Dynamic Chest Training -Whats Your Upper Body Vertical? by Joe Hashey

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At some point in their training careers, most people reading this have probably been asked, “What’s your bench,” as if the bench is the one and only indicator of strength. Now, I’m definitely not a trainer who bashes the importance of the bench press, but does the standard bench train the kind of strength our athletes need?

I’ll use an offensive lineman in football as an example of the style of upper body movements in athletics. The lineman must fire out of his stance, hit the opposing player in the chest with his hands to gain inside leverage, and then drive his legs to stand the opponent up and take control. I’ve heard coaches yell, “Get into his pads and then bench press him back.” The notion of “bench pressing” a player is incorrect. If both linemen are standing straight up and attempt to “bench press” each other, neither player will be moved a significant distance. Additionally, if they’re attempting to bench press each other, the offensive lineman has taken too long to get his block. Instead, the movement needs to be an explosive punch with both hands coupled with a proper body angle. Then, the lineman needs to bring his feet to the party!

The football example is an obvious one, but there are many more sports that require this kind of strength. For instance, take basketball. Players need to be able to snap passes to each other in order to get the ball there in a timely fashion. This is another explosive chest movement. The player must be able to explode the ball from his chest to another player. Can you imagine what this would look like if the passer used a slow and controlled bench press motion to move the ball?

Other examples include a baseball player swinging a bat (explosive core rotation and dynamic shoulder movements) or a lacrosse or hockey player going in for a check. But enough examples. Let’s get to the training!

Dynamic movements are nothing new to training. However, they still aren’t used enough. Most trainers that I’ve spoken with said that they haven’t fully adopted dynamic upper body training because of the limited number of exercises and examples out there. “What are we going to do? Fast bench press?” Unfortunately, this shows a misunderstanding of dynamic movements. There are many more movements that can help improve your dynamic power. It just takes a little creativity. After all, trainers spend many hours training dynamic leg power so shouldn’t we dedicate some time to dynamic upper body explosion as well?

Obviously, I feel strongly about the importance of dynamic upper body training. Here are some dynamic chest exercises that I work into our program at Synergy Athletics:

Exercise 1: The upper body vertical

This exercise is our athletes’ favorite because it’s challenging and competitive. I recommend starting small before you get your players into this exercise. We work the upper body vertical approximately the same as the lower body box jumps.

You need two objects of the same height (steps, short plyometric boxes, a stack of 45s on top of each other, bumper plates, mats, etc.). I prefer to stack bumper plates or regular plates because the height is easily increased or decreased. Put the weights slightly wider than your normal push-up hand position. Set yourself up in a push-up position in between the stacks. Perform an explosive push-up and land with your hands on the weights. Decelerate your movement and step your hands down. Repeat.*

We usually perform 6–8 sets of 1–5 reps with a heavy emphasis on proper push-up form. Advanced variations include placing the feet on an object such as a step, plyobox, or bench.

Start position with benches

Push-up (explosively fire up from this position)

Landing position

*Note: Your goal is to explode up with the chest, not by just moving the arms quickly. Attempt to land with straight arms, not bent at a 90-degree angle.

Exercise 2: Medicine ball wall passes

I always like to start with the basics. This exercise isn’t complicated and is good for beginners. Stand an arm’s length away from a wall with a slammable medicine ball in your hands. Take a good athletic pass and explode the ball from your chest into the wall. Keep your elbows tight to your sides and don’t sway your body. Catch the ball on the rebound, rest yourself calmly, and then explode the ball into the wall again. If you rush the motion, it turns into more of a wall dribble with poor form. Take your time to reset your form and try to knock down the wall with the medicine ball again. We perform 5–15 reps.

Start position

Explosion with arms extended

Exercise 3: Upper body depth jump

I know that the musculature of the upper body is different than the lower body in muscular cross-sections. However, the enjoyment that athletes get from using the upper body depth jump still makes it a useful exercise.

To perform this exercise, put your hands up on a box, step, or cinderblock that is 2–4 inches tall. Place the object below your chest and put your hands on it in a push-up position. Hop both hands off of the box onto the floor. As soon as your hands hit the floor, explode up and land on a higher object that is set up exactly the same as described in the upper body vertical exercise. Walk the hands back down to the shorter object and repeat.

We typically perform this exercise for 4–8 sets of 1–5 reps. Perform these correctly to your max height and you will have some serious trouble moving the next day!

Start position

Jump off of the box and land quickly

Explode up to the finish

Exercise 4: Medicine ball throws

The athletes like to perform this exercise outdoors so that they can see how far they throw the ball. However, it still can be done against a wall if needed.

Place a medicine ball on the ground between your feet and slightly in front of your toes. Take a good base, bend over as if you were getting into a football stance, and place your hands on the side of the ball. Stand up quickly but under control (bringing the medicine ball with you), load it against your chest, and explode with your legs and chest. Fire the ball as far as you can or as hard as you can against the wall. Reset and repeat.

Start position

Load position

Explode into the wall

Exercise 5: Rotational throws

This one is slightly harder to describe so hopefully the pictures will help. Stand with your body perpendicular to the wall holding a medicine ball near your chest and cocked back toward the shoulder furthest from the wall. Explosively rotate your hips towards the wall, open up your shoulders, and explode the ball against the wall using only the furthest arm (the one that the ball was closest to). Repeat on both sides.  

Start position

Rotate, explode, and extend

In conclusion, athletes need additional emphasis on dynamic upper body training. The demands of sports are different than the demands for bodybuilding competitions or other training prescriptions. The dynamic chest exercises are only limited by your imagination. The exercises above are just examples. Your job is to find something that your athletes will enjoy, make it competitive, and help them excel!

Joe Hashey is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA and the owner of Synergy Athletics. After playing Division 1AA football at Colgate University, he dedicated his time and experience to helping the next generation of athletes. For more articles or to contact Joe, visit www.Synergy-Athletics.com. Videos of his training techniques can also be found at www.youtube.com/jhashey.

 

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.

Submitted by DMorgan on Sat, 12/20/2008 - 7:41pm.

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