Creating balance within your programming is vital. The past couple weeks we’ve covered the lower body and the two primary patterns needed to create balance, the squat and the deadlift. One of the patterns is very similar to pushing (squat) and the other pattern is more of a pull (deadlift). Keeping a balance between squatting and deadlifting will help keep your body symmetrical and functioning the way it’s supposed to.

Since we’ve covered the two primary patterns needed to keep balance in the lower body, let’s dive into some upper body training now. Just like with the lower body, if we squat, we need to deadlift. For the upper body, if we push, we need to pull. Also, upper body training should also be split into vertical pushing and pulling and horizontal pushing and pulling.

We’re going to only focus on the vertical pressing pattern today, or overhead pressing. Just like we did with the squat and the deadlift, we’re going to break down this pattern, show the most common faults, show you a couple corrective strategies to help improve this pattern, and give you a few progressions to try out. So let’s dive right into the details of the overhead press or upper body vertical pressing:

Common Faults:

1. Lateral Side Bend – This fault tends to happen more when doing a single arm overhead press versus a double-armed press. If you’re doing an overhead press, work on keeping your torso completely erect. If you have to drift to the side and practically do a side bend to lift the weight, you’re going too heavy. Lower the weight, control the torso and upper body posture, and learn to press with an erect, upright torso with zero side bend.

Lateral Side Bend

2. Too much arching in the low back (Lordosis) – If you have a tough time getting your hands overhead and are limited in the shoulder mobility department, we can almost guarantee that you’re going to arch your back to get your arms overhead. Individuals with limited shoulder mobility are going to cheat in some way to get the weight overhead. Since the shoulders don’t really move that way if you’re limited mobility wise, you’re low back is going to arch to get the weights over your head. If this is the case, be sure to really hone in on the corrective strategies below before you add these into your programming.

Lordosis OH Press

3. Weight is too far forward, not overhead – This is another common fault if you have limited shoulder mobility. There’s a chance that it could only be a mechanical issue, but chances are shoulder mobility is going to be restricted. This fault also ties in to the arching of the low back. If you keep your low back relatively flat and in a neutral position, you should be able to get the biceps right next to the ears without needing to compensate through the spine. Once again, if you can’t keep a perfect posture and get the arms overhead with the biceps by your ears, just go straight into the corrective strategy, fix it, and then move on to the exercise progressions from there.

Weight Forward 1 OH Press            Weight Forward 2 OH PRess

4. Forward head posture while pressing – Last but not least, forward head posture is another common fault. This one really comes out when you begin to fatigue. Your core starts to lose the ability to maintain the upright posture while controlling the weight of the press. Once the core starts to go, then next thing you know your head is pecking forward like a chicken. Keep a long neck and tall posture while pressing. Any loss in posture should result in a lower weight being used until you can control the posture through the entire press.

Forward Head OH Press

Corrective Strategies

If you have shoulders that roll forward while standing in a neutral posture, or you have a tough time getting your hands together while reaching behind your back, we highly recommend skipping overhead pressing within your workouts until you clear this. Limited mobility can wreck havoc on the shoulders if you start pressing, especially overhead, without fixing mobility first. The two exercise listed below are great to improve mobility within the upper back and shoulders. Add these exercises into your program or warm up if you plan on pressing weight overhead while at the gym that day.

Quadruped Reachbacks

Bench T-Spine Extension

Overhead Lifting Progressions

First, make sure you clear your shoulder mobility to an adequate range. If you have a difficult time getting your shoulders overhead, or ever experience shoulder pain, pressing over your head isn’t a very good option. You’re only going to do more harm than good. You can still build some sweet shoulders without pressing weight overhead, so just be sure to train smart while training hard.

The progression we’re going to show you here will help keep your shoulders safe, healthy, and really work on building definition and strength. The first progression will allow you to learn body position without having to go completely overhead yet. The landmine press is a great way to start to build the vertical pattern while watching form and posture throughout. After we master the landmine, we’ll show you a couple of our favorite overhead pressing exercises. Take your time using these progressions and really own each exercise before moving on.

1/2 Kneeling Landmine Press

1/2 Kneeling Front Press

Standing Front Press

Push Press

Now that we’ve revealed our first upper body movement, we’re going to continue with some upper body training in our next article. Be sure to keep your eyes open for next pattern, the horizontal upper body pull. We’ll be covering the in’s and out’s of some rowing exercises and what it takes to build a sweet looking back. Be sure to comment below if you have any questions about any one of the patterns we cover.

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