Home Blog How to Balance Pressing in Your Strength Training Program

How to Balance Pressing in Your Strength Training Program

Written on September 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm, by Eric Cressey

Here's a quick video I filmed this afternoon that discusses how different pressing exercises have different impacts on how your shoulders function.  This definitely has implications not only in terms of your exercise selection, but also how you perform those exercises.

To learn more about how I assess, program, and coach with respect to the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my detailed resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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31 Responses to “How to Balance Pressing in Your Strength Training Program”

  1. Jeff Johnson Says:

    These are great exercises and explanations. I like how you described how the landmine helps with serratus recruitment. Recognizing the importance of modifying each workout per the needs of the individual, are these exercises some that you typically suggest for a pitcher during the season? I know your minor league players have already started showing up for their off-season work. Thanks

  2. Ryan Says:

    As always, advice above and beyond what anyone else is offering for healthy training. Have you ever worked with bench-only competitors? What would you recommend for that type of athlete?

  3. Ted Says:

    Would you recommend just the bar, or could athletes add weight? This is my first season at this college, and we have several pitchers who are extremely cut and fit looking yet they have poor mobility and rotation in their core and shoulders.

  4. Eric Lazar Says:

    Another brilliant post by my “tocayo” (namesake in Spanish). Very impressed with your ability to perform a yoga pushup and not change your breath or tone of voice, or turn red. Thanks for all the excellent information you provide.

  5. Jeremy Says:

    Great vid Eric,
    Just to clarify, would you recommend this approach for everyone or would you bias the ‘down and back’ aspect for someone that was trap dominant or heavily protracted?
    Many thanks,

  6. Jacob Says:

    Thank you for sharing this video, it was interesting. The diagonal pressing pattern is often forgotten (except for incline bench), and it will be fun to experiment with this (on me first).
    I’m hoping it can help some of my clients regain some shoulder function.


  7. Alan Says:

    helpful video, Eric…I have begun to have some R shoulder pain and achiness that this may help

  8. Trayl Says:

    I consider my self a non koolaid drinker but for so long i was guilty of cueing my clients shoulder blades back and down just because that was the trend . Posts like this are making me rethink my understanding of shoulder mechanics and become a better therapist . You used to speak very fast Eric but you have slowed down now and it makes your presentations a lot clearer and easy to follow . great post thankyou .

  9. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Jacob. Everyone’s different, so you really just need to make sure you assess scapular control first. Good luck!

  10. Eric Cressey Says:

    Ha! Thanks, Eric. I only did two reps on purpose. 😉

  11. Eric Cressey Says:


    Yes, you could use these in-season with pitchers. I actually tend to do more landmine presses than dumbbell bench press variations during the season. Push-ups cover the majority of what we want, though.

  12. Eric Cressey Says:


    From a specificity perspective, they obviously have to bench. However, working some push-up variations into the warm-up can help a lot. Likewise, landmine presses can be used as an assistance exercise.

  13. Eric Cressey Says:


    They can definitely add weight as long as the technique is sound.

  14. Eric Cressey Says:


    I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. It really depends on how they move.

  15. Dan Pope Says:

    Hey Eric, Cool article. It seems to me that the pendulum has swung so far from avoiding overhead press that now we’re putting it back in to normalize scapular motion. One question though. I was under the assumption that shrugging DECREASES the scapula’s ability to fully upwardly rotate.

    Recently I’ve been seeing the opposite being stated quite a bit in some recent articles and I’m not sure where this idea came from. I understand that there are a large amount of pathologies associated with the shoulder and subacromial impingement is only one of these pathologies. However upper trap dominance and lack of upward rotation are coupled in these individuals. I’m curious if this cue to activate the upper trap will lead to impingement problems in those who do a lot of overhead pressing (ie: Olympic lifting, strongman, crossfit). I work with a lot of these individuals, they have a lot of subacromial impingement issues and I teach them to finish their lifts without a shrug)

    I’m glad people are addressing shoulder pack vs shrug vs centration etc but I’m curious if a shrug is really the answer. Like you said I’m sure it is highly individual and specific to the client.

  16. kevin Says:

    Thanks Eric….what are your thoughts with girls volleyball (hs age) overhead pressing and would a band workout instead of the landmine…thanks in advance.

  17. Marty Says:

    Do you keep your shoulder in it’s socket as you press and move your scapula upwards? It is my understanding that keeping the shoulder in it’s socket while pressing is key to protect the shoulder joint and prevent leakages of strength. Just want to make sure I understood this movement and be able to do it safely.

  18. Eric Cressey Says:


    At a young age, it’s probably okay. However, later on, as they accumulate more wear and tear, you’ll probably have to revise.

  19. Eric Cressey Says:


    Don’t cue “down and back.” Let the arm move along with the scapula.

  20. Conor Says:

    Wow, that was a great video Eric. Amazing how you can pack that much information in such little time. Great work.

  21. Oakville personal trainer Says:

    Great vid! Always learn something everytime I visit your site. Completely agree with the overuse of the “down & back” phrase. More focus needs to be done overhead. Thanks

  22. Eric Cressey Says:


    You have to consider that the upper trap is a big part of the synergistic action that is upward rotation. If it’s in harmony with lower traps and serratus anterior, it definitely helps to maintain ball-on-socket congruency. If the scapula sits lower relative to the humeral head, though, folks get into trouble.

  23. Aaron Says:

    Great post as always! I often have alot of trouble getting patients to upwardly rotate efficiently. I’ve always been worried about using the upper trap in these patients. They often have a tendency to overuse their upper trap with activities like rows, I’s, and T’s. Would working the upper trap possibly exacerbate this altered UT/LT ratio?

  24. Eric Cressey Says:


    We’ve had a lot of folks (particularly overhead throwing athletes) who have done BETTER with upper trap activation cued during overhead activites.

  25. Anthony Says:

    For baseball players do you just press the bar or add weight?

  26. Eric Cressey Says:

    We add weight.

  27. SheRu Says:

    Excellent work.

  28. SheRu Says:

    Excellent work. I noticed you don’t shrug in your overhead press, why is that? I tend to discourage that in my rugby guys as most of them tend to shrug permanently in the field and behind their desks.

  29. Eric Cressey Says:


    I think you mean that I DO shrug at the top. In this case, the shrug is used to get athletes more scapular upward rotation, as the upper traps are an important part of that motion, along with serratus anterior and lower traps. In a population where the lats overpower the upper traps, this can be extremely valuable. Different populations don’t need this in many cases, as you may have observed with your rugby guys. You really need to see how they move and then go from there.

  30. Eric Cressey Says:


  31. Darren Says:

    Yes I’m finding that an overhead load on a shoulder shrug to be very valuable in certain populations, particularly after taking people through a long progression of serratus and low trap work. However for those in more of an upper trap dominance, downward rotation position, ‘janda upper body cross syndrome’ thing going on, leaving the packed shoulder position, seems to lead to more problems like tension headaches. Desk Jockies more than anything else…

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