Prakash U. asks...
Overhead Press Question.
Lifting any weight over my head, even light dumbells, quickly hurts my lower back. Started looking into why... When I raise my arms over my head the following happens:
- My rear traps feel squeezed and try to keep my arms in front of my head
- My lower back caves inward so the weight is not supported by a straight back anymore (hyper-extended)
This 2nd problem occurs during non-lifting life e.g. when I'm standing for more than 15 minutes without leaning, when I'm carrying one of my kids and standing still, carrying a moderately heavy backpack, even when I'm sitting with my feet on the floor - I usually need to lean back, or fold one leg and sit on it so my lower back doesn't cave inward, etc. So I would really like some suggestions.
Question for you - what can I do about it. I've heard it could be tight lats and weak abs, wanted to hear your thoughts.
If the barbell moves in front of you instead of going straight up every time you Overhead Press, that almost always means you have bad posture and limited shoulder flexibility. "Kyphosis" is common with guys who sit a lot working behind a computer like me and maybe you. Look at the picture below.
Your lower back arching on each rep (or your head moving forward) is your body compensating for this lack of shoulder flexibility. Not only does this increase the risk of lower back (and neck) injuries, it also prevents you to Press big weights: it's like a Front Raise when the bar doesn't go up in a straight line.
Tight lats are indeed part of the problem, so the simple solution is to stretch them and fix your Quasimodo posture. Here 3 exercises you can do...
- Thoracic Extensions - get a foam roller and work your upper-back. Try to wrap your upper-back around the roller. Expect this to hurt.
- Wall Lat Stretch - shoulder-blade back & down, keep your head neutral, sit back and let your lat stretch. Foam roll your lats while you're at it.
- Squat 2 Stands - first exercise is to improve thoracic extension, this one is to increase thoracic rotation (it will stretch your hips too).
Good-old Shoulder Dislocations to stretch your chest wouldn't hurt either. How much? The more frequent, the faster your posture will improve so at least daily and as part of your warm-up before you do StrongLifts 5x5.
Your hips could also be tight because excess upper-back rounding is usually associated with hyper-lordosis, so stretch your hip flexors too. And grip the bar wider when you Press, it will be better for your neck. The rest is technique: just press the bar overhead in a straight line, don't let it go to the front.