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How to Build Healthy Shoulders & A Strong Core

ultimate sandbag workouts

Cory Cripe, DVRT Master, (creator of DVRT Movement Strength, also instructing upcoming Chicago Level 1 & 2 Certifications HERE)

glutes

Pressing in any form can cause a coach to have some caution in the back of their head. Isn’t pressing where people hurt their shoulders? Causing injury, or having a client experience any type of pain can create a big hurdle in keeping trust that you can help them. For me finding wins is important, both for the coach and clients alike. It is important to know their goals and when I create workouts in my gym (Fitness Lying Down), I try to keep balance of what they want and what they need. So many times I know they need to have healthy shoulders and a strong core. Not just so we can perform certain lifts, but in order for them to want to train hard and consistently. If pressing kind of scares you then, I have a great solution that will accomplish our goal of healthy shoulders and a strong core.

The truth is, if you want healthy shoulders you need to know a few things…

-How we teach proper pressing is more important than any individual muscle.

-The shoulders rely on our core and lower body to provide stability and a strong platform in which to move. If we don’t have that stability, then we often tend to overuse the wrong structures and run into problems.

-We are going to keep a large focus on how we use our hands and feet. Yes, your FEET are essential in helping create healthy shoulders because everything comes from the ground up!

hip mobility

Cuing the feet with tools like xl mini bands is a great way to teach these solutions. It really aids in have the client engage the ground with their feet.

What is a simple solution in achieving all these goals at once. We don’t need to stop training for 4-6 weeks and just stretch and do mobility work. The solution lies in using good exercises, but also teaching people how to perform them to get the ideal result. In that case, I tend to lean on the Arc Press to help with so many of these issues.

The Arc Press is a miraculous drill for our clients at Fitness Lying Down, but it is an exercise that requires focus on the intent and not just the task of moving the Ultimate Sandbag (USB). I see too many people that simply grab onto the Ultimate Sandbag any which way they please and move it up and down and all around without giving it thought. Then after that poor execution of the arc press they are left unimpressed because there wasn’t that much to it. How wrong they are!

Let’s first address the grip. Grabbing onto the USB with as much material in your hands as you can, the focus is to break the bag apart

-Almost trying to rip it down the middle with a breakaway grip. This is why you want to choose not just any fitness tool, but the best tool for the job! More often than not people will reach for a kettlebell (placing the palms on the bell) or a medicine ball to perform the Arc Press and the problem with this is when holding onto a round object like a kettlebell or medicine ball, the body’s natural instinct is to push into the object.

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On the left you see the proper grip for the Arc Press while on the right you see that loose or “pressing inwards” grip that does the opposite of what we want to achieve.

Well, what’s wrong with that? You can definitely feel the muscles being engaged by this action, right? Pushing in on an implement is a sure fire way to get the shoulders too involved. This shoulder involvement bunches up the shoulders, shuts off the important lat muscles, and creates less stability through the core. I’m pretty sure that is something nobody in their right mind wants!

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You see why both hands are needed to grip properly. On the left, Sean is properly pulling the USB apart keeping both elbows close to his body and emphasizing his lats. On the right, he is pushing into the USB and this causes his elbows to flare and puts more the wrong type of stress through his shoulders and neck.

This is the beauty and genius of having the USB as the best choice. As a result of the USB’s versatility you can grab onto the Ultimate Sandbag, not push into it, and get a better response from the lats, which in turn, will provide you with a much more stronger connection through (what the internet calls) the core muscles. And that is exactly what everyone needs! How about the trajectory of the bag? Remember it’s called an Arc Press, not a pyramid press.

 

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The importance of the lats to both healthy shoulders and a strong core can’t be emphasized enough, especially when you see how it is designed on our body. 

What do I mean by that? I have to coach our “sandbaggers” not to go from the shoulder position to overhead in a slanted line, like a pyramid. We want to make sure the hand stays outside the shoulder for a majority of the press with the inside hand guiding the bag along the correct path. This is extremely important because the arc press is a powerful way to educate the fundamentals of a vertical press and if the USB takes that slanted path to go overhead then we are missing out on the intent of this powerful overhead press.

So now that we have drawn a straight line up and then over the crown of the head, what’s next? Do we merely lower the Ultimate Sandbag to the other shoulder and get ready to press again? Absolutely not! This is a hidden gem of the arc press drill: the pull. Yes, it’s called an Arc Press, but the scientific name is actually ‘arc press and then arc pull,’ but that was too long so Josh decided to cut off the last part. JUST KIDDING! But yes, you want to actually pull the Ultimate Sandbag out of the air down to your shoulder not allowing gravity to pull it down for you.

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This middle position is key to make sure we have moved the USB in the right manner and achieved the correct position. From here we can start to PULL the weight down to the opposite or even same side shoulder. 

So we talked about the Arc Press building better vertical presses (going overhead), but now with our new found discovery of pulling the Ultimate Sandbag down then that must mean this same pressing drill will also offer opportunities to build a better vertical pull and the most popular vertical pull: pull-ups, chin-ups, etc. Unlike the traditional lat pulldown exercise where you pin your body down in a seated position, the arc press can be performed in many other ways becoming an extremely challenging plank exercise, also! You didn’t see that one coming now, did you?

As much as we in the DVRT universe like to begin with an exercise in the most stable body position, standing on both feet, I actually prefer starting our new clients in a half kneeling position with one knee down when introducing them to the arc press. This allows us to keep the load relatively light and being in such an unstable position this demands reinforcement of all that we teach about the hands and feet.

The better the USB is grabbed and pulled apart, the more those important lat muscles (I think I mentioned this before) engage which ultimately provides better support and balance on top. It’s when sandbaggers lose their grip on the bag, that’s when they topple over. Now the feet. Pretty simple. The front foot that is flat on the ground, if I was a creeper and arrived where you are training and attempted to pry your toes off the floor – you would not allow such foolishness! The back foot. If I, again creepily, showed up at your location and tried to pull your back foot off the ground, you would have your foot so well anchored into the floor that it would be impossible for me to do such a dastardly deed. All this purposeful contact with the hands and feet is what makes this drill such a demanding core experience!

So the next time you see the arc press whether on one knee, on one leg, lunging, squatting, walking, rotating…give it some more respect as you now have a better appreciation how this drill combines pushing and pulling with balance and stability and can be a drill you can use in the warm-up or strength phase of your programming as it can improve hip & shoulder mobility plus core stability, plus strength. Where else can you get a return on your investment. I’ll wait.

Don’t miss Cory teaching our DVRT Level 1 & 2 certifications in Chicago coming up in October, you can still sign-up HERE and get our early bird (not much time left though)! You can also SAVE 25% OFF on our entire site with the coupon code SAVE25, plus any USB package order will receive MRT Workouts that has over 80 workouts for FREE! Coupon codes exclude live events, gift cards, and online coaching. Can not combine coupon codes.