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Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Overhead

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Overhead

Know Your Boundaries...

If you do any type of training there is a high probability that you are spending time in the overhead position. In most cases, whatever the training mode is, full overhead motion is required. When it is not required… you should still have full availability anyway. We love to give our athletes simple ways to check available motion so they know if they have enough motion to complete the WOD with good movement quality, little restriction, and no compensation. 


If you are dealing with pain in the shoulder you should already be thinking you probably have a limitation. Most often the limitation is in the joint itself. The two most common areas are the inferior joint capsule and the posterior joint capsule. Without getting too nerdy a brief explanation of what the joint capsule is looks like this:


The joint capsule is dense fibrous tissue that surrounds the joint and holds everything together. The rotator cuff blends into the joints capsule and together they work to create stability in the shoulder.


But the shoulder is not the only thing that can limit your overhead position. Here are some of the other things we have found that can limit overhead mobility, stability, and function depending on which movement you are doing:


  • Muscles in and around the shoulder.
  • T Spine
  • Cervical Spine
  • Fascia
  • Pelvis Dysfunction
  • Stiff Ankles
  • Limited Hip Mobility

Any one of those restriction could be playing into your pain, movement limitations, and stiffness through certain movements. If you want to dig deeper into which restriction is holding you up and how to fix it click the button at the bottom of the page to schedule an appointment! 

Back to the shoulder

If the required amount of mobility is not there it is time to perform some mobility and muscle activation drills to improve overall movement, or– its time to scale or modify the movement to prevent compensations that will lead to pain or injury. The key to doing this is simply this:

1. Do you know what the movement SHOULD look like?
2. Do you know what the move SHOULD feel like?

If you can answer yes to both of those you are well prepared to protect yourself from injury. Especially if you can check your ego at the door. If you movement does not look right you can put some work in to make it look better. If it doesn’t feel right you can put some work in to make it feel better. If you put some work in and it still doesn’t look and feel better- Scale. This doesn’t mean go from one movement to another like pull up to ring row, either. It just means find a way to do the prescribed movement inside your own physical boundaries. To do this you have to be constantly aware of what your boundaries are while constantly trying expand those same boundaries. 

Compensation is what happens when you move beyond your current boundaries of mobility, strength, capacity, or movement control. Here are the compensations you will see when you blow through an overhead boundary:

  1. Bent elbows rather than locked out overhead
  2. Elbows that flare rather than move in a straight plane
  3. Arching the spine
  4. Heavy knee bend during the D portion of a kip

If you identify with some or all of these it’s time to figure out your restriction, learn how to resolve it, dial into what you movement should look and feel like, ultimately so you can move well and become resistant to injury.

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