A recent trip to a local gym made me realize an important fact, don’t add load to dysfunction. What reminded me of this was seeing a gentlemen load 225lb to a barbell and grimace while he presses the weight over his head. His poor shoulder! This brought up another question to mind, is adding weight to overhead pressing a safe and efficient thing?

Well first and foremost before overhead pressing you don’t want to add load to DISFUNCTION or PAIN. If it hurts, you should see a health care provider (Physiotherapist, Athletic Therapist, Chiropractor, etc). Shoulder impingement is the third most common musculature complaint in orthopedic practice. Impingement is pain when raising the arm overhead, this could be caused by the narrowing of the subacromial space, or disturbance of centering in the humeral head (Christina Garving, 2017). Why does this happen? Well that depends; wear, tear, bad posture, over use, or maybe hereditary condition.

At MPC and various other fitness facilitates a functional movement screening (FMS) method used to determine impingement is utilized during our assessment process. If you feel pain during this test, it would be a good idea to stay away from overhead pressing for the time being and consult with a health care provider. The shoulder, because it has so many degrees of motion as it is a ball and socket joint, needs strength (i.e. the rotator cuff), and mobility in the glenohumeral joint itself (Jones, 2018).

Some movement prep exercises you can use to help increase range of motion in the shoulder joint, as well as strengthen your rotator cuff which is used to stabilize the shoulder joint are but are not limited to the following:

Wall Foam Roller Slides

Coaching Cue – Keep arms in a V shape not A shape

Supine Overhead Extensions

Coaching cue – Keep back flat to the ground

Pec Stretch

Lat Stretch

Coaching cue – hold onto your chair or desk with your arms extended, press your chest towards the ground, and hold 20-30 second.

90/90 External and internal Rotation for Rotator cuff strength

Coaching Cue – Stand up right and pull weight towards body (Interal Rotation) or pull weight away from body (External Rotation) keeping elbow at 90 degrees the whole time.


Modification of overhead press, a Hybrid Vertical/Horizontal press –Landmine press

Coaching cue – Start in kneeling position. Keep three points of contact (both feet and Knee). Which ever knee is down is the arm that extends the Barebell away from body. CAUTION make sure barebell is secure on ground.

Yoga push up

Coaching Cue  Start in downward dog position, bring hips closer to ground until you are in a push up position, then lower body to ground doing a push-up in the process.

Kneeling Single Arm press with band

Coaching Cue – Start in kneeling position with band around bottom knee. Whichever side the band is on is the side which you are extending. Extend arm above your head, and then return to starting position.

Everybody is different, and the cause of pain for one person is different for another. Always make sure to see the appropriate health care provider when dealing with pain. These movement prep exercises are just some examples of tools you can implement into your own workout regime to help increase your mobility. Please don’t be that person at the gym making everyone around them be nervous about the amount of weight your putting on your shoulder. Be safe when pressing over head!

Author: Sam Doucette


Christina Garving, S. J. (2017, 11 10). Impingement Syndrome of the Shoulder. Retrieved from National Library Medicine : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5729225/

Jones, O. (2018, 2 16). Teachmeanatomy. Retrieved from Teachmeanatomy: http://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/joints/shoulder/

Lee Burton, G. C. (2018). Functional Movement Screen. Retrieved from Functional Movement System: https://www.functionalmovement.com/