Overhead pressing and overhead exercises are some of the most overrated and overused movements in the gym.
This is mostly due to the fact that they are classics that everyone is familiar with.
And just to clarify, there is nothing wrong with the actual exercises themselves. They are fine. Many people benefit from pressing overhead, snatching, and overhead squats.
Fitting certain exercises to the wrong person can be problematic. When we are using resistance training for golf there are two main concerns: safety and effectiveness.
There is also no reason why we must do overhead work. The goal is to play better golf, not perform a specific set of exercises. The strategy can be very fluid as long as the result is being worked towards.
Most Golfers Cannot Get Safely Overhead
Now, again the safety is not for the exercise itself, it is for the individual trying to do it. Someone with a labral tear may be able to perform almost any exercise except overhead pressing. In a less extreme case, someone who was rounded shoulder may not have the shoulder range of motion to get overhead.
Forcing a range of motion that someone does not have can cause some injury issues. The shoulder is a relatively fragile joint and a lot of things can go wrong.
The rib flare is also a good way to get the back acting up. Anyone with extension based back pain is going to have some trouble pressing overhead. One of my mistakes when I was younger was using overhead pressing with these people.
One assessment I like to use with everyone is the overhead reach test. Simply raise your arms over your head. A passing test looks like this:
There could be rib flare
or lack of range of motion
or even both.
If you cannot safely raise your arms overhead then using weights overhead might not make a lot of sense.
I have very rarely seen someone who passes the overhead reach screen.
Correcting the rib flare is really influenced by anterior core stability. The best way to train this is to use exercises that force you to resist extension.
A good progression of core exercises is using a deadbug, a single leg lower, and lastly a double leg lower. The goal of these movements is not to arch the back as the leg lower. The deadbug is the easiest one and should be performed first.
More Effective Alternatives
We can still get the benefits of overhead work without actually going overhead.
One of the most versatile exercise progressions is the landmine press. This exercise progression is great way to train pushing through a safe shoulder range of motion. It is not quite a horizontal press but not completely overhead either.
To train the upper body in a very friendly way is to use pushup variations. Your shoulders will get plenty of training and you can sync it up with core stability.
Treat pushups like a strength exercise and not a punishment to get the most out of them.
You can also perform a ton of shoulder stability exercises. External rotations, Y’s, T’s, etc. are all going to train the shoulder blades to be stable.
Obviously in this industry there are no absolutes. There are definitely some exercises that I use that are overhead.
Chinups and various pulldown variations are a good way to train pulls. Most people need more pulls in their life and these variations can also help contribute to improving shoulder range of motion overhead.
I like to have athletes perform overhead carries with a kettlebell. By using only one in a hand at a time it takes some of the tendency to over extend out of the equation.
It is also a good way to give feedback on how to lock the rib cage down while being overhead.
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