Should Anyone Really Overhead Press?
As much as we'd like for everyone to include overhead pressing in their regular workout routine, for some people it's just not a good fit. Aside from potentially being uneducated on some of the cues and prep work to overhead press well, many people lack the necessary mobility to do it safely for the long haul.
Does it mean they shouldn't press vertically at all?
Of course not, it just means thinking outside of the box and understanding that you can't put a square peg in a round whole. Translation is that barbell pressing (or maybe direct vertical pressing) is not right for everyone.
Mobility + Movement
Effective overhead pressing requires a healthy amount of mobility and movement in some areas that a lot of clients just so happen to be lacking. One of those is thoracic spine mobility and more specifically, extension.
Due to our migration into sedentary lifestyles, seated positions, and obsession with screens (the list goes on) you'll find a lot of clients are slightly kyphotic and lack the ability to extend into a thoracic spine position that allows for enough extension in the shoulder.
Pair this together with the potential for tightness in the lats and pecs (which also limit shoulder extension) and many clients won't be able to get directly overhead without sacrificing lower back positioning.
It's not worth robbing Peter to pay Paul, so rather than "power through it" you should (a) put time into improving mobility and (b) shift to more appropriate vertical pressing alternatives.
This way you don't have to avoid the movements altogether but just choose more intelligent alternatives that allow clients to keep progressing physically while you're helping them to move and feel better in the meantime.
Checkout some of the brief videos below that will allow you to better understand whether or not a client SHOULD/SHOULDN'T directly press overhead, as well as some coaching cues and alternative exercises to keep them moving forward.
Simple Overhead Clearing Test
Shoulder Mobility Drills
Coaching Cues + Alternative Exercises
Interested in learning this kind of information & more? This is just the tip of the iceberg but is the type of the hands-on practical training knowledge that graduates of our 8 Week NASM Personal Training Course gain with us.
Courses start up again this weekend so make sure reach out for more information and secure your spot (space is limited) in an upcoming course!
Joe Drake is co-owner of the Axiom Fitness Academy where he works closely with new fitness professionals to go from getting certified to finding success in a competitive fitness market. Joe also holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from Florida Atlantic University and is a Technogym Master Trainer.