Overhead pressing is a great movement for developing strength and power in the vertical pushing direction. Often times, overhead pressing can beat up the shoulders and/or neck and can wreak havoc on those areas.
Photo credit: http://www.sfexaminer.com/shoulder-pain-it-may-be-an-easy-fix/
Whether it be painful and/or difficult in the actual pressing movement or pain/pinching in the shoulder joint at the top of the movement, either are abnormal sensations. Best advice, do not try to “press” through these movements. Anytime there is pain with the overhead pressing movement, it is not something to work through.
If you do have pain with overhead pressing, check out my article on Tony Gentilcore’s blog how to help fix any mobility limitations. The use of a bottoms-up kettlebell forces the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers to control the bell while being pressed overhead. Caution: You will not be able to use the same weight bottoms-up pressing as you would with a dumbbell or bottoms-down kettlebell. The bottoms up variation is much more unstable and more challenging.
Once you get the pain and any movement impairments ironed out, here are 5 go-to movements to implement into a training program in order to get back to pain-free overhead pressing.
1. Bottoms Up Kettlebell(KB) Sidelying Arm Bar
The Bottoms Up KB Sidelying Arm Bar is a movement that requires shoulder stability to maintain an upright position. It works on the rotator cuff to maintain a centrated humerus in the glenoid fossa as well as the scapular stabilizers to maintain a stable scapula.
-Arm should remain vertical towards the sky throughout the movement.
-Don’t let your “ear eat your shoulder” OR maintain a constant distance between your ear and shoulder throughout the movement.
-Don’t “pack” the shoulder. Just maintain the shoulder and scapula in a stable position.
2. Bottoms Up KB Sidelying Arm Bar with Press
This next movement is a progression from the arm bar. It progresses the movement by adding a press with the kettlebell.
-Same points as with the Sidelying Arm Bar.
-As you allow the arm to descend towards the ground, allow scapula to retract. Do not let elbow go behind body/allow for anterior humeral glide.
-Don’t keep scapula “packed” or retracted during the entire movement. Allow it to move.
3. Incline Bottoms Up KB Press
This movement is a progression from the original Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press. By adding the incline of the bench into this movement, it is progressing it more towards an overhead pressing movement.
-Maintain the arm and kettlebell vertical to the ceiling throughout the movement.
-Don’t let your “ear eat your shoulder.”
-Don’t “pack” your scapula.
4. ½ Kneeling Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press
The ½ kneeling KB Bottoms Up Press is another progression that is transitioning the client or athlete back into an overhead press. The ½ kneeling position allows for the athlete to maintain a neutral spine as well as eliminates leg drive to focus the movement on the upper extremities.
-Maintain a neutral spine.
-Don’t “pack” the shoulder. Allow the scapula to move as you press overhead.
5. Standing Kettlebell Bottoms Up Overhead Press
Last, but not least is the Standing KB Bottoms Up Overhead Press. There is a little bit more freedom with this movement because it doesn’t lock the person into using a barbell. The bottoms-up variation forces the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers to work hard to maintain the proper position when pressing.
-Maintain a neutral spine.
-Allow the scapula to move as you press overhead.
-Don’t “pack the shoulder.”
So, if you are dealing with shoulder pain with overhead pressing and want to get back to pain-free pressing, check out my guest post on Tony Gentilcore’s blog and give these 5 variations a try!
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