3 Simple Drills to Improve Your Overhead Lifts and Handstands
It’s no secret that the hours we spend at a desk each day leave most adults with limited shoulder extension and range of motion. The tight muscles in the biceps and chest (pec minor), play a BIG role in keeping the shoulders chronically tight, making overhead positions especially difficult or inaccessible.
But here’s your relief! To help resolve tight shoulders and increase the range of motion in your overhead lifting mechanics, try implementing the following three drills into your daily routine.
Not only will these simple drills help you get a handle on daily desk related aches and pains, but they will also help you improve your athletic performance.
DRILL 1: Mobilize the Shoulders
Sit down on the floor and place your arms behind you. With your palms down and pinky fingers touching, walk your shoulders as close to the ground as possible. Perhaps a little tight? This position where your arms are moving away and behind your body is called shoulder extension. The reason you are tight is also because shoulder extension range of motion is not something traditionally trained by many athletes and coaches in the fitness industry.
If you would like to take advantage of this huge athlete and coach oversight and turn it into a simple hack to improve your handstand, overhead lifts, and reverse desk patrol dysfunction… read on for the next two drills.
Progressions from the GB Online Courses are your ticket to an improved, more mobile upper body.
DRILL 2: Rock That Table
From here we add a bit of movement to the aforementioned position by performing an exercise called Table Rocks. From the same seated position, bend your legs and plant your feet firmly on the floor about hip-width apart. Reach your arms behind you with your palms down, your hands shoulder-width apart as well, and retract your scapula by pulling and pinching your shoulder blades together and down.
Inwardly rotating and contracting your glutes, push your hips as high as possible (ideally in line with your shoulders or higher from a side view), while also aiming to keep your shoulders vertically stacked over your wrists once again. Many people (men especially), will feel this stretch in their chests, which is a sign of a tight pec minor muscle (the muscle right at the top and side of your chest, next to your armpit).
Pause at the top for a brief moment, then lower slowly back to the seated position. Repeat for the desired amount of reps or time.
DRILL 3: Reverse Your Plank
Sit down on the floor, legs together and straight out in front of you and place your arms behind you, again, keep your hands shoulder-width apart (this might be narrower than you think).
Pinch your shoulders together and down while you squeeze your glutes together toward the ceiling once again. Having a partner double check that your shoulders are stacked vertically over your wrists is always ideal to make you have correct positioning for this last drill (or take a video of yourself on your phone or tablet).
Over time, in addition to mobilizing tight muscles in the chest and arms, the Reverse Plank hold will strengthen your triceps in preparation for further handstands and will be beneficial to other gym work like lifting.
Remember, it took years of a sedentary lifestyle and improper movement patterns to cause these muscles to be tight and it will take weeks and months of consistent, dedicated effort to loosen them up and improve this position.
Patience is the secret to improved handstand position and overhead lifting while impatient training can lead to bicep irritation and tendonitis, so be sure to consistently accumulate volume at lower intensities before attempting more advanced progressions.
If you found these drills to be helpful, or the idea of mobilizing your tight spots has piqued your interest, be sure to check out the GB Stretch Series and also the Manna work from the Foundation Series for more progressions you can implement into your routine to aid in the health of your shoulders as well as overhead strength.