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Often times weightlifters experience plateaus or injury while performing bench press. However, sometimes there is no actual plateau, but a lack of control due to lack of proprioception. Having control of shoulder muscles will make for a better outcome.

Knowing when to make a rehabilitative effort

One of the most commonly purchased pieces of exercise equipment is the bench press. Therefore, the bench press is a commonly practiced attempt at exercise. Even at the gym lifters commonly “wait their turn” to use get a free bench. With constant use of the shoulder complex to control a challenging amount of weight down to the chest and the exertion to press it upward a number of times can take a toll on the joint. Nearly a dozen muscles are at work during this time and given the crowded lanes of their origins and insertions, fatigue can lead to swelling, pain, tendinitis or even strains and tears. When this occurs, reeducating the muscles is key to regaining strength and power.

As a spotter or bystander in the gym, one can notice lifters shaking the barbell during bench press. Not violently, but just a short spell of twisting at the wrist or a motion that makes it appear they are trying to juggle the bar while they press.

This can be caused by poor proprioception in the upper extremities.

Proprioception allows us to understand movement by key sensors inside the human body, via nerves. As the weight shifts back and forth the body quickly responds telling the arms and wrists to react appropriately with the shift. This can at times be seen more often when lifters are attempting heavier lifts or are struggling to get a clean press towards the end of a set. If you ever wondered why you have a spotter, this is one reason why.

How do you combat the strain that is put on the complex shoulder joint to avoid heading straight for a potential rotator cuff tear? There are a few exercises that can be utilized. First are the BOSU ball pushups. The act of pressing the body up from the floor requires the same motions as bench press with the exception of it being an open chain exercise. In order to challenge the nerves, grab your BOSU ball and turn the rubber side toward the ground. Firmly grasp the pointed edges and start in full extension and keep the back straight. Slowly bend at the elbows until your chest grazes the plastic surface of the BOSU ball and press back up, just like a typical pushup.

As you progress through your repetitions, you will find yourself attempting to balance through the shoulders down to your wrists and it will become more challenging. As you continue you will accommodate, and your proprioception will increase. When deciding how many sets and repetitions to do, it is okay to emulate your regular goals for bench press. If you are attempting gain power, four to five sets of four to six repetitions will suffice. To continue your regimen of strength building three sets of eight to twelve or two sets of fifteen for more toning and defining purposes.

It is important to remember not to overdue these rehabilitative exercises; they may seem easy as there is not much weight involved but heavy weight is not the goal, it is the reward.
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