27 Apr My Most “Bang for your Buck” Assistant Exercise for a Bigger Bench and Less Shoulder Pain
My Most “Bang for your Buck” Assistant Exercise for a Bigger Bench and Less Shoulder Pain
I hate wasting time. I get pissed when I look back over a work day and see how I let last minute meetings and interruptions get in my way of working on what actually counts. It’s the same when I look my training.
I want to do the crap that actually works – and that’s it.
Gone are my days of picking random mobility and flexibility drills in the beginning of a workout and picking even more random assistant exercises after performing my main lift. I admit that when I started as a young lifter I would pick these random movements and “throw them at the wall to see what stuck.”
These I have a more selective structured process on how I pick corrective and assistive movements.
That’s why I like the YTM. I do this after bench workouts almost every week and use it with athletes that perform any kind of pushing exercise.
Here’s what it looks like:
What’s the Point?
Cliffs notes version of the benefits:
1) If you want a big bench press, you have to have strong posterior deltoids and rotator cuff muscles to keep your shoulder girdle locked in place. Check out my Just Learn How to Bench post if you don’t know what I’m talking about. YTMs help this.
2) YTMs provide balance to your body by strengthening the muscles that keep your scapulae in place and help retract them (pull them together). Have you ever seen the guy in the corner of your gym with his shoulders hunched so far forward that it looks like he just walked out of a science exhibit where he posed as a Neanderthal hunting for squirrels? A lot of pushing movements can lead to tight anterior deltoids and tight pecs which pull the shoulders forward looking to this classy look.
The tightness coupled with the lack of mid-back muscle work (i.e. the muscles I mentioned that retract the scapulae and keep the shoulder girdle locked) can lead to the shoulder joint shifting forward in normal posture which in turn can lead to some nasty stuff like rotator cuff syndrome and impingements.
If you’ve been lucky enough to never experience this, it means pain and something that you probably want to avoid.
The YTM can help restore balance by strengthening those muscles that need to be.
3) Can help train thoracic extension if you’re stuck in a Kyphotic posture. The above mentioned Neanderthal not only seems to have forward shoulders but also seems to hunch over and his mid-back seems to have a little curve in it. That’s usually a Kyphotic posture.
Because of reasons I’m not going to go into right now, the guy who does a lot of pushing movements gets almost stuck in thoracic (mid part of back) flexion. So extending his back just at the middle part becomes really hard.
So he substitutes lumbar (low back) extension for thoracic (mid back) extension.
This is what it looks like:
Long story short – if all of your trunk movement for flexion and extension occurs at the lumbar spine, pain can develop. This is the Neanderthal who has his shoulders pulled forward, looks like he’s hunching over, and complains that his unibrowed wife that his low back hurts all of the time.
Start with your arms slightly bent with a cable handle in each hand and pull your shoulder blades together like you are trying to hold a pencil between them.
Raise your arms straight above your head to make the “Y” and remember to only try to extend at the thoracic spine and not the lumber as this helps work thoracic extension. Don’t worry if you don’t get your shoulders that far back. Just come as far back as you can without extending from your low back. This is where watching yourself from the side in a mirror actually may be helpful.
I have to make a conscious effort to do this every time I do this and as you can see in the video I still need to work on my thoracic extension.
Bring your arms straight out the side to make the “T” and try to pull your shoulder blades together more without shrugging your shoulders upwards.
Bring your arms out at a 15 degree angle from your body to make the “M” making sure your shoulder blades are together and that you’re shoulders themselves are pulled down.
Usually the YTM is done on one cable pulley with a single long rope with two handles attached to the ends. The facility where I personally work out at has one of these but I realize that unless you go out and buy a real thin rope and attach the handles to the end – your local gym won’t have this.
That’s why I’m showing you on the functional trainer which most gyms do have these days. The mechanics of the movement will change a little because your hands are being pulled opposite directions by each weight stack but you’ll still get the effect.
Make sense? Alright then go and be efficient with your time and I realize that this is not the be all end all of assistant movements to build some extra strength on the bench press and help build balance so if you have good ones leave them in the comments.