The shoulder press is a very basic exercise, engaging all parts of the Deltoid with the support of the Trapezius muscle. The motion of the exercise is to press weights above the head. Horseback riders know that the shoulders take a beating in the saddle. Between the pulling from the horse and the constant battle with gravity, a rider’s shoulders are strained and stressed daily. Increasing the muscle density in and around the shoulders is one of the best ways to counteract the wear and tear from riding.
A basic press teaches muscles in the shoulder to engage more neutrally, not pulling the arm forward or backwards, but up. When doing this exercise, add a fair amount of weight to stimulate the muscles around the shoulder joint. If there is any tension or straining during this exercise, a basic lack in range of motion is more than likely the problem. If you find this to be the case, stretch and use lighter weight for a couple of weeks until you feel more comfortable.
I often see people discontinue shoulder exercises because it hurts them. Anytime you think it’s best not to do an exercise, you should consult a doctor to find out what is going on with the joint. As a rider, the shoulder will always need to work fluidly because the reins need to be fluid with the horses mouth. Letting imbalances or weakness manifest in the shoulder joint will only limit your functionality as a rider, connection with the horse will be a constant struggle. It’s better to fix the problem and then strengthen the muscles around the joint rather than letting the shoulder work improperly.
The main objective in the shoulder press is to keep the arm engaged so that the weight is always supported by muscle rather than bone. Never allow the elbow to drop below the shoulder, and keep the wrist firm. I like to touch the weights together at the top of the exercise, making sure my palms are facing forward. For the best experience with position control during the exercise, do the shoulder press in front of a mirror. Each time you lower the weights back to starting point, take your time. This is when more injuries occur, during the release of the the concentric contraction.
You can find a ton of variations of the shoulder press. This exercise shown here uses free weights but you can find a numbers of machines at the gym that will engage all the same muscle groups. The best part of incorporating a shoulder press into your workout is the cervical spinal alignment. When you are postured correctly for this exercise, the neck and clavicle are aligned evenly from left to right. This teaches the upper torso to engage better structurally before getting into the saddle.