Use the Cuban press to build broader shoulders
If you want to maximise the size and strength of your shoulders, as well as bullet-proof this delicate joint of muscles from injury, then consider including the dumbbell or barbell Cuban press into your upper-body workouts, says New Body Plan fitness director Joe Warner
Be honest, have you ever done the Cuban press? Have you even heard of it? If not, don’t worry. You’re not alone. A lot of long-term gym bros haven’t either. Which is why they’ve missed out on maximising the size, strength and width of their shoulders, while also not taking smart steps to safeguard the health, mobility and stability of the vulnerable to injury shoulder joint.
What it is the Cuban press?
Some people say the Cuban press is just a slightly more complicated version of the overhead shoulder press, but it’s far more than that. The move, which can be done with either a light barbell or a pair of dumbbells, includes several elements that separate it from a simple shoulder press.
These include an upright row movement, to raise the weights from waist height up to shoulder height, a rotational movement to rotate your wrists from above to underneath the weights, then a pressing moving to raise the weights directly overhead. You then reverse these three main movements to return the weight back to the start position.
Why should I do the Cuban press?
The Cuban press is one of the very best exercises for improving shoulder health. You’ll not only work the shoulders through the pressing movement, but you’ll also work your upper-back muscles, as well as the small but incredibly important stabilising muscles inside the shoulder joint. These are known as the rotator cuff.
The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in your body, so there’s lots going on in and around the joint to provide such a wide range of motion. Strengthening the internal mechanisms of your shoulders will help prevent strains, niggles and injuries that could keep you on the sidelines.
How do I do the Cuban press?
• Stand tall holding a light barbell in both hands with a wide overhand grip with straight arms in front of your body.
• If using dumbbells hold a light dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip with straight arms outside of your thighs.
• Leading with your elbows, raise the weight up in a straight line until your elbows are at shoulder height. Your wrists should be directly below your elbows.
• Then rotate your shoulders to move your hands from directly below your elbows to directly above them.
• Now press the weight directly overhead until your arms are fully straight above you.
• Lower the weight back down to shoulder height, rotate your shoulders back so your hands are now directly below your elbows, then slowly lower the bar back down to the start position. That’s one rep.
• Do 8-12 reps per set, and three to four sets in total.
Should I use a barbell or dumbbells to do the Cuban press?
If you’re new to the move you can use either a very light barbell or a pair of light dumbbells. Some people may find a light barbell easier than using two dumbbells so you can focus more on the main movement pattern, rather than controlling a dumbbell in each hand, which requires more concentration and co-ordination.
Whichever option you choose the key is to use a light weight. This is never a move you need to go heavy on. Each rep should be smooth and controlled to train the target muscles without overloading them.
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