Is Your Overhead Press Hurting Your Shoulder?

I’ve had some conversations with people lately about nagging shoulder injuries. After taking their exercises into consideration and taking a look at their form, I believe that the kettlebell overhead press is the culprit that is preventing little tweaks and strains from fully recovering.


When I took a closer look at the form that was being used, I noticed that almost all of them were losing the tight squeeze of the rack position.

Allow me to go over in detail the rack position and how it relates to overhead pressing and keeping a healthy shoulder.

The Rack Position

Once you clean the kettlebell up to the rack position, the bicep must be pulled in tightly to the body. The inside of the upper arm should rest against and be tucked along the rib cage.

The wrist should be turned in so that it is facing toward you and the thumb really close in as well. When I am teaching the rack position, I tell people to press the thumb against their collar-bone.

All too often, I see people trying to hold the kettlebell in the rack position with the kettlebell resting over their shoulder, the elbow pointing out to the side, and their wrist cocked back from the weight of the kettlebell.

Now holding it that way is all kinds of sloppy, but most importantly, it places a lot of strain on the elbow joint and rotator cuff muscles.

The Overhead Press

When you don’t hold the kettlebell properly in the rack and try to press it overhead your core muscles and your back muscles aren’t sufficiently engaged to assist in the pressing movement. The result is that the shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff, bears all of the weight and stress of the movement.

Not only are you missing an opportunity to engage a lot more muscles and thus receive more work and greater benefit from the movement, but you are compromising your safety by placing too much strain on a small muscle.

By pressing up from the proper rack position, you are able to squeeze your abdominals and draw strength from your core to assist you in the press. Additionally, pressing from a tight rack allows you to fully engage that big muscle in your back called the latissimus dorsi.

Shoulder pain with overhead press

Try it out and you’ll notice right away that you can press a lot more weight overhead with a lot less discomfort in the shoulder.

Form Is Everything

When it comes to getting the most benefit out of an exercise, form really is everything. Using proper form will not only help you get stronger, but will also help prevent injuries from happening.

Do you have any nagging little injuries that seem to be hampering your fitness goals? Take a real good look at your form and see if you can spot something that might be contributing to your discomfort. Maybe I can help. Feel free to discuss it in the comments below!

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