 185 on a good day. Nevertheless, I can't really do it because it tweaks my shoulders wrist and my low back blows out on me. This is just one of the reason for all this mobility and calisthenics work i.e. rehab.

Anyways, spending Christmas Eve alone I headed to the gym to do some Tabata sets with the battle ropes. They are quickly becoming one of my new favorite conditioning tools. I didn't really expect to bench that day but figured what the hell lets see what happens.

First and foremost I stayed clear of the straight bar and opted for dumbbells and figured I do sets of 10-12 on the incline to get a pump going, but also because the incline seems to be nicer on my shoulders and has a little bit more carryover to the overhead press.

Overhead work has been a lot of fun for me lately and doing these DOD workouts with the Olympic lifts kick my ass even though the weights are low. The lifts though really feel like it is developing my rear delts and upper back in particular the snatch.

Anyways, benching wasn't too bad but... I could feel some weakness and out of fearing I was going to tweak something decided to change it up. Seems like guys who do a lot of benching tend to have shoulder issues. Well I'm not really built for benching but looking at myself in the mirror and thinking about the exercise I can understand why.

It seems like a standard bench whether it be with DBs or straightbar you internally rotate your shoulders. Even when you arch hard and squeeze your scapula together I feel like there is still a small amount of internal rotation happening. With so many of us working on computers, sitting in chairs, cars and etc. we are always internally rotating are shoulders. Then we go to the gym to do bench pressing and curls when we should probably be rowing instead to compensate. Lots of internal rotation and very little external rotation.

So I decided to modify the DB bench by doing reverse bench. To get into this position I have to externally rotate my shoulders to get my elbows pointing the other direction. Reverese bench with a straight bar is challenging but it still hurts me mostly in my wrists and sometimes my elbows plus it is damn scary since I could drop the bar on my face.

Doing reverse bench with DBs seems to be a good solution to this because you aren't in a fixed bar path and you naturally get external rotation with some pec and tricep focus. Weak as I am right now I found myself feeling extremely silly doing reverse incline benches with 25 lb dumbbells. This was hard shit but it also came after a few sets of traditional incline so maybe I'll kick the weights up a bit next time I try.

This seems like a shoulder saver and will still allow guys to bench who normally are in pain. I don't know how well reverse benching will translate to a normal one but I think it would be cool to be that freak who reverse benches 100 lb DBs at the gym. You'd be sure to get some stares. Anyways, give it a try and see how it feels, I think most people will be surprise at how weak they are in the movement.

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