The Shelf

Today I'd like to talk some more about bar positioning on the shoulders in relation to a few barbell movements. I've discussed improving the rack position for the front squat already here, but today I'd like to focus more on upper body exercises like push presses and jerks. Why? Because you're doing them wrong.

Broad, scathing generalization aside, I see a lot of people selling themselves short on push presses and jerks because they're not properly utilizing what I like to call "the shelf." The shelf is comprised of the deltoids and upper pectorals - and yes, unfortunately at times, your clavicle as well. This is where the bar should sit until the very last moment in which the bar separates from the body as a result of the lower body's upward force.

Hossein Rezazadeh had a substantial shelf

The position itself requires a degree of flexibility and, obviously, more musculature will give the bar a bigger shelf to rest on. I always recommend that one's forearms be in a vertical position for the shoulder press with the elbows pointing to the floor, just slightly in front of the bar at the start. This ensures a more vertical drive up on the bar. I encourage this for push presses and jerks as well, but in most cases people don't have the requisite flexibility to maintain vertical elbows while resting the bar on the shoulders.

In other cases, you're French weightlifter Vencelas Dabaya

For this reason, I encourage most people to keep their elbows up and relax their hands -- similar, if not identical, to the rack position of a front squat. In either situation, it is absolutely vital that the bar rests on one's shoulders and not in the hands. Too often do I see people performing push presses and bearing all of the weight of the bar in their hands. Ever wonder why you have wrist pain? We lose so much power from our legs when the bar is separated from the shelf position. This will limit efficiency of the movement, which will limit how much weight we can lift, which will limit our chances of getting stronger, which will limit our ability to get more awesome. And everyone wants to be more awesome. Aimee Anaya-Everett teaches people how to be awesome everyday:

Where one's elbows go depends on the individual's preference, level of flexibility, and what proves most comfortable and effective. Two quick examples from two of the greatest weightlifters ever:

Yuri Zakharevich, 225kg @ 110kg BW

Halil Mutlu, 160kg @ 54kg BW

While vertical elbows are likely preferred, they are by no means necessary, especially in the jerk. The point is that regardless of elbow/forearm placement, one facet remains identical in each example: the bar rests high on the shoulders to ensure an optimal upward drive from the legs through the body and into the bar.

An additional factor of utmost importance is keeping the bar on the shoulders throughout the dip and drive portion of the lift. If the bar slips or sinks forward on your chest during the dip portion, the drive will be much less effective. Koklyaev demonstrates this quite well:

So, in closing, improve your front rack position, build your shelf, keep the bar on it, and get the most out of your hips and legs. It's a recipe for success. Like anything Giada De Laurentiis has ever cooked. And with that, we'll finish up with some more Aimee...

1 comment:

  1. Believe me it is not an easy task, one need to show passion and commitment to reach this level. Loved the post, thanks for sahring it with us