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Building a Strong Shoulder Girdle by Bill Starr - CrossFit Journal

In Olympic Lifts, Powerlifting

August 26, 2011

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Bill Starr explains how to create a strong, balanced upper body.

There was a time in the not-so-distanct past when everyone who lifted weights possessed wide, powerful shoulders. Bodybuilders were actually strength athletes back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, and all of them believed wide shoulders added to their physiques. And they were right.

The reason why athletes in a wide variety of sports possessed such imposing shoulders is because they did a great deal of overhead lifting, especially pressing. In fact, the military press was the standard of strength for everyone who lifted weights for whatever reason. When someone wanted to know how strong you were, he would ask, “What can you press?” One of my first goals when I began weight training was to press body weight. Once I’d achieved that, I moved that goal to pressing 200 lb., and throughout my lifting career I continually elevated the standard for the press. As a result, my shoulder girdle got stronger and stronger.

Now, the standard for strength is the bench press, and very few athletes even include military presses in their routines any longer. So what happened?

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3 Comments on “Building a Strong Shoulder Girdle”


wrote …

Wasn't John Grimek, one of the old legends Starr lists, capable of a handstand, lowering himself so that his forearms and elbows were on the ground, and pressing back up?
This is a great old-school tutorial on the importance of the strength and sound fundamentals that are dangerous to overlook. I enjoyed the history of the press' evolution, or devolution, to too much reliance on the bench press, and the subsequent spate of rotator cuff injuries. It's a great companion piece to Carl Paoli's 'Hollow Body' videos on strengthening body position.


wrote …

Always a good read. Thanks.


wrote …

Great article, plan on putting these in my training program. Thanks !!

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