Body:

Therapy Thursday-Pain with overhead press

The Overhead Press requires a lot to perform safely and without injury. You need shoulder mobility and stability. You need thoracic mobility and lat flexibility. You need low back stability. Finally you also need mobility in your neck. If you not have all these prerequisites, you can end up with neck pain, shoulder pain, or back pain.

What muscles are we working with overhead press?

Back pain?

Back pain with overhead pressing usually happens when the lumbar spine has to compensate for lack of mobility in the thoracic spine. Athletes tend to over arch their low back to get the weight overhead and stability of the lumbar spine is sacrificed, which can lead to issues. Solutions? Work on thoracic mobility and core stability. Focus on proper form

Self Assessment

How is your front rack?

How can you assess to see if overhead press with a barbell can be part of your workout? The easiest thing to get started with is to see if you can get into a proper front rack position. If not, have a Physical Therapist look at these areas:

  • Thoracic mobility: Rotation and Extension
  • Shoulder mobility: flexion and external rotation
  • Elbow an wrist mobility
  • Lat Flexibility
  • Lumbar stability

Alternatives to the barbell press

If you do not have a proper front rack position, consider using a Kettlebell or dumbell for overhead press. Now you can keep shoulder in a more neutral position. The barbell requires significant External rotation of the shoulder, but by having the plams face each other you can press with less chance of shoulder impingement. Working on single presses can also help to reduce differences between left and right, which is another contributing facotr for pain due to overhead pressing. in our previous post we already discussed using a landmine, easiliy one of my favorites.


Dr. Pieter de Smidt, PT, DPT

Do You Have Pain? Schedule a Free Assessment | Dr. de Smidt has over 30 years of experience as a Physical Therapist. He has achieved certifications in Mckenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, Manual Therapy and Sports Therapy. With his Post-Professional Doctorate in PT he specialized in management of musculoskeletal injuries of the neck, back, shoulder, hip and knee.