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MASTER CLASS: Take a knee to lift this shoulder exercise into a different realm

by Matt Parrott | July 20, 2020 at 1:53 a.m.
Eric Godwin demonstrates the Single Arm Half Kneeling Shoulder Press for Matt Parrott's Master Class on a trail near Little Rock Athletic Club. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Most people perform strength training exercises using the three most popular postural positions: standing, sitting and lying face up (supine). Two postures often are neglected, prone (face down) and kneeling. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

There are a few considerations when selecting a postural position for a given exercise, especially because most muscle groups can be challenged several different ways. The chest, for example, can be addressed using a seated chest press, supine chest press, standing cable fly or kneeling cable fly.

How do we choose among all these options?

The first factor to think about is balance. The farther one moves away from the floor (or bench), the more challenged his or her balance will become. If balance is the No. 1 concern, then the supine position makes the most sense, because lying down presents almost no safety risk.

As one moves to a kneeling position, balance will become a little more difficult — and even more so in a standing position.

Another key consideration for postural position is the available equipment. Think about that chest workout. To work the chest muscles while standing, a cable machine (or TRX system) is a requirement. There is really no way to effectively exercise this muscle group in the standing position with a pair of dumbbells.

So, available equipment becomes important as one develops a program with different postural preferences in mind.

Assuming one has access to a full battery of fitness equipment and no problems with balance, the options for postural adjustments are almost endless. Most people default to a position they always use, but I encourage clients to experiment. Doing so presents the body (and mind) with a new stimulus that might challenge the muscles from a slightly different perspective, which often results in a more effective workout.

This week's exercise features a traditional movement (shoulder press), but it's performed unilaterally and in a half-kneeling position. The Single Arm Half Kneeling Shoulder Press (wow, that's a mouthful) is appropriate for all fitness levels.

1. Grab a kettlebell with your right hand and place the right knee on the floor.

2. Position the left knee up at 90 degrees with your left foot flat on the floor.

3. Maintaining good posture and a firm torso, press the kettlebell overhead.

4. Slowly lower it until it reaches shoulder level, and reverse the direction and press again.

5. Continue for 12 repetitions, then switch arms and legs, and repeat on the other side.

6. Perform two sets on each side.

The cool part about this exercise is that the half-kneeling position presents a unique platform that will feel different from any other posture. It feels a little unstable at first, but this position sort of grows on you over time.

Who knows, the half-kneeling position might just become your new favorite. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.


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