Workout of the Day

Overhead, Underappreciated


Overhead movements are something of a forgotten piece of the puzzle in many fitness circles. Many trainers view the movements as dangerous or unnecessary, some are scared off due to misunderstanding or poor education, and others simply do not see the benefits. In our world of strength and conditioning, however, going overhead is a centerpiece in building a better mover. We press overhead, we squat overhead, we invert, we throw overhead, we receive overhead, and we carry overhead.

First and foremost, overhead movements provide us with a litmus test of sorts for healthy shoulders. We see countless cases of individuals entering our ranks without the ability to raise their arms straight overhead without some massive compensatory fault in midline position of joint alignment. Going overhead is hard, and that’s part of why we love it. It requires a healthy degree of flexibility, anterior-posterior stability and balance, and strength in oft-neglected muscle groups. Add the requirement of putting any considerable load overhead, and the demands on shoulder and back stability and strength are amplified, as well as heavy demands on core strength. Asking a student to move into an overhead position is our way of determining what work needs to be done to improve shoulder health and function, and training the overhead movements is our way of constantly pushing the needle on these adaptations. If you can’t reach your arms overhead without hyperextending your low back, this isn’t a reason never to go overhead; it’s a reason to hunt down and resolve the missing pieces of flexibility, core stability, and strength so that we can. The challenge of the overhead position is not a reason to abandon it in favor of something easier. It is our opportunity to pursue it in our mission to create better movers.

Overhead movements also challenge and train the body to work as a system. Practically speaking, putting a weight overhead is placing it at the absolute furthest distance from our base (our feet on the ground), and going from ground to overhead is the greatest distance we can possibly move a weight against gravity without it leaving our hands. All of this contributes, then, to the fact that overhead movements challenge the body to work as a system: to involve every joint in the body, to create stability from head to toe, to generate force from core to extremity, and to train the body to work as a system in which every piece must work in conjunction to successfully accomplish a task.

Finally, going overhead is a function of sport. And while you may not be interested in pursuing any high-level athletics, or your sport of choice may not ask you to press a weight overhead, we have no interest in passively sitting by and letting the capacity to safely and effectively move overhead dwindle away because its relevance in sport escapes the average observer. Whether it’s the defensive lineman heading off against an opposing backer, the thrower hurdling a heavy javelin, the swimmer pulling her body through the water with maximal force and speed, or the weightlifter catching the heavy barbell overhead, sports demand the shapes and systematic functions of going overhead. Even if our lineman never finds himself in a position that looks like an overhead press, or our swimmer never pushes a heavy weight away from her body in her sport, the demands of the movements of sport share countless common threads with the demands of moving overhead, and thus these movements have secured their place in our toolbox for building a better athlete.

- PS


  • Spend 12 minutes working on inversion skills (handstand holds, push-ups, handstand walking)


  • “Jackie”

  • For time:

    • 1000m row

    • 50 thrusters (45/35)

    • 30 pull-ups