Shoulder-to-Overhead: It Only Goes Up From Here

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by LARRY PASTOR

In the shoulder-to-overhead series, the first lift that probably comes to mind is the shoulder press. On some days — and depending on the weight —  it seemingly takes your entire body to move any weight close to your body overhead. The truth is that it does take your entire body to move that weight overhead; it is that quality that makes the shoulder-to-overhead lifts important for building core and shoulder strength, as well as developing power and speed.

Shoulder Press, Push Press, and Push Jerk

The legs gradually become more involved in the movement as you progress from shoulder press to push jerk.
These 3 lifts are what constitute the shoulder to overhead series. In an old-school CrossFit HQ video, original firebreather Greg Amundson demonstrates each movement:

If you move your eyes from left to right, you’ll see that the legs gradually become more involved in the movement as you progress from shoulder press to push jerk. What’s happening is that as you progress from shoulder press to push press to push jerk, the athlete is using more core-to-extremity movement to move the load overhead. CrossFit HQ, in their shoulder-to-overhead article, describes this core-to-extremity movement as “the power zone.”

The Power Zone

Did you know? The increased use of the legs & hip drive increases your overhead capacity by ~30% more.
In the CrossFit Journal article “Shoulder Press, Push Press, Push Jerk-The Overhead Lifts,” the author describes the “power zone”  as the region of  the body where core-to-expremity movement emanates.  The muscle groups which comprise this “power zone” include the “the hip flexors, hip extensors (glutes and hams), spinal erectors, and quadriceps.” CrossFit Magnitude and Lincoln Park CrossFit both write about the importance of the power zone in the shoulder-to-overhead movements. Lincoln Park CrossFit explains:

The progression (from shoulder press to push press to push jerk) also increasingly relies on the power zone. In the shoulder press the power zone is used for stabilization only. In the push press the power zone provides not only stability, but also the primary impetus in both the dip and drive. In the push jerk the power zone is called on for the dip, drive, second dip, and squat.

CrossFit Magnitude cites the CrossFit Journal article:

As the athlete moves from shoulder press, to push press, to push jerk, the importance of core to extremity muscle recruitment is learned and reinforced. This concept alone would justify the practice and training of these lifts. Core to extremity muscular recruitment is foundational to the effective and efficient performance of athletic movement.

More Legs = More Weight

With any shoulder-to-overhead movement, remember to be full of air when you are pushing upward. It is difficult to move weight when your body and core are loose.
As one progresses from the shoulder press to the push press to the push jerk, an athlete should be able to move more weight overhead. How much weight, exactly? 30 percent more, according to some experts. CrossFit SouthBay, in their shoulder-to-overhead article, claims that “If done correctly, an athlete should able to push press 30% more weight than the shoulder press. Similarly, a push jerk max should be about 30% heavier than a push press max.”

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