The TRX Suspension Trainer is one of the best fitness tools money can buy.
It's convenient, versatile and effective. But for all of its capabilities, there's one movement it doesn't have an obvious answer for—overhead pressing. Since the TRX leverages your own body weight during exercises, overhead pressing seems out of the question. How can you push your own body weight above your head? Well, you could do a Handstand type maneuver. Indeed, that's what seems to be the primary result when you do a Google image search for "TRX Shoulder Press." But the move looks mighty difficult, and possibly a bit dangerous.
However, there's a simpler answer. While it might not feel identical to a typical Shoulder Press, it's a challenging alternative that builds stronger, sturdier shoulders and can greatly improve your posture.
Here's why you should start including the TRX Row to Overhead Press in your training routine.
The Posture Epidemic
Before we get into the exercise itself, let's talk about anterior dominance. This refers to a condition in which the muscles on the front of the body are stronger and more frequently used than the muscles on the back of the body. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, this is reality. Anterior dominance has become the norm in our society due to a few factors.
For starters, think about the position your body is in during most of your daily routine. Whether you're driving your car, working on a computer, sitting at a desk or staring down at your smartphone, your body is forced into a similar position. Your neck is likely craned in front of your chest, your shoulders are likely rolled forward and up toward your head, your hands are out in front of you, and you're probably bent forward at the pelvis with a rounded back. Over time, this hunched position tightens the muscles on the front of your body (e.g., your hip flexors and chest) and lengthens the muscles on the back of your body (e.g., your upper back). This stressful position has become a dominant part of daily life as people spend increasing amounts of time on their laptops, iPads, smartphones, etc.
There's also the simple yet significant factor that the muscles you most easily see in a mirror are on the front of your body. Unless you have eyes in the back of your head, you see your anterior muscles a lot more frequently than your posterior muscles. This leads people (men especially) to prioritize targeting their "mirror muscles" in their training, which is done almost exclusively via pushing exercises.
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Third, most people simply prefer pushing to pulling. What's the most popular bodyweight exercise in the world? The Push-Up. What's the most popular barbell exercise in the world? The Bench Press. What machine always draws a crowd at your gym? The Leg Press. People naturally gravitate toward these exercises, because they're familiar and because they're known to effectively target the mirror muscles.
"A lot of athletes lack strength in their pulling muscles because they sit at a desk with their arms extended, they drive in a car with their hands in front of them, or they just flat out bench press too much," says Aaron Bonaccorsy, a performance coach at STACK Velocity Sports.
Anterior dominance has become so prevalent that many fitness professionals now recommend performing two pulls for every pushing exercise. The TRX Row to Overhead Press is a perfect antidote to our anterior dominant lifestyles.
As you can probably gather by the name of the exercise, the TRX Row to Overhead Press is two exercises in one. It begins with a Low Row, then requires an external rotation before an Overhead Press (which is also referred to as a TRX Wall Slide in this case).
"We have found success in teaching this move as a 'compound' pull and press move. We initially teach two separate moves—the Low Row and the Wall Slide," says Chris Frankel, Head of Human Performance at TRX.
You not only get the back-strengthening benefits of a Row, the TRX Overhead Press will do wonders for your posture. Chest muscles get tight and shoulders roll forward during most people's daily routines. Performing this exercise opens up the chest, strengthens the upper back and increases shoulder mobility. I know that a long day of sitting at my laptop often leads to a feeling of pain/tightness between my shoulder blades, just below the base of my neck. This exercise strengthens the weak muscles and opens the tight muscles that contribute to this common posture-related pain.
There are a few key form cues to keep in mind during the TRX Row to Overhead Press.
"Set a good posture/plank/core position as you began the row. Your glutes are on with a level pelvis, and initiate the move with your back," Frankel says. "At the top of the Row, the back and posterior chain is on and the shoulders should be set. When you press overhead you're getting a good co-contraction. You're improving shoulder mobility, staying connected from your upper extremities through a solid core to the ground and building good shoulder and shoulder girdle mechanics." It's also important that you keep tension in the TRX straps during the Overhead Press portion of the exercise.
Frankel offers these recommendations on how to integrate the TRX Row to Overhead Press into your routine:
- For mobility and movement prep: slight angle, 5-8 reps (1-2 sets)
- For more strength/stability: severe angle, 5-8 reps (2 sets)
- For endurance or a finisher: moderate angle, 10-15 reps (1 set)
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