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Why Overhead Strength is Life

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We often say they are related, but many times they are on polar opposite ends! Health and fitness usually share the same title, but ironically, we treat them so differently in real life. I hear it all the time, “that’s okay you didn’t have good form, you were just aiming to go really heavy!” Huh, what?! If there is any time that we should strive to be our best in technique is when we go heavy. 

Really that is what today’s blog is about. When we “go heavy”, “go hard”, “go beast mode”, we make excuses calling bad lifts good ones. That is why when people say that deadlifts, squats, and overhead presses are really awesome I have to put in my inevitable, eh…..

No, not to be difficult like some would imagine. Rather because like ANY exercise it has to do with HOW the exercises are executed. A great example is the overhead lift. There are few exercises that can tell us as much about our movement, health, AND strength as a well performed overhead lift. 


Overhead lifting (notice I didn’t say “shoulder pressing”?) requires some really important qualities. 

-Great upper body mobility in the thoracic spine and shoulders.

-Strong core stability.

-An understanding how to develop force from the ground.

-Good body awareness to use the lats, core, and glutes together to create stability and force. 


DVRT Master, Shauna Sevon showing off all those skills strongly!


You might be giving yourself a high five as you are already doing tons of overhead lifting huh? That MIGHT be awesome, but we have to know a bit more. 

Good overhead lifting is an extended plank so we need to make sure you have the right posture and position during the overhead press. As we all exercises, especially anything we do in the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system, it isn’t the task we are worried about, rather the intent. In other words, not IF you get the weight overhead, but HOW you attempt to do so. 

What is the right posture? In the cartoon below you will see how we have a line down our ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle when our posture is correct. When we have our arms overhead on during the process of getting the weight overhead this should NOT change!


Some will instantly want to accuse bad posture for the cause of bad overhead lifting, more than likely it is far from the whole story! Remember, I said that there were other qualities of strong overhead lifting. Let’s look at core stability.

There has been research to point that overhead lifting activates more core muscles than deadlifting and squatting. Yet, people fail on their core stability ALL the time when it comes to pressing weight overhead well. 


The young lady in the picture above is a great example. In fact, I remember coaching someone just like her during a DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training workshop in Florida. A really athletic and mobile young lady, believe she was a pole vaulter for her university in fact. When we got to pressing overhead, she did almost this EXACT compensation. 

Ironically, in speaking with her she has battled constant low back issues. The problem was she was losing her core stability all the time. She was so darn athletic she could still perform, but it was catching up with her health and ability to compete at a high level. 

If you don’t see what is happening, you can see the BIG arch in this young lady’s low back. We don’t know why this is happening yet (could be easily correctable), but what we do know is that because of the altered posture and position she is losing her core stability and placing a lot of stress in her lumbar spine. 

Going into this position is not the only loss of core stability. It can also happen to us to the side. The image below demonstrates this concept. 


I’m sure SOMEONE is going to email tell me, “..but Josh, it is heavy and you can lean if it helps you get the weight up!” Sure, if your only concern is getting the weight up then you can. However, I did say that in DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training we are far more concerned with HOW you get the weight up. Losing this lateral stability is not something we want to encourage because it is a major weakness for so many people. That is why Half Kneeling Arc Presses are so freakin’ awesome!

Okay, so you should look like an extended plank but if you are doing some of this stuff what should you do? There is one more thing we have to consider. That is learning how to drive our feet into the ground as we press the weight overhead. Yes, it is called a press, but in actuality we almost want to focus more on pressing our body down, than the weight “up”. 

This is totally weird to many, but doing so creates so much stability and for many cures a lot of the issues we addressed. Your core may not be firing because you have told it how to work! Your shoulders might be out of place and posture because your foundation is so unstable it can’t achieve the right position. Putting these pieces of the puzzle often result in a much better press which means you will actually get the results from it! Yea, that means no more achy shoulders, sore backs, but real strength that makes you move and feel better!

Learn the real power of health AND fitness in learning to use your body the natural way! Check out our DVRT workouts HERE and save 25% with coupon code “LABORDAY” for a VERY limited time!