3 Tweaks to Make A Strength Program Overhead Athlete Friendly

1)Trade Barbell/Dumbbell Bench Press for Landmine Press Variations

-Often times the only difference I see in programming between say a football player and a baseball player is the swapping out of barbell bench for dumbbell bench.  While dumbbell bench does increase an athlete's need for unilateral stabilization, it still does not allow for adequate scapular mobility and upward rotation.  When the athlete is lying on their back, scapular upward rotation is greatly reduced.  This loss of scapular mobility causes other areas of the body to compensate, putting them at risk of injury. Landmine press allows the scapula to move properly on the rib cage, helping restore full function/mobility.  This position also develops anterior core/ anti-lateral flexion stability.

2)Swap Out Military/Overhead Press for Carry Variations

-It is very common for overhead athletes to lack shoulder mobility, most notably shoulder flexion.   (When imagining shoulder flexion, think of a football referee signaling that a field goal is good). Along with this lack of range of motion, overhead sports will create instability through the athlete’s shoulder.  Weakness and lack of mobility are a recipe disaster in humans and athletes in particular. Instead of compounding this already at risk joint with barbell or dumbell military presses, dumbell/kettlebell overhead carries are a great alternative.  This allows the athlete to build stability and strength through their shoulder by utilizing an isometric hold.  It also is a great opportunity to teach proper core bracing and posture while resisting lumbar extension and lateral flexion.


3)Substitute Goblet/ Front / Safety Squat bar Squats for Back Squats

-About 99% of the time I don't have my overhead athletes back squat with a barbell.  The amount of stress put on the shoulder during a conventional back squat is considerable, especially when considering that the health of this joint is already less than stellar in most overhead athletes.  While some may see this as being over cautious, I tend to think, "why risk it?"  Instead I utilize a goblet kettlebell/ dumbell(1) squat or a front squat variation, such as front squat w/ straps (2) or safety bar squat(3), that is comfortable for that specific athlete.  This allows athlete’s to reap the many athletic benefits of squatting, while avoiding unnecessary shoulder stress.

Joe Servais