We all love some heavy pressing!
Outside of the fact that we get to test our manhood (or womanhood) through a primitive feat of strength expression, who doesn't also enjoy getting a juicy upper body pump from repetitively pushing things around?
All is fine and dandy until the Grim Reaper of Gains shows up to scythe down our naive euphoria.
Those who have been in the game long enough understand that those feelings of invincibility and the days of spontaneous maxing out on bench press are numbered.
For we all have a Kryptonite in the form of a delicate ball-and-socket joint...
Yes, our shoulders are a weak link in the chain, a chink in the armor, a metaphorical last pick in recess dodgeball.
So many daily activities that we take for granted are completely dependent on this joint's abilities to function properly. And for all of the load, tension and torque that we routinely subject our shoulders to, I think most would be surprised to know that the actual structures holding this crucial joint together are actually extremely vulnerable. We have a few crossing large muscles (pecs, biceps, triceps, delts, lats, etc), some ligaments, and a bit of anatomical padding (cartilage, bursa, labrum, etc) but none of these structures really do too much when it comes to preserving the long-term integrity of such a complicated joint.
It's kind of like duct taping a hole in your tire; it might work for a while (maybe even forever) but the system is build on fragility that could collapse at any moment.
Over time, repetitive movements that deviate slightly outside of what our soft tissues are independently designed to handle create wear-and-tear patterns. These can present themselves in the form of tendinitis or bursitis or rotator cuff strain or scapular dysfunction or a million-and-one other things. I've mentioned before about how complex the delts are as a synchronous muscle group, and this a function of the even more complex joint that it aim to control. Complexity increases the utility but also the amount of things that can go wrong.
Ok now let's move past the pessimism for a bit and think about how we can potentially manage or even eliminate potential vectors of injury while training.
First, we need to think about how our upper arm (humerus) moves in relation to our torso. Certain paths will be easier on the structures of the shoulder while some will exacerbate issues. Second, how and where force is applied during different ROMs and muscle lengths will play a role in the stress placed on the joint. And lastly, understanding what our mobility limitations are will allow us to work within planes that we can actually control and exert strength in.
Now let's bundle this all up and see what we find...
Wouldn't ya know it?! Landmine Presses seem to be a perfect match for our criteria!
Why is this?
1) By defaulting to a neutral grip, our humerus has to stay tucked and tight to our midline. This reduces the stress on the rotator cuff, AC joint, and even elbows that comes with a more flared press.
2) Because we can perform the movement standing or half kneeling, we can actually adjust how much tension we're placing on the muscles and joint due to the angle of the press. The more horizontal the bar is, the more load will be distributed onto us as we're doing the movement. Altering this variable gives us more control over titration of intensity.
3) The arcing pattern rather than a single plane of press AND being unilateral rather than bilateral reduce mobility requirements. In addition to inherently taking pressure off the joint, this also increases freedom of scapular movement which is a massive factor for long-term shoulder integrity.
4) And as an additional feather in the cap, landmine presses also reinforce proper pelvic positioning.
Obviously, these are all benefits towards keeping you healthy and potentially working around some pre-existing issues but none of this means that you're out of the woods completely. Due to the belabored complexity of the shoulder joint, there will be many aches, pops, and clicks that will pop up and seemingly have no cause or solution. Sometimes, the answer is to suck it up and actually take some time off or completely overhaul your training in order to eliminate the source. None of this is fun to think about, but it's always better to have a contingency plan in place and end up not needing it. The alternative is getting slapped in the face by reality when you least expect it.