What Are Cuban Presses?

Troy Holmes

There are a many weight lifting exercises designed specifically for building shoulder muscles. Cuban presses are exercises that simultaneously work multiple muscles in the shoulder area. This exercise requires both a rotation and overhead pressing movement, similar to military presses combined with upright rows.

Cuban presses work many of the muscles in the shoulders.
Cuban presses work many of the muscles in the shoulders.

Cuban presses are one of the best compound exercises for the shoulders. This exercise works all shoulder muscle head positions, while simultaneously stimulating the muscles in the upper back and chest. The movement produces core strength and power with the added benefit of isolation lifts for the shoulders.

The Cuban press and clean and jerk are both similar weightlifting exercises that involve picking a weight up off the floor and then lifting it over the head.
The Cuban press and clean and jerk are both similar weightlifting exercises that involve picking a weight up off the floor and then lifting it over the head.

Shoulder pressing exercises are considered one of the most dangerous body building exercises because the shoulder muscles are fragile. It is important to be careful with this exercise, as heavy weights and improper technique could lead to tears in the rotator cuff. Cuban presses put pressure on the rotator cuff and can cause shoulder impingement if the arms are raised too high before the flipping rotation begins.

Dumbbells can be used to replace barbells when performing Cuban presses.
Dumbbells can be used to replace barbells when performing Cuban presses.

Cuban presses are an easy exercise to learn. The body builder simply raises a heavy bar up to his chest and flips the bar above the head once the weights reach the sternum. This provides the benefits of upright rows, without putting the shoulder into a precarious position.

The military press provides many of the same benefits as a Cuban press. This type of exercise requires the body builder to lift weight with a heavy bar above his head from shoulder height. The primary difference with this technique is the weight must be less for Cuban presses because the weight is flipped before it is pressed.

Cuban presses should be started with light weights until the body builder is comfortable with his movement and technique. The lifting motion should be fluid and controlled without any jerking or excessive straining. The shoulder muscles are easily stimulated and don’t typically require large weights to be beneficial.

The clean and jerk is a more stressful version of the Cuban press technique. With a clean an jerk, the body builder pulls a heavy bar from the floor and flips it over his head before he presses it up. The primary difference between a clean and jerk is the Cuban press is a slow methodical movement versus a jerking power movement.

The Cuban press can be executed with either a straight bench bar or single dumbbells. With dumbbells, it is important to lift both arms simultaneously to ensure proper balance and control. The weights should be lifted upward slowly in a smooth motion until the weights are safely pressed overhead.

Improper techniques during a Cuban press may lead to chronic shoulder pain or an acute rotator cuff injury.
Improper techniques during a Cuban press may lead to chronic shoulder pain or an acute rotator cuff injury.

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