Functional Training Institute

Shoulder Mobility Mini Series – Identify and Enhance the Overhead Press

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Part 1: This Part of the Shoulder Mobility Mini Series focuses specifically on screening and correction of the Kettlebell Overhead Press

We will be focusing on the Kettlebell Overhead Press. The key outcomes we want to determine is whether we should be loading the shoulder and how we can optimise the movement. This will minimise the risk of injury and enable us to derive maximum benefit.

Press on one side and then the other. Try and notice any subtle differences between both shoulders. Test with a light Kettlebell, here’s what to look for:

  • Is there a full lock out?
  • Is there too much internal rotation?
  • Is your client arching through the back?
  • Is the thoracic spine lacking mobility?

Once you have identified any of the improper movement patterns above, we will then attempt to correct them with an Activation Drill.

A great way to activate that shoulder is this Simple Tubing Drill  that activates the subscapularis and the serratus anterior.

Before you even load the press you can test the shoulder for impingement or pain by moving the shoulders through abduction. Test your internal rotation and compare your shoulders. Keep applying the tubing drills and retest your shoulders.

Part 2: Thoracic Extension Mobility Exercises to assist Overhead Kettlebell Lifting

The proper execution of an overhead lift requires terrific thoracic extension and rotation. This will place the object (in this case the kettlebell) in the best position without any unnecessary compensations.

Due to modern day postures there is a RISK OF INJURY when performing Overhead Lifts with most clients. Many clients present kyphosis of the upper thoracic spine and this needs to be addressed before we load them overhead.

We need to ‘undo’ these positions and that is why you need to complete mobility exercises before overhead lifting. Inhibited overhead extension can be seen with compensatory movements such as excessive lordosis in the lower back, hitching of the upper traps or an inability to place the object directly overhead with neutral wrist and elbow positions.

These two mobilisations are brilliant for improving your overhead lifting positions. They can be done before, during and/or after your lifting sessions. The key is consistency.

The first movement doesn’t necessarily need a partner. It can be completed with another object such as a kettlebell as a substitute for the partners legs. The other key with this movement is to ensure you are not compromising technique by forcing the extension and borrowing the extra range from your ribs or lower back. The second mobilisation demands a ‘stretch face’.

You can learn many more mobility techniques in our accredited Mobility Course.

Part 3: Overhead Press Progression – Proper Technique for Developing Overhead Technique & Strength

This Overhead Press Progression series is a great way to make sure you and your clients are using proper technique. You need to work towards progressing the client so they ‘earn their right’ to utilise different equipment for the overhead presses. This ensures safety and efficiency.

We first start with the Powerbag press. We do this because of the following:

  • It is a symmetrical load
  • The soft construction which makes it easy and more comfortable
  • There are multiple handles that are suitable for all.

Key point: Press above the head in a vertical line, have a full lock out, straight wrists and ensure the elbows point forward.

The next progression is the single kettlebell press.

This is the next progression because:

  • The asymmetrical load means you are using your core a lot more
  • The single kettlebell press gives you some thoracic rotation that you don’t get with double kettlebell presses

Key point: Press directly above head, counter balance with opposite arm and bring it back into the rack position on every rep.

The next progression is the double kettlebell press. This is a progression as you have to manage the extra load. The key is controlling the downward phase and actively engaging your lats as you bring it into the rack position.

The final progression in our series is the barbell press. The angular momentum makes this more challenging than the previous exercises.

The keys are to press the bar off chest and lock it out at the top. You need press directly above the head and maintain a strong lockout

The key here is understanding where your client is and programming the appropriate exercise.

Your client needs to demonstrate great technique on the easier exercises before progressing. Your client needs to have ‘earned the right’. This will ensure their safety and efficiency is the number 1 priority.

Buy ANY of our Courses and receive a ‘Kettlebell & Suspended Fitness Training’ Correspondence Course valued at $199 ABSOLUTELY FREE!



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