9 Essential Overhead Stability Exercises To Build Shoulders

Overhead stability exercises can help you to improve your upper body strength and prevent shoulder injuries.  

In this article we’re going to suggest some great exercises that will help you to maintain a strong overhead position and improve the health of your shoulders.  

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting out with strength training, overhead stability exercises can be a valuable addition to your workout routine. 

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By incorporating our recommended exercises into your workouts is the best way to improve your overhead strength and build strong and stable shoulders.

In time, this will make many activities encountered in daily life, such as carrying your groceries, much easier.   

What Is Overhead Stability?

Overhead stability is to be able to press a weight load overhead and maintain this position.  

When it comes to overhead shoulder stability, understanding the anatomy of your shoulder joint and shoulder girdle is crucial.

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint that allows for a wide range of motion.  It’s also the most mobile joint in the human body.

However, this mobility makes it more prone to injury, especially when lifting heavy weights overhead.  

That’s why it’s important to have a strong and stable shoulder girdle which better supports your shoulder joint.

Your shoulder girdle is made up of your shoulder blades (scapula) and your collarbone (clavicle).  

shoulder girdle

Your shoulder blades play a crucial role in overhead stability by helping to provide a stable base for your shoulder joint to move from.

It acts as an anchor point for many of the smaller muscles that help to move your arm and shoulder.

If you have weakness or instability to your shoulder blades this can lead to shoulder impingement.  

This is a condition where the tendons and muscles around the shoulder joint become compressed, causing pain and discomfort. 

Overhead stability exercises can help to strengthen the surrounding muscles that support your shoulder blades.  

This can help with injury prevention and reduces the chance of developing common shoulder related conditions.  

Core Muscles Role In Overhead Stability

When it comes to overhead pressing and stability, having a strong core is essential.  

Your core muscles provide a strong foundation for your upper body, so that you can maintain proper form and stability during overhead lifts. 

Your core muscles, which include your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles, work together to help stabilize your spine and pelvis.  

When you perform overhead lifts, your core muscles must be engaged in order to keep your spine in a neutral position and prevent excessive arching or rounding of your lower back.

This is important because any deviation from a neutral spine can put unnecessary stress on your back and increase your risk of injury.

shoulder pain in gym

It’s important to incorporate core exercises into your training routine.  

Some effective exercises include planks, Russian twists, and bird dogs.

These movements will target your core muscles and help to improve your overall stability.  

In time, this can lead to a better performance during overhead lifts.

The stronger your core muscles are the easier it is to engage these muscles and maintain the correct form during complex pressing exercises such as overhead squats.  

Overhead Stability Exercises

By incorporating specific exercises into your workout routine, you can help to improve your overhead stability.  

The main muscles worked during our suggested exercises will target the rotator cuff muscles, scapular stabilizers, and surrounding muscles to help you develop a stable and strong upper back and shoulders.  

It’s important to note that if you have any pre-existing shoulder injuries or are new to strength training, we recommend that you seek the advice from a qualified personal trainer who can advise on the correct exercise program based on your needs and abilities.  

Below are some of the best exercises that you can perform to help improve your shoulder stability overhead and build strong shoulders.  

Banded External Rotation with Abduction

This exercise will help to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and can be performed using a dumbbell or resistance band.  

This in turn offers better stability to the shoulder helping you to maintain correct form during overhead pressing movements.  

deltoid rotation exercise
  1. Take a resistance band and anchor it to a door so it’s at chest height.
  2. Stand facing the door and take hold of the end of the band with your left hand.  
  3. Position your arm it’s bent to a 90-degree angle and parallel to the floor. Your elbow should be in line with your shoulder.  
  4. From here rotate your shoulder backwards.
  5. At the top of the movement your hand should be pointing up towards the ceiling and your forearm facing the door. 
  6. Slowly rotate your shoulder forwards so that your lower arm moves back to the starting position.  

Banded Pull Aparts

This is a very low impact exercise, often performed in physical therapy programs, that can be performed by anyone no matter what their fitness levels are.  

Using resistance bands help you to perform specific movement patterns whilst applying gently resistance throughout the entire range of motion. 

Banded Pull Aparts
  1. In a standing position, hold a resistance band with both hands. 
  2. Position your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing the floor. 
  3. Keeping your arms straight, move your arms out to your sides and pull the band apart.
  4. Squeeze your scapular muscles together and slowly return your arms back to the starting position.  

Kettlebell Halos

This exercise is a great way of moving your shoulders through a very wide range of motion helping to increase mobility.  

As you’re holding a kettlebell whilst performing this movement, the resistance will also increase overhead stability and shoulder strength. 

Kettlebell Halos Exercise
  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart and holding a kettlebell with both hands at chest height. This is your starting position. 
  2. Brace your core and begin to rotate the kettlebell around and to the back of your head.  
  3. Move in one circular motion until the kettlebell is back to the start.  
  4. Perform this movement again but rotate the kettlebell back the other way. 
  5. Continue repeating this for the desired number of reps. 

Overhead Plate Holds

This exercise is an isometric hold and is a great way of building strength and stability throughout the shoulders and upper body, especially the core muscles. 

Overhead Plate Holds
  1. Begin by standing with feet shoulder-width apart and holding the edges of a weight plate with both hands. 
  2. Carefully, press the plate up and straight overhead. 
  3. Your feet should be directly under your hips. 
  4. Keep your core and quadriceps engaged to help with stability. 
  5. Keeping your ribcage and push the plate up towards the ceiling. 
  6. Maintain this position and keep your elbows locked out for between 30 to 60 seconds. 

Landmine Press

The landmine press is an effective exercise for developing overhead stability and strength.

It involves pressing a barbell attached to a landmine from a variety of different angles.

This exercise targets the rotator cuff muscles and surrounding stabilizers while allowing you to use heavy weights.

If you don’t have access to a landmine attachment you can wedge the end of your barbell into the corner of a room.  

You can also perform this exercise either seated or in a kneeling position. 

Landmine Push Press
  1. From a standing position, grab the end of the barbell with both hands and bring it to chest height. 
  2. Take a small step back and lean in slightly to the barbell.  
  3. Pass the bar over so you’re now holding it with just one hand. 
  4. Keeping your elbow out, press the barbell up and overhead.
  5. Pause briefly at the top of the movement then lower back to the start.  

Z Press

The Z press is one of the most challenging overhead exercises that requires a lot of core stability and upper body strength.  

It’s made difficult due to the sitting position which removes the momentum that is sometimes created when performing a standard overhead barbell press.   

This exercise targets the scapular stabilizers and upper back muscles.

  1. Start by sitting on the ground inside a squat rack or power cage.  
  2. The barbell should be positioned just beneath shoulder height when you’re sitting.
  3. Keep your legs out wide and back straight to give you stability. 
  4. Unrack the bar with an overhand grip and hold it to your upper chest.  Your palms should be facing the ceiling. 
  5. Press the barbell straight up and overhead.  
  6. Pause briefly before lowering back down.  

Snatch Push Press

The snatch push press is an explosive exercise that targets the entire upper body.

It involves using a barbell to perform a push press while simultaneously rotating your wrists to catch the bar overhead in a snatch grip.

This exercise is great for developing overhead stability and power.

Snatch Push Press
  1. Begin in a standing position whilst holding a barbell across the tops of your traps.  
  2. Keep your elbows tucked under and palms facing forwards.
  3. From here dip at the knees and drive hard into the floor with your legs whilst simultaneously pressing the weight up overhead.  
  4. The aim is keeping the barbell moving as fast as possible during pressing. 
  5. Hold for a second before lowering the bar back to your shoulders.  
  6. Reset for the next repetition. 

Sots Press

The Sots press is a challenging exercise that requires a lot of coordination and stability.

This exercise targets the entire upper body and is a great way to develop overhead stability.

Sots Press
  1. Start with a barbell resting on your back and hands holding the bar with a wide grip.  Your palms should be facing away from you. 
  2. Keep your feet at shoulder width apart with your toes pointing out slightly.  
  3. Push your glutes back and bend at the knees to lower yourself in a deep squat position.  
  4. Make sure to keep your head and chest up and feet remain flat on the floor. 
  5. With your heels down and knees in line with your toes press the bar up in a straight line.  
  6. Maintain your form throughout the movement. 
  7. Hold at the top position before lowering the bar back to your shoulder and repeating.  

Wall Slides

Wall slides are a low impact exercise great for improving shoulder mobility and stability.  

This exercise targets the scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff muscles.  

It’s important to try and keep your back and glutes pressed into the wall throughout this exercise.  

  1. Stand against a wall keeping your back flat against it for support. 
  2. Place your arms up and against the wall so they form an L position. 
  3. Your elbows should be in line with your shoulders and wrists directly above your elbows. 
  4. Drive your glutes, core and upper back into the wall. 
  5. From this position slide your arms up and try to lock out your elbows. 
  6. Hold briefly then slide back down the wall to the starting position.  


Incorporating overhead stability exercises into your workout routine can help to increase your shoulder strength and stability, improve overhead performance in WODs, and develop a strong overhead position. 

These exercises can also benefit your overall balance and core stability whilst reducing shoulder pain.  

In addition to traditional overhead movements, exercises such as overhead carries can help develop shoulder stability and strength while also improving balance. 

It’s important to focus on maintaining the correct form during all the exercises mentioned above and remember to start with light weights and progress gradually to avoid injury and maximize results.

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