Shoulders are an essential component to any upper body movement. Whether you’re pushing or pulling on a horizontal, vertical or diagonal plane, a strong and healthy set of shoulders are required to support proper thoracic function and contributes to proper scapulohumeral rhythm. The shoulder can be broadly described as comprising three components – the anterior, lateral and posterior heads. So, which exercise can be used to effectively target all three head simultaneously?
While most people would look to the standing barbell press as the go-to for shoulder exercises, the fact is that it falls short of adequately stimulating all three heads at once. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a movement that should be a staple in any programme that aims to build full-body strength and is great for packing on mass on the upper body, but the angle of the movement and the placement of the load means that most of the work ends up being handled the anterior deltoids.
That leaves only two other options: the press-behind-neck and the javelin press. Unfortunately, not many people possess the requisite mobility to perform the press-behind-neck safely, no thanks to today’s highly sedentary culture. Furthermore, morphological complications such as bony protrusions along the acromioclavicular (AC) joint can make performing this movement painful, and even injurious.
The javelin press on the other hand, suffers from no such limitation. The neutral placement of the hand makes it easier to stabilise the shoulder joint, the closed angle of the shoulder rules out any AC joint friction. Performing the javelin press requires both strength and stability. The length of the barbell requires all three heads of the shoulders to work in order to ensure a smooth and controlled mvoement of the barbell. An empty barbell by itself can prove to be challenging enough!
Setting up for the javelin press is similar to how you would set up for any standing press, except that you’ll be keeping one arm out for stability purposes. You’d want your forearm to be perpendicular to the ground and your chest to be tall – think about pushing your chest to the sky while keeping your shoulders depressed and locked in. Brace by taking a deep breath and expanding all around your midsection and flexing your glutes as well as as quadriceps. Press the bar straight up and fully extend the elbow while flexing the shoulder. Lower under control until your fist is around chin level. Your chest should remain in the “tall” position throughout the movement.
The javelin press is a great way to work the shoulders unilaterally without placing the joint in any precarious position. The instability afforded by the barbell’s length is crucial to the overall effectiveness of the movement – you won’t get the exact same effect substituting it with a kettlebell or a dumbbell. If a lighter weight is required, you can go with a smaller pre-loaded straight bar, or even an EZ-curl bar that has a straight centre. Use the javelin press as an accessory movement in your pressing workouts and watch your shoulders grow!