Your Movement and Wellness Experts 608.351.3049
Overhead Lifting Guide

In this report about eliminating shoulder pain and keeping it away, we share 5 areas of education that we typically discuss with overhead athletes. The one common thread between all of these tips: you have to implement them.  It’s not enough to PLAN to save a little time in your workout for mobility, or to THINK about getting a technique & form evaluation from a professional. You need to DO these things.

5 Simple Tips to Get Rid of Shoulder Pain in the Overhead Athlete and Keep it Away!

  1. Make your Warm-Up About More than Just Blood-Flow

In order for the shoulder to function properly, it requires a degree of both mobility and stability. To facilitate this we need to make sure our warm-ups incorporate movements that both encourage full range of motion and activate shoulder stabilizing muscles.  Changing our verbiage from warm-up and cool down to “pre-workout” and “post-workout” may help us regard this time as more than just mindless movement to get blood flowing.  Arm circles and passive stretching just don’t do the trick.  Try this: add at least one part of a Turkish get up, trunk stability push up, and some rotational upper body movement to your pre-workout.  Not sure what those things are?  Check out some of the free workshops, learning opportunities and resources available from Dynamic PT, get to know a qualified fitness professional, or set up a free screen with your Dynamic Physical Therapist to learn more.

  1. Make Good Posture Part of Everyday Life

A lot of us are required to sit all day, which often times leads to a posture that is not compatible with our gym goals. When sitting frequently or without attention to our general body position we can develop a slumped forward shoulder posture and stiff rib cage, which can limit your overhead mobility. Try to pay attention to the position of body throughout the day; learn what a neutral pelvis, trunk and shoulder feel like and start working towards them.  You may need some corrective work on the hip flexors, rib cage, and muscles to loosen up any imbalances that are present.  For long-term management of posture and motion, incorporate your correctives into your pre-workout or post-workout routine.  All of the mobility work in the world won’t be sustained if posture is an issue for you.

  1. Get Your Range of Motion Checked Out

Sometimes we just cannot get into a position no matter what kind of warm-up we do or how much coaching we get. This is usually a sign that we need to work on our mobility. If you are doing overhead activity without the necessary ROM in your shoulders, you are likely compensating in other joints in order to attain the desired position, which can lead to pain or injury.  The key to diagnosing and fixing mobility issues lies in proper screening and assessment, with consistent follow-through.  The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) for pain-free dysfunction or the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) for painful mobility and/or stability issues is a great place to start.  Contact your movement professional to get an assessment and start improving your mobility ASAP.

  1. Make Sure your Stability Matches the Demand.

There are several groups of muscles that control the stability and movement of the shoulder; when these muscles are used incorrectly or are unable to activate due to imbalance, tightness or motor control problems, pain and injury can occur.  Your body was made with intelligent design; if you lack control through a full range of motion, you will often develop tightness to prevent you from trying to use what you can’t control. To prevent these issues, try to incorporate shoulder-stabilizing exercises such as rows (ring, renegade, or single arm), single arm cable or kettlebell work in various kneeling or standing positions, and weight-bearing stability (trunk stability push ups, dynamic planks, and kettlebell suitcase deadlifts) to your weekly routine.  Too much double arm barbell work without single arm accessory lifts is a recipe for disaster.

  1. Get Feedback from Your Coach, Therapist, and Self!

The importance of a good coach, trainer, and movement-savvy therapist cannot be emphasized enough.  Sometimes we need another set of eyes on us while performing our overhead movements to ensure that we are performing the movement correctly. No matter how much mobility and stability you have in your shoulder, if you are not performing the movement correctly you will eventually run into problems.  Along with these professionals, educating yourself and being aware of your weaknesses and tendencies can be key to implementing their feedback. 50 perfect reps can do a lot to strengthen and progress your goals; it’s the 10 less-than perfect reps that can hold you back and lead to problems.  Who are the key members of your movement team: A coach or personal trainer who can give you feedback, a physical therapist who knows you and your “movement projects” well and can ensure progress, and a variety of “a la carte” team members to suit your personal needs (massage, chiropractic, dietician, etc).  A great way to start is by doing a yearly or bi-yearly musculoskeletal exam with your physical therapist to get a baseline and some homework with a re-check or maintenance work as needed.


The KISS principle prevails again in this straightforward guide to keeping your shoulders functioning at their highest level in overhead motions.  Looking at your pre and post-workout routines, stability, coaching and posture in life can help your overhead lifts go from a weakness to a strength.  The key is identification, implementation, and follow-through.

If you liked the simplicity and usefulness of this guide, let us know what your interests and concerns are and we’ll get you the right information to start feeling and moving better.

Dedicated to being your resource for health & wellness,

Cait & Jake,

Dynamic Physiotherapy    

La Crosse   I   Onalaska  I  West Salem

About the Authors:

Jacob Salaba

Jacob is a CrossFit Level-1 Trainer, CrossFit Mobility Coach, Physical Therapy student, and has a passion for movement and fitness. Jacob primarily has worked with CrossFit athletes in helping them achieve their life goals through improved fitness and quality of life. In CrossFit there are many movements that demand a great deal of overhead mobility and stability such as the snatch, clean and jerk, pull-ups, muscle-ups, and many more. While coaching Jacob has gotten the privilege to help many athletes identify and eliminate deficits in their overhead movements.

Cait Larsen

Cait is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Owner of Dynamic Physiotherapy, LLC in La Crosse, WI, wife, mom and movement enthusiast.  Cait has experience with a variety of overhead athletes including Crossfit, Olympic Lifters, Swimmers, Volleyball Players, and Baseball Players.  One thing that unites this group of athletes is the need for overall trunk and shoulder management to avoid injury and perform at the highest level. We’re excited to bring you practical tips and ideas that can help you be a better version of yourself!