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  • Mitchell Rothbardt

The Overhead Press in 450 Words or Less

Happy Holidays! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Today, I want to get back to my “Exercises Everyone Should Do” series. This one has a slight exception, though, which I will explain. If you don’t remember, I’ll pick an exercise that I believe everyone should do, tell you how to do it and why it’s important. This week: The Overhead Press!

What does it do? – The Overhead Press is an excellent functional exercise that works the shoulders, as well as the triceps, and also can be a great exercise for your entire core. Do you ever put something in your cupboard, or a suitcase in an overhead compartment? Also, learning to keep your core tight and stable is very important for your posture and lower back health.

How do I do it? – One of the great things about this exercise is it’s simplicity. You stand with a dumbbell in each hand, bring each dumbbell up to right below your ear with your palms facing forward and, keeping your core very tight, lift your arms straight over your head, almost but not quite, touching the dumbbells at the top.

One thing to watch for is to make sure that you are bringing your arms straight up. Many people have tight shoulders and when they try to bring their arms straight over their head, they actually bring them up but slightly forward. You should be able to touch the back of your ear with your bicep. If you can’t bring your arms that far back really you need to work on your shoulder mobility. Also, when you bring the dumbbells down make sure not to bring them down too low. Right below ear level is about where they should be.

The exception that I mentioned before has to do with something called shoulder impingement. Impingement syndrome is when, due to our penchant for sitting at computers all day, among other reasons, our shoulders develop some problems. Those problems can take the form of general tightness or something called impingement. Impingement occurs when the rotator cuff develops inflammation and becomes compressed on part of the shoulder blade, causing pain. Overhead movements can aggravate this condition, so I wouldn’t do this movement if you have this problem. If you do have minor shoulder impingement issues there are certainly some fairly easy things you can do that may help. Drop me a line and I may be able to help you through them. If you have major issues, call a doctor. If you don’t have any issues, introduce the Overhead Press into your program, and don’t forget to consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.

– from the Castro Valley Forum January 6, 2010

Mitchell Rothbardt, CPT ACE


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