Spinal Stabilization 02: Standing One Arm Chest Press

By James Camastra - MS, CSCS

At PPT we love to work the core while also strengthening major muscle groups.  This forms the base of our training style and what we do best, functional-resistance-training.  A perfect example of an exercise we often do for this is the Functional One Arm Chest Press.

First, to be functional, we believe it should be done standing, not sitting or lying.  Our bodies work best while standing and most work is done from this position. The Functional One Arm Chest Press is also best done in a split or offset position, where the feet are staggered.  This position is more stable with horizontal forces than a parallel stance (feet aligned and square with the hips). The more weight that is being pressed will determine how split your stance is.  Lighter weight may only require a slight deviation, but when a client gets strong enough to handle more resistance a lower and wider stance is necessary. This change should naturally evolve as the athlete becomes stronger and progresses with more resistance. 

Next, let’s review what stabilization is from last month’s Exercise of the Month: Supine Spinal Stabilization on a Foam Roller.  Spinal Stabilization is simply keeping the spine at neutral while applying stress to the bod.  Neutral refers to its natural state, maintaining it's natural curves without flexing/extending, rotating or side bending.  In order to accomplish this the core musculature needs to engage isometrically, firing the muscles without movement. Though there is no movement, muscles need to fire more or less to stabilize while the stress is being applied.  If you vary these stressors your core will be functionally ready for most of what life, your sport or activity, brings.

The primary muscle used in this bracing action is the transverse abdominus (TA).  The TA is the the first muscle engaged when initiating just about any movement and having it strong and endurable helps prevent injuries and improve sport performance.  The other ore muscles that are isometrically active in this exercise are the rectus abdominus, internal and external oblique, multifidus and other spinal stabilizers and the spinal erectors.  There are primary movers that also attach at the spine or apply indirect forces to it and are considered: quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, hip flexors, glutes, etc. As you can see, there is a lot going on to stabilize the core.

The arm position should allow the cable to follow the forearm.  This will promote proper muscular strength of the rotator cuff and stabilization of the shoulder joint.  You’ll notice the cable lightly touches and/or runs close to the forearm. At no point should the cable change direction because of the pressure it places on the forearm or shoulder.  This shows overactive internal rotation and poor form.

Lastly, press until the elbow is straight and keep the shoulder blade set back.  Do not round the shoulder forward. Return to a point that allows you to stay neutral, don’t worry too much about your range of motion. Straightening the elbow is important, but depth less.  You should vary the Functional One Arm Chest Press with a standard, neutral, and turning grip.

Check out the video and please feel free to reach out to me with any comments or questions.  Thank you.