What is the Cuban Press Exercise?

The following is a summary of what is the Cuban Press exercise:

The Cuban press is an exercise that targets the shoulders, rotator cuff, and upper back muscles. It can be done standing up or as a more difficult variant on your stomach on an incline bench. Usually done with relatively lightweight as part of a dynamic warm-up to lift the upper body.

What is the Cuban Press Exercise?

While your knees might not agree, your shoulders are probably the hardest joints in your body. You can't train your chest, lats, or core without using your shoulders, and some arm and lower body exercises involve your shoulders as well.

This is why shoulder pain can be so debilitating. Sore, shaky shoulders can make almost anything but riding a bike uncomfortable and possibly impossible.

This is why good shoulder mobility and stability are so important. As lifters, we need to take care of our shoulders so they don't get in the way. Get it from someone with severely calcified shoulder joints. You will miss your shoulders without pain!

One way to maintain proper shoulder shape is to train all three heads of the deltoid (front, middle, and back) equally, as well as strengthen the underlying rotator cuff muscles.

One way to do this is to add the Cuban press to your shoulder workout.

Legend has it that this exercise was invented to strengthen the shoulders of Cubans at the Olympics to keep them injury-free. Olympic weightlifting is notoriously heavy on the shoulders.

How To Do Cuban Press?

Enjoy all the benefits of the Cuban press and reduce the risk of injury by following these guidelines:

  • Hold the bar in front of your hips with grips slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. If you wish, you can also use a thumbless clip or a fake clip. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, core tight, and shoulders down and back.
  • Bend your elbows and swing the bar directly toward your sternum or lower chest. Your arms should be almost parallel to the floor, elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  • Without lowering your arms, roll your shoulders out and raise the bar so it's directly above your head.
  • Lower the bar to the start in the opposite direction - lower the bar towards your head, rotate the bar towards your chest, and bring the bar back to waist height.

Before worrying about lifting moderate weights, focus on perfecting the movement. An empty bar or even a broom should do the trick. Is every movement smooth and in full control? This is not heavy-weight training and a fraud.

This movement works the medial minor muscles of the shoulder that control the rotational movement of the joint.

The Cuban press targets the smaller inner shoulder muscles as well as the upper back and combines external shoulder rotation with the dumbbell bench press.

Let’s quickly recap

  • Stand up and spread your legs. Keep your body straight and your entire core contracted. Also, wait for it.
  • Hold light dumbbells by your side, palms facing back.
  • Raise your arms out to the sides until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees and the weights are hanging down.
  • Rotate your arms so that your wrists are facing up and your arms are horizontal.
  • Press the weights directly above your head.
  • Return the movement to the beginning.

Here’s another version of the Cuban Press:

Lying Cuban Press

Changing the angle exposes the rotator cuff muscles to different loads. If this is your first time hearing about these muscles, be sure to add some of these rotator cuff exercises to your routine to keep your shoulders healthy.

  • Place the bench at a 30-45 degree angle.
  • Grab the dumbbells and let your arms hang down.
  • Raise your elbows to the sides.
  • Rotate your arms until your forearms are in line with your body.
  • Bend your elbows 90 degrees.
  • Press the weight directly in front of you.

Combine shoulder thrust and rotation in one movement. Using heavy weights for this move can cause injury, so keep the weights light.

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