February 2


The key to Overhead Pressing is that only 1/3 of the population can do it well – including Crossfitters

By Dan

February 2, 2016

Yes that’s right.

You will always be limited to how much you can successfully overhead press by your shoulder anatomy, no matter what your Crossfit Coach, Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Coach or Physiotherapist says.

These professionals could be giving you false hope on your Overhead Press, or even worse could be injuring your shoulders.

Knowledge to how far you can push yourself is important. Does your coach or therapist have this knowledge? If not, their instruction could injure your shoulder, neck or even your lower back.

Having said that, read on to get the most of what you have, without putting yourself in danger. I will give you 3 tips plus one must do exercise and one must do mobilsation to get the most out of reaching above your head.

Now, I’m not a negative Nancy, far from it, so let me explain.

There are three types of shoulders in this world. See the illustration below:








And also watch this Video:


So there are three types of shoulders. Type I, Type II and Type III.

1/3 of the population has Type I, 1/3 has Type II and 1/3 has Type III.

So which type do you think you are?

The cream will rise to the top. This means that the top Crossfitters, weightlifters, Baseball pitchers and basically any overhead athletes who are the best in their field will generally have Type I shoulders.

The guy below is Rich Froning, arguably the best Crossfit Athlete ever. Definitely Type I shoulders, and in his words, ‘is blessed with good shoulders’. He was also a top Baseball player who made it through a whole season with a torn Labrum (shoulder injury). Having Type I shoulders in the first place allows you to still be competitive with little to no pain.



Do you always notice in the gym there are someone people that seem to be able to press over their head with little to no compensation in the rest of their body?

It is particularly noticeable when they are in the bottom of a snatch.

Now for those who are not gym goers or those who are a bit older, just reaching over your head can become harder as you age.

If you have Type I shoulders, you can still suffer impingement from poor posture over a number of years. Your ability to correct this posture is however far more promising than those with Type II or Type III shoulders.

Type II shoulders occur when the acromion is slightly curved thereby reducing the amount of space you have in your shoulder. It is suggested that you have about 1.5cm of space beneath your acromion for all the good stuff to move under it. In Type II people this space is already reduced, and if you add poor posture to this, you have even less space.

Type III shoulders are generally those people who have more rounded shoulders and really do struggle with pressing or lifting over their head. The acromion is hooked therefore impingement can happen immediately, and their shoulders will fatigue very quickly. Add bad posture to this, as in sitting at a desk all day, then this person is destined for some painful impingement or a torn rotator cuff.

So generally the advice from an average health professional will be in the green, and my advice is below:

  • If you increase your shoulder mobility you will get greater range of movement and be able to achieve more strength.


  • You will be able to increase your shoulder mobility if you have Type I or Type II shoulders however the older you are the more likely you will do further damage to the shoulders when trying these mobilisation exercises.


  • Your Therapist or Trainer may ask you to rest. Have you ever heard the saying ‘if you don’t use it you will lose it’.


  • Yep that’s right, you have to keep moving your arm but in a range of movement that does not aggravate it.


  • Work it until you feel the burn.


  • No, No, No. A burn in the shoulders means you are doing more damage…no burn, stop before then.


I have 2 must do things for you to do to increase your range of movement over your head as well as increase your strength.

  1. Clam Thoracic Mobility
  2. Kneeling Unilateral Dumbbell Shoulder Press

These two movements are super easy, can can be done everyday.

1. Clam Thoracic Mobility – this is my number one go to movement. I give it to anyone who has shoulder, neck, arm, upper-back and even lower back pain.

The idea of this movement is to mobilise your thoracic spine increasing the rotation of the vertebra thereby unloading your shoulders or neck. It can be performed for all types of shoulders and you will have an immediate change somewhere in your thoracic region. I would attempt this everyday moving the arm 5 times and then on the 6th time hold the arm in place for a 20 second stretch.

Please view the video below:


2. Kneeling Unilateral Dumbbell Shoulder press – This is a simple shoulder press that will expose your dysfunctional body compensations when moving weight over your head. Ideally you should do it kneeling but you can do it standing. This is a great exercise to keep the shoulder joint moving without too much pain. I would start with a light weight of 2-3kg and complete 2 sets of 6-8 repititions.

Please view the video below:

If you do experience pain with these exercises please refer to my ‘3 Treatment Strategies for Healthy Shoulders’ article.

If these simple exercises have worked for you or if you know someone with shoulder pain can you please share this page with them.

Many Thanks

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