Overhead strength and stability are key for strength, power, and fitness athletes. Movements like the jerk, snatch, gymnastics, and strongman overhead presses rely heavily on shoulder strength and scapular stabilization.
While there are a plethora of overhead stability and shoulder strengthening exercises to choose from, the below article will discuss some of the most effective movements for developing both strength, muscle coordination, and overhead stability for any level lifter.
5 Overhead Exercises to Increase Shoulder Strength and Stability
The below movements can be used to address both shoulder strength and stability and are beneficial for all strength, power, and fitness athletes.
1. Overhead Kettlebell Carry
The kettlebell overhead carry is a dynamic stability exercise that challenges shoulder, triceps, and midline strength. This movement, like most carries, can help increase muscle mass via time under tension training, improve core strength, and reinforce muscular coordination under loads.
Lifters who may lack overhead stability and strength in movements like the jerk, snatch, or overhead press can perform overhead walks and carries or add muscle mass and awareness under load.
How-To-Guide: Overhead Kettlebell Carry
- Press two kettlebells into the overhead position, so that the arms are fully extended, biceps are by the ears, and the wrists are neutral.
- When ready, lock the shoulder blades in place and contract the core. From here, take one small step focusing on maintaining vertical arms and extended elbows.
- The kettlebells will want to move out of the vertical plane, so be sure to stabilize the weight with the upper/middle back, rather than the anterior aspect of the shoulder.
2. Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish get-up is a dynamic movement that requires mobility, stability, and coordination from the entire body. The shoulders, and more specifically the scapular stabilizers, are required to maintain proper shoulder integrity throughout the entire movement, preserving shoulder health and developing overhead strength.
The Turkish get up and it’s regressions are great for all overhead athletes to establish strength, stability, and muscle control necessary when placing loads overhead and maintaining shoulder health.
Integrating those within warm-ups, active recovery days, or more strength focused training blocks can improve pressing strength and shoulder health.
How-To-Guide: Turkish Get-Up
- Be sure to review the full Turkish Get Up Guide above for complete directions.
- While lying on your back, hold a kettlebell in your left hand, with the arm extended so that it is perpendicular to the ground.
- Bend the left leg, and perform a sit up while keeping your right arm and both feet on the ground. You should be seated on your buttocks with the weight overhead, in an upright position.
- From there, perform a hip raise and lift the hips so that you can slide your right leg underneath your body, placing your right knee under your hips. Be sure to keep your left leg and right hand down on the ground.
- From here, come upright into a kneeling position, making sure the weight is overhead and stable.
- Stand up out of the lunge position, keeping the load stable overhead.
- Reverse the steps in order to move back to the ground. That’s one rep.
3. Pin Press
The pin press is a partial range of motion movement that can help address muscle weaknesses and coordination pressing loads into the overhead position. By performing partial range of motion repetitions (often, reps starting at chin or eye level, instead of on the shoulders), a lifter will gain better awareness of their bar path while also overloading a sticking point to address any strength limitations.
The pin press can be done for strength, muscle hypertrophy, or even during rehabilitation settings to regain strength and stability overhead.
How-To-Guide: Pin Press
- Set safety racks or pins at eye level, with a barbell resting on the pins.
- Step up to the barbell as you would when performing a strict overhead press.
- Brace the core, set your back, and press upwards to lock out the overhead press.
- Once you have established control overhead, lower the loads with eccentric coordination and set the bar back on the pins.
- Repeat for repetitions, making sure to not bounce or use momentum in the press.
4. Handstand Holds and Strict Handstand Push Ups
Whether you are doing handstand holds or strict handstand push ups; the shoulders, core, upper back, and triceps are demanded to produce high amounts of force, coordination, and stability.
Like the overhead carry, the handstand hold can be a great exercise to increase overhead lockout strength, muscle coordination, and improve overhead positional awareness and alignment necessary for movements like presses, jerks, and snatches.
Similarly, the strict handstand push ups can combine the benefits of the handstand hold with the pin press to create a functional strength and hypertrophy movement that has broad application to most strength, power and fitness sports.
How-To-Guide: Strict Handstand Push Up
- Place your hands roughly 8-12 inches away from a wall, so that your fingertips are facing the wall.
- Kick yourself upwards so that you are in the wall supported handstand position.
- Allow the elbows to bend inwards on a slight angle as you move downwards into the bottom position of the handstand push up.
- Maintain upper back and core stability.
- Press yourself up the wall in a vertical manner using the shoulders, triceps, and upper back; keeping your legs pressed together and core contracted.
5. Landmine Shoulder Press
The landmine shoulder press is an overhead pressing variation that can be used to increase shoulder, triceps, and general pressing strength while also increase scapular stability.
In addition to increased shoulder strength and scapular stability, this exercise can be used to address unilateral strength and stability issues, increase core stability, and reinforce anti-rotational strength of the obliques.
How-To-Guide: Landmine Press
- Set a barbell within the landmine holster, adding weight to the end of the barbell if can.
- Stand facing the barbell with the feet hip width apart.
- While grabbing the end of the barbell, the hand should be resting roughly at shoulder height with the upper back contracted and the elbow under the wrist.
- Set the core, extend the legs, and flex the glutes before initiating the press.
- As you press the landmine upwards and out front, be sure to not allow the shoulder to elevate while maintaining core stability in the press.
- Lower the load under control, focusing on scapular and core stability.