3 steps to improve your overhead position
– A better overhead position will reduce your risk of injury
Our overhead position is very important to us, and should be a simple task. Our arms should be able to fly overhead with no pain or discomfort easy peasy.
Try now to put your arms above your head. Do you automatically extend from your lower back, do you feel tightness in your chest and your upper back? I’m guessing yes is probably the answer. You don’t have to be lifting heavy weights above head to want to improve your overhead positioning, we use this overhead positioning for a lot of things. For example popping something on a top shelf in our house or throwing a ball for the dog. It is important we keep our full range of motion in our shoulders to allow us to decrease our risk of injury.
People we usually see in the clinic with poor overhead position normally come in with lower back problems. This is likely due to hyperextending from the lower back due to poor thoracic extension, so they extend from their lower back to enable themselves to get their arms above head. Or we see people coming in with shoulder pain which stops a lot of patients performing overhead movements for a period of time. Loading the shoulder at end of range when this end of range is limited, can lead to injury.
A lot of people lose this fundamental movement pattern of reaching overhead as we become adults due to our life changes. Laziness and lifestyle doesn’t help. It is important we keep our shoulders and back healthy and avoid overloading certain structures of our body when motion is poor. Below we are going to be showing you 3 quick steps to help improve your overhead position, whether it’s for lifting weights above head or throwing a ball for your dog it’s all important!
- Increase your shoulder flexion
Our shoulder flexion can be limited by many factors such as having tight musculature which can inhibit us from performing that forward movement of the shoulders. We want to ensure we get enough flexion in the shoulder while maintaining a happy spine by not overloading other structures due to having poor shoulder mobility. Two muscles which are usually seen to inhibit our overhead position are our pecs and lats. Below are two ways we can lengthen these.
Lengthen your pecs
This should be felt on the anterior aspect of your chest/ shoulders.
Lengthen your lats
This should be felt on the outside portion of your chest wall.
Ideally you want to aim to hold both these positions for up to 2 minutes! Miracles don’t happen over night, you need to keep performing this movement daily.
- Increase your thoracic extension
Our thoracic spine (upper back) works as a team with our shoulders to allow us to perform full shoulder flexion. Resulting in poor movement of upper back = poor movement of our shoulders. Check out the two exercises below to allow an increase in our movement of the thoracic spine so that we don’t overload certain structures, therefore, reducing the risk of injury.
Exercise 1. Cat backs
Exercise 2. Thoracic extensions
- Switch on your overhead pulling muscles
Check out the link below to see how we can switch on your overhead pulling muscles.
In this video face pulls and reverse flies are performed with a pulley machine.
Pulling towards face keeping pulley machine at chest height. This should be light just to turn on the pulling muscles, make sure you don’t load this too much that you use your lower back.
This is performed with grip in supination (palms to ceiling) and with pronated grip (palms facing floor) to alter recruitment of muscles.
These exercises all target the upper back, such as our rotator cuff, lower trapezius, upper trapezius and rhomboids which are muscles that are often neglected by many. These exercises are perfect to be performed pre lifting overhead to allow you to get in that perfect overhead position. When these muscles all fire correctly this will allow the shoulder joint to get in the best possible position for overhead lifting. If our upper back is not firing properly and our anterior muscles such as our pecs are tight this allows the shoulders to shift forwards putting us in a poor position for lifting overhead.
Enjoy lifting overhead. Any questions please feel free to get in contact with out IAC team.
Thank you for reading.
BSc Sports Therapy MSST