Overhead Training for Overhead Athletes


If you are an overhead athlete, a thrower, tennis player, swimmer, volleyball player etc. you need to use strengthening exercises that involve overhead movements. This is another myth that seems to pervade the exercise community and has definitely sprinted in to the athletic development community. You need to pay close attention to how you get overhead. You must get hip to the shoulder. Cheat and use the legs and tilt the trunk to get the arm overhead. I stay away from seated overhead pressing because you cannot get proper trunk tilt and you cannot use the legs to help connect the shoulder to the hip. In season I tend to stay away from straight bar benching, because the bar locks the hand in one position. Instead I use dumbbell bench and it various permutations, with dumbbells you can accommodate and adjust hand position to alleviate any stress on the shoulder. I do also avoid behind the neck pull downs, use front pull downs instead. A key here is to avoid adding stress to stress to stress. For example during periods of high volume throwing, hitting in volleyball or yardage in swimming the amount of overhead lifting is significantly reduced. I usually make up that volume in rotational medicine ball work and more emphasis on hip mobility. It is important to have your greatest emphasis on upper quadrant strengthening precede this high volume overhead periods to sufficiently prepare. Also during these times pay more attention to pec, lat and psoas stretching. (Please note I did NOT say more stretching of the shoulder joint) Keeping those areas supple will enhance hip to shoulder connection and reduce stress on the shoulder. The shoulder is a remarkable mobile joint that needs a lot of help to do its job properly, that help comes from the trunk and the hips. If you do not strengthen using the overhead movements you are selling out. Lets also not forget proper mechanics. Put the whole body in position for the arm and shoulder to produce and reduce force optimally. Good mechanics is related to how you get the arm overhead. That is the topic of another post.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
RT @GreatestQuotes: Your aspirations are your possibilities. - Samuel Johnson - 4 years ago
Vern Gambetta

Latest posts by Vern Gambetta (see all)