Upper back flexibility for Pressing.

NormanOsborn

Level 5 Valued Member
When I first started training with Kettlebells, I was wary of doing any Overhead Pressing, as I was worried it would beat up my shoulders. Ironically, my shoulders were able to stand the pace - it was my upper back that started to hurt. Specifically the area around my left shoulder blade.

I'd really like to get back into Military Pressing; there's something incredibly satisfying about pressing a heavy KB overhead, with good form and brute strength. And there are a lot of excellent programs out there for Military Press: Rite of Passage, Soju and Tuba, GIANT, Red Zone. But obviously I want to to do it safely. Can anyone recommend some good upper back flexibility exercises to help Overhead Pressing?

Thank you.
 

Max.Sehr

Level 5 Valued Member
I have found the routine from this strongfirst article to improve my Overhead and upper back flexibibility:

This in combination with some light TGU,Windmills and some OS Resets and i think you are safe for some serious Pressung Programm.
Kind regards and Pressing Power to you!
 

James Sullivan

Level 5 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Can anyone recommend some good upper back flexibility exercises to help Overhead Pressing?
Have you considered a functional movement screen? FMS also has a free library of exercises which you can filter by pattern and position. For many of us the screen is a standard part of the onboarding process with new students.

 

barrak

Level 5 Valued Member
I have found the routine from this strongfirst article to improve my Overhead and upper back flexibibility:

This in combination with some light TGU,Windmills and some OS Resets and i think you are safe for some serious Pressung Programm.
Kind regards and Pressing Power to you!

Spot on recommendation, and thanks for link. I would just add the need for t-spine extension work, not just rotation; for example, t-spine foam rolling and dead hangs. Also, within the OS Resets you mentioned, I'm loving the Rocking reset with the key point of extending the neck/t-spine throughout the movement.

@NormanOsborn ... After getting fed up with recurring shoulder issues from overhead movements with a flexed t-spine (I reached a point where I can't even reach for a wide open driver's door without shoulder discomfort), I vowed not to do any more overhead presses until I've fixed my t-spine mobility... enough to be able to do presses from a squat position.

It took several months of dogged work, but I can do that now (sort of), and I just started doing a light routine of 1-arm, 5 presses + 5 overhead squats EMOM at the back end of my mace swings practice.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

@NormanOsborn
I would do:
- windmills or arm bars
- TGU
- Shoulders dislocates
- Skin the cat
- Grabbing your left hand with your right hand, in your back, but the left arm being over the shoulder / behind the head. The same on the other side.
- Some OA dead hang to balance things out

Full back bridge are also interesting

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
Spot on recommendation, and thanks for link. I would just add the need for t-spine extension work, not just rotation; for example, t-spine foam rolling and dead hangs. Also, within the OS Resets you mentioned, I'm loving the Rocking reset with the key point of extending the neck/t-spine throughout the movement.

@NormanOsborn ... After getting fed up with recurring shoulder issues from overhead movements with a flexed t-spine (I reached a point where I can't even reach for a wide open driver's door without shoulder discomfort), I vowed not to do any more overhead presses until I've fixed my t-spine mobility... enough to be able to do presses from a squat position.

It took several months of dogged work, but I can do that now (sort of), and I just started doing a light routine of 1-arm, 5 presses + 5 overhead squats EMOM at the back end of my mace swings practice.

Nice!

I find KB OHSQ to be harder the the BB / dowel equivalent from every aspect except load.
 

barrak

Level 5 Valued Member
BB font squats are also excellent for thoracic mobility and building the upper back.

If that's not an option, overhead squats with a stick, although those are more 'advanced', even with a near zero load.
BB front squats can be problematic with a flexed t-spine, not to mention the requisite wrist flexibility. Even the wrist-friendly kettlebell front squats were problematic for my then severely flexed t-spine... the bells would just spill over as I descend. Not anymore, thankfully.

As for overhead squats, they were much harder for me to control with a dowel than with a 15lb bar. I needed some weight to get sensory feedback when it threatens to spill forward.

@NormanOsborn ... I suggest you distill all the good mobility advice you received, assemble a 20-30 min daily custom routine which fits your needs and goals and stick to it for 6 months or so. I also suggest you film yourself on day 1 and again 6 months from now. You'll be amazed with the transformation. Here's my daily routine, with a star next to what I believe worked best for my t-spine:

Dead hangs *
Primal squats
Indian club casts
T-spine foam rolls *
OS rocking * <== This one is pure gold when done right... I go for it throughout the day.
Mace back pendulums *
Overhead squats with a stretched band
QL stretches over a yoga ball
Light windmills
Rib grabs and Bretzels
Light TGUs
Arm bars
One-arm overhead kettlebell squat
Double front squats
Barbell overhead squats

The last three were added much later as it took a long while before I had enough mobility to do them.
 

NormanOsborn

Level 5 Valued Member
Thanks for the responses, everyone - solid Gold, as usual. :cool:

I've decided that until I've fixed my mobility issues, I won't do any Overhead Pressing, tempting though it is. I'll stick to, "pure" S&S.

One thing I've noticed after doing S&S regularly is that my shoulders feel almost completely pain free.
 

Wyanokie

Level 1 Valued Member
Great info so far, and many of the aforementioned exercises were very helpful for me for increasing T-spine mobility.

One of the things that I did was added bird-dog and cat-cow cycles in with my OS-style crawling, which helped as well. The cat-cow cycles seemed especially helpful. YMMV.

I always found that my best results in rectifying shoulder issues and increasing overall mobility/ROM were from hitting c-spine, t-spine, shoulder and scapular mobility exercises during the same mobility session, as they work in tandem with one another.

Good luck!
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
BB front squats can be problematic with a flexed t-spine, not to mention the requisite wrist flexibility. Even the wrist-friendly kettlebell front squats were problematic for my then severely flexed t-spine... the bells would just spill over as I descend. Not anymore, thankfully.

As for overhead squats, they were much harder for me to control with a dowel than with a 15lb bar. I needed some weight to get sensory feedback when it threatens to spill forward.

@NormanOsborn ... I suggest you distill all the good mobility advice you received, assemble a 20-30 min daily custom routine which fits your needs and goals and stick to it for 6 months or so. I also suggest you film yourself on day 1 and again 6 months from now. You'll be amazed with the transformation. Here's my daily routine, with a star next to what I believe worked best for my t-spine:

Dead hangs *
Primal squats
Indian club casts
T-spine foam rolls *
OS rocking * <== This one is pure gold when done right... I go for it throughout the day.
Mace back pendulums *
Overhead squats with a stretched band
QL stretches over a yoga ball
Light windmills
Rib grabs and Bretzels
Light TGUs
Arm bars
One-arm overhead kettlebell squat
Double front squats
Barbell overhead squats

The last three were added much later as it took a long while before I had enough mobility to do them.

BB FSQ requires thoracic extension, which is the opposite direction of hunched.

That’s why it is such a powerful corrective.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
BB font squats are also excellent for thoracic mobility and building the upper back.

If that's not an option, overhead squats with a stick, although those are more 'advanced', even with a near zero load.
Very good advice, IMO.

I found I prefer OHS with an empty bar only because a stick doesn't give me enough feedback about the straight-overhead-ness of the bar but a little weight improves that. My approach in the past has been to do them with as wide a grip as I need, and over time strive to bring my hands closer together.

-S-
 

JamesPTA

Level 5 Valued Member
BB FSQ requires thoracic extension, which is the opposite direction of hunched.

That’s why it is such a powerful corrective.
I agree that it's a great corrective. I think where barrak was coming from is that people who already have a hunched back and poor mobility might not even be able to get into the correct position for FSQs. I think that with a few minor tweaks, and starting with a very small ROM would be a great corrective.
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
I agree that it's a great corrective. I think where barrak was coming from is that people who already have a hunched back and poor mobility might not even be able to get into the correct position for FSQs. I think that with a few minor tweaks, and starting with a very small ROM would be a great corrective.

Ah, yes....if one can't even hold the position with an empty bar or stick, regressions are needed for sure.

Many many years ago, when I first started working on thoracic extension, I found it helpful to practice lying down backwards on a foam roller (done properly).

 

marvinthemartian

Level 5 Valued Member
In addition to TGUs and Halos from S&S I have found neck nods while lying on my belly and being propped up on my forearms to be amazing for upper back and shoulder mobility. I had to be careful at first but once my neck became more mobile (didn't even know it was stiff) my upper back followed suit.

Overall the whole Original Strength Daily Reset has been great for mobility. Takes under 15 minutes a day. I do this one minus the naked get ups since I went back to S&S: Simple Daily Reset Restoration Plan | Original Strength
 
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