Going Overhead

The CrossFit Journal is full of great info, such as these 6 reasons to practice the overhead lifts from the article Overhead is Rising by Bill Starr


1. “Convertible” strength

The strength gained from doing presses and other over-head exercises is applicable to more athletic events than any other shoulder girdle movement—especially those sports that require the athletes to extend their arms overhead, including basketball, volleyball, tennis, baseball, lacrosse, swimming, the field events in track (javelin, shot put), and nearly every position in football.  Only interior linemen benefit from doing flat benches, whereas the backfield, defensive backs, linebackers, wide receivers, and tight ends use the strength gained from overhead work more so than the flat or even the incline bench. There are others, too, but you get the idea. Overhead lifts are even more convertible to other lifting exercises. I knew of many Olympic lifters who were pressing 300 or more who could lay down on a bench and use 400 without any prior practice on that exercise.  Conversely, I have never seen a 400-pound bencher be able to overhead press 300. Most are barely able to handle in the 225 to 250 range.

2. Proportionate strength

Overhead exercises develop a more proportionate strength in the shoulder girdle than any other upper body movement. Presses, jerks, push presses, and push jerks create wide, powerful arms and shoulders, with less emphasis on the chest muscles, which play a minor role in nearly every sport. Overhead work does hit the high portion of the chest—a good thing since that part of the pecs helps to stabilize the shoulder girdle.

3. More flexibility

Overhead exercises do not hinder shoulder flexibility.  Rather, they enhance it—an important point for anyone participating in a sport which requires a high degree of shoulder flexibility, such as gymnastics, the martial arts, and wrestling.

4. Works back, hips, even legs

While most upper body exercises only work the groups that make up the shoulder girdle, overhead movements also strengthen the back, from the traps to the lumbars, and also directly involve the hips, glutes, and legs. Most do not think about how much the back is utilized during overhead lifts. That is, until they go though a strenuous overhead workout. Then it becomes quite clear. When I start an athlete on overhead presses or jerks, the area of his body that gets the most sore is almost always his back.

5. Protects rotator cuffs

The area of the back that get the most sore is usually the middle or right over his shoulder blades. Gaining and maintaining strength in this latter area is extremely beneficial since this is where the muscles that constitute the rotator cuffs are located. Back when the overhead press was the primary upper body exercise, rotator cuff injuries were unheard of. We didn’t even know there were such muscles. But when the bench press replaced the overhead press and the lifters failed to do specific work on their upper backs and therefore the rotator cuffs, injury rates soared for those small but critical muscles.  In this regard, I should add that the very best way to rebuild a slightly damaged rotator cuff is by doing over-head presses. Start with dumbells, gradually work up to the barbell and proceed from there. It takes a bit of time, but eventually you will be able to strengthen those small muscles. It sure beats the alternative of surgery.

6. Balance and good looks

The overhead lifts belong in the routine of every strength athlete—including bodybuilder. Presses, jerks, push presses, and push jerks build a more balanced and pleasing physique than other upper body exercises.

Come into CrossFit Fenway and put something heavy over your head today!

December 17, 2009

Strength: Push press 5-5-5-5-5

Skill: Jump rope, double unders



Double unders



Post loads for push press and time of WOD to comments.

2 thoughts on “Going Overhead”

  1. That WO(t)D was brutal 🙂
    My lats told me they are not pleased with my crossfit workouts – haha… guess they’ll just have to deal with it

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