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Should You Do the Overhead Press?

Use this test to find out if you're cleared.
overhead press

The overhead press is a valuable exercise and a longstanding staple of well-balanced programming. Important for shoulder health, overall strength, and big deltoids, you’d think pressing bars to the ceiling would be the go-to exercise, but realistically, overhead pressing isn’t for everyone.

If long-term shoulder health and avoiding more serious injuries down the road is important -- and it should be -- then it may be in your best interest to perform a simple “screen” to assess if overhead pressing is a good fit.

Try this one-step shoulder test to see if the overhead press is a good fit for your exercise program.


Lie on the floor with your knees bent. With your arms straight up in the air, lower them down toward the floor until they come to a complete stop. Don’t allow your lower back to extend/overarch and don't allow your ribcage to flair out.

If your upper arms are able to touch the floor, you pass and you can start overhead pressing. What this means is that you have the required lat length, shoulder range of motion, and mid-back mobility to safely perform the overhead press without compensating the labrums, ligaments and other passive restraints.

If you’re unable to get your upper arms to touch the floor, sorry, overhead pressing probably isn’t a good fit. People who fail to pass this screen often have super stiff or short lats and poor thoracic (mid-back) mobility which will affect scapular upward and downward rotation, and will often compensate by cranking the lower spine into overextension.

Does this mean you’ll never be able to overhead press again? No. Here are three things to do to improve shoulder mobility so you pass the screen and overhead press without using your back.

1. Foam roll then stretch the lats.
2. Do thoracic mobility drills like the Quadruped Extension-Rotation, and Bench T-Spine Mobilizations.
3. Perform more “shoulder friendly” overhead pressing variations like the Half Kneeling 1-Arm Landmine Press.

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