Using Your Shoulders

vero, summer, kirstenEveryone who does CrossFit is aware of the importance of the shrug on the clean and the snatch.  If you don’t, and have been training for a month, get a new coach.  OK, now that that is settled, what is less known is the importance of the shrug on any pressing movement.

Let’s start with the most fundamental of the presses, the strict press.  The press is initiated with the head pulling back in order to give the barbell a straight vertical path.  The shoulders shrug up, and the arms straighten while the head pushes forward, ‘through the window,’ as we say.  Sound about right?

What is often overlooked is the shoulders shrugging up.  If the bar is held in the racked position and the arms are not allowed to straighten at all, nor are the legs allowed to help, how can the bar rise higher?  By bringing the shoulders to the ears!   The traps attach to the spine near the skull and extend down most of the back, making them the longest continuously attached (to a bone) muscle in the body.  Picture angel wings in reverse, with the shoulders more or less hanging from the distal end of the traps.

What does that mean? That the traps are hugely strong!  Just about everyone can shrug much more than they can clean or jerk.  So use them.  On any of the pressing movements, initiate the upward drive (after the leg drive on the push press and jerk of course) with the shrug.

With heavier loads, this focus on the shrug is especially critical.  While arm  press is important to achieving full lockout, weight much greater than the arms  are capable of moving can be lifted by using the whole body to dynamically jump the load into the air.  And your body has few muscles stronger than the trapezius muscles.

Don’t forget the role of the head.  The head needs to draw back so the bar can clear the chin, as mentioned earlier.  Snapping the shoulders up and then driving the head forward through the arms, the ‘window’, while either standing tall as in the push press, or dropping under the load  as in the jerk will result in a successful lift.  Try to get the feeling of jumping the bar off the shoulders via the jump shrug (just like with the clean), and then snapping the head forward while aggressively landing.

Concentrate on the shrug the next overhead pressing day.  Let me know how it felt.

Please post comments to Comments (er…duh).


5 Rounds

100m Sprint

5 Deadlifts 275/185#

5 Push Jerks 155/100#

Post WOD and score to Comments.