Impact of Posture on Overhead Lifts

How many of you run out of work at the end of the day, excited to get to the gym? And how many of you get there and find that your shoulders feel ridiculously stiff trying to complete overhead lifts?

You’re not alone – it turns out that daily posture at work can impact your ability to lift overhead. Read on to find out:

  • How posture impacts overhead lifts
  • What you can do throughout the work day to help

What does my posture have to do with it?!

When you raise your arm overhead, it does not move in isolation the entire time – this motion also leads to movement at the shoulder blade and spine. One of the requirements for full overhead arm motion is extension (or backward bending) of the joints in the mid-back. Try it yourself: sit in a very slouched position, and try to raise your arm up high. Then move into a more upright posture, and raise your arm again. Much easier the second time around, right?

With a typical desk job, we tend to spend our day in a slouch, or a flexed position. If we stay in this slouched position for hours and hours every single day, we may make it harder or even lose the ability to move in the opposite direction. If the spine becomes stiff or loses the ability to move into extension, then it is much harder to not only reach but also lift heavy weights over the head. 

The spine, in particular the mid-back, needs a certain amount of mobility to optimize lifts like shoulder presses, overhead squats, and more. It’s an often overlooked area that, when neglected, can lead to compensations at the shoulder or low back. These compensations may eventually lead to injuries in those areas – something I’m sure you’d like to avoid!

What can I do to help with this? 

Keeping the above in mind, also note that it is not necessary to stay in an extremely upright posture all day, every day. Our bodies are meant to move, so any posture that is maintained for 40 hours per week is not an ideal one. Ensure you are changing your posture, and standing up to walk or stretch frequently throughout the day. In addition, try out the exercises below for more focused upper back mobility.

The following 2 exercises can very simply be integrated into your day to reduce the effects of prolonged forward positions. The goal of these exercises is to improve upper back mobility in the direction opposite the slouch. This will make it easier to reach and lift overhead! Making a point to do one or both of these each day will improve motion, reduce stiffness, and  prime your shoulders for maximal gains in the gym. In addition to these back mobility drills, a more specific shoulder mobility warm-up can be done prior to lifting. Give these a try and let us know what you think!

Seated thoracic extension

Foam roll series: used to open up the chest and improve upper back mobility. 

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