Shoulder to Overhead Workouts for Explosive Upper Body Power and Strength

These Shoulder to Overhead workouts will help you to build impressive upper body strength and pressing power. The Shoulder to Overhead exercise can be performed as a Strict Press, Push Press, Push Jerk or a Split Jerk. In its most basic form, the movement consists of simply hoisting the weight overhead from the starting position on the shoulders.

Shoulder to Overhead movements are most commonly found with barbell cycling, but the movement can be performed with any object that can be lifted overhead. Dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, logs or other odd objects are all great tools to use to develop your Shoulder to Overhead skills in different ways.

What Muscles are Worked by the Shoulder to Overhead Exercise?

Although its name would seem to indicate differently, the Shoulder to Overhead exercise is a full body movement. For the upper body, it works the following muscles:

  • Deltoids
  • Traps
  • Lats
  • Pecs
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Forearms

For the rest of the body, the Shoulder to Overhead movement requires the core muscles to work to stabilise the body and load. The glutes and legs must also be involved to properly coordinate the weight through the full range of motion.

How to do the Shoulder to Overhead Exercise

The following method features a barbell. As the Shoulder to Overhead movement can be performed with many different objects, adjust the grip, hand positioning and style to suit the respective weight that you will be lifting.

  1. Hold the weight in the front rack position
  2. Sit back with an upright torso
  3. Inhale and tense your core, grip and glutes
  4. Explode the barbell off the shoulders
  5. Shoot the hips slightly back to get under the barbell
  6. Punch the barbell overhead
  7. Squeeze the glutes and lock out the knees to finish
  8. Exhale and lower the barbell back down to the starting position
  9. Repeat

Shoulder to Overhead Standard

With proper form for the Shoulder to Overhead standard, the barbell starts in the front rack position with the elbows slightly in front of the bar.

The arms must be fully locked out overhead with the barbell over the middle of the feet and the legs/hips fully extended.

Shoulder to Overhead Training Tips

Use your legs to create a powerful drive that will propel the weight upwards

Make sure to punch your head forwards once the barbell has passe above your head. This will help to save the triceps from pressing the weight and fatiguing quickly.

If you need to move quickly, don’t pause the barbell in either the fully locked out overhead position or the starting front rack position. Explode the weight straight back up again after you return the barbell to your shoulders. As the bar descends from the overhead position back to the front rack position, re-dip the legs before the bar hits the shoulders. Then, the legs are already in the right position to drive the bar back overhead quickly. This will minimise the time taken whilst maximising the efficiency of every rep.

With this method it must be noted that although this method of barbell cycling will be faster, it will also speed up your heart rate. You should use this method intelligently depending on your goal.

If you ever hit plateaus in your training and you can’t seem to carry on increasing your strength, check out this excellent article with tips to help you diagnose the issues.

Shoulder to Overhead Workouts

With the following workouts you will find the weight in brackets after the exercise. The heavier weight is the prescribed version for men, and the lighter the suggested weight for women. Each workout also options for scaling the workout to suit any ability level.

WORKOUT 30

For Time

50-40-30-20-10 reps of:

  • Double Unders
  • Shoulder to Overheads (95/65 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. Perform the 50 Double Unders and 50 Shoulder to Overheads before moving on to 40 Double Unders and 40 Shoulder to Overheads and so on. Start the Shoulder to Overheads from the ground (do not use a weight rack).

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Shoulder to Overheads is completed.

Scaling

Replace the Double Unders with Single Unders.

Lower the weight of the Shoulder to Overheads.

WORKOUT 29

5 Rounds for Time

  • 5 Shoulder to Overheads (185/135 lb)
  • 10 Burpees

Each shoulder-to-overhead rep may be any type of jerk or press.

Scaling

Lower the weight of the Shoulder to Overheads.

WORKOUT 28

4 Rounds for Time

  • 14 Sandbag Front Squats (70/50 lb)
  • 25 foot Front Rack Lunges (70/50 lb)
  • 14 Shoulder to Overheads (70/50 lb)
  • 25 foot Bear Crawl with Single-Arm Drag (70/50 lb)

Wear a Weight Vest (20/14 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 4 rounds. Athlete must complete 14 Sandbag Front Squats, 25 foot Front Rack Lunges, 14 Shoulder to Overheads, and 25 foot Bear Crawl while dragging the sandbag from the ground. Perform all movements with a single sandbag. Wear a Weight Vest.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Bear Crawl with Single-Arm Drag is completed.

Scaling

Don’t wear a weights vest.

Use a lighter sandbag.

WORKOUT 27

For Time

  • 5,000/4,000 metre Row
  • Every 4 minutes perform 20 Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)

The athlete begins rowing until the 4:00 minute mark. The athlete gets off of the rower and performs 20 Shoulder to Overheads. After completing 20 reps, the athlete continues to accumulate metres on the rower. The workout is done when the athlete accumulates 5,000 m.

Scaling

Intermediate

For Time

  • 3000 metre Row
  • 20 Shoulder to Overheads (95/65 lb)*

*Perform every 4 minutes.

Beginner

For Time

  • 2000 metre Row
  • 12 Shoulder to Overheads (65/45 lb)*

*Perform every 4 minutes.

Intended Stimulus: This is a row heavy workout with shoulder stamina sprinkled in. Strong rowers will finish this workout in under 20:00 minutes. Most athletes should scale the workout to finish around 22:00-26:00 minutes. No athlete should go beyond 28:00 minutes.

Strategy: When getting on the rower, get the wheel going and settle in. Row at a pace that you would row your 2,000-metre row at. Pick a weight on the Shoulder to Overheads that you can do in one set while fresh. During the workout try to finish the shoulder to overhead in 3 sets at most.

SHOULDER TO OVERHEAD WORKOUT 26

4 Rounds for Time

  • 20 Shoulder to Overheads*
  • 15 Front Squats
  • 20 Box Jump Overs (24/20 in)

*Round 1: 135/95 lb

Round 2: 155/105 lb

Round 3: 175/125 lb

Round 4: 205/145 lb

Time Cap: 22 minutes

The weight for the Shoulder to Overheads and front squats will be increased after each round. Athletes must add their own weights.

Scaling

Use the following weights instead.

Round 1: 95/65 lb

Round 2: 115/85 lb

Round 3: 135/105 lb

Round 4: 155/115 lb

Replace Box Jump Overs with Box Step Overs.

Movement Standards

Box Jump Overs: Rep counts when athlete lands on other side of box. Only feet may touch the top of the box. Do not need to come to full hip/knee extension at top of box. May jump all the way over the box but feet must stay above the plane of the box. (can’t straddle box when jumping)

Shoulder to Overheads: Bar must be cleaned from the ground. Any STOH style: Strict/ push press/ push jerk/ split jerk. Rep is complete when hips/knees reach full extension Head must be visible “through the window” of the arms.

Front Squats: Hip crease below the top of the knee. Full extension of hips and knees at top of rep. May go straight from last STOH into FS. If bar is dropped- may squat clean first rep from the ground.

Notes: Athletes must load their own bars. Loads can be added at any time. Clips must be put back on outside of plates.

WORKOUT 25

EMOM in 13 minutes

EMOM stands for Every Minute on the Minute.

For every odd minute, perform:

  • 13 Hand Release Press Ups

For every even minute, perform:

  • 13 Shoulder to Overheads (115/75 lb)

Scaling

Replace Hand Release Press Ups with regular Press Ups or Press Ups on your knees.

Lower the weight.

WORKOUT 24

AMRAP in 15 minutes

2 Rounds of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 16 Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)

Then, 2 Rounds of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 12 Shoulder to Overheads (165/115 lb)

Then, 2 Rounds of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 8 Shoulder to Overheads (195/135 lb)

Finally, AMRAP in the remaining time of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 4 Shoulder to Overheads (225/155 lb)

Movement Standard

Pogo Jump Burpee: Chest and Thighs must touch the ground while facing the bar. A two-foot jump must take place. Once over the bar, a two-foot jump must take place to jump back over the bar.

Scaling

AMRAP in 15 minutes

2 Rounds of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 16 Shoulder to Overheads (95/65 lb)

Then, 2 Rounds of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 12 Shoulder to Overheads (125/75 lb)

Then, 2 Rounds of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 8 Shoulder to Overheads (155/95 lb)

Finally, AMRAP in the remaining time of:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 10 Pogo Jump Burpees
  • 4 Shoulder to Overheads (185/115 lb)

WORKOUT 23

For Time

100 Reps Total in any combination of:

  • Back Squats (185/115 lb)
  • Deadlifts (185/115 lb)
  • Shoulder to Overheads (185/115 lb)

Scaling

Reduce the weight.

WORKOUT 22 – DOTTIR

For Time

  • 12 Bar Muscle Ups
  • 21 Deadlifts (100/70 kg)
  • 9 Bar Muscle Ups
  • 15 Hang Power Cleans (100/70 kg)
  • 6 Bar Muscle Ups
  • 9 Shoulder to Overheads (100/70 kg)

“Dóttir” was created as a signature event WOD for the 2019 Reykjavík CrossFit Championship @reykjavikcrossfitchampionship. The workout was first demonstrated at the by Two-time Fittest Woman on Earth Annie Thorisdottir @anniethorisdottir and two-time Fittest Woman on Earth Katrin Davidsdottir @katrintanja, both of Iceland, in a head-to-head competition.

In the end, Annie Thorisdottir crossed the line first with a time of 4:18, though Katrin Davidsdottir was right on her heels with a time of 4:34.

Scaling

Replace Bar Muscle Ups with Pull Ups.

Lower the weight for the Deadlifts, Power Cleans and Shoulder to Overheads.

WORKOUT 21

AMRAP in 18 minutes

  • 15 Box Jump Step Downs (24/20 in)
  • 12 Shoulder to Overheads (115/75 lb)
  • 9 Toes to Bar

Good scores:

When it comes to scoring,

  • 14+ rounds or 504 + total reps is an excellent score
  • 12 to 14 rounds, 432 to 503 reps is a fair score
  • 12 rounds or under 431 reps is a poor score

Scaling

Lower the height of the Box for the Box Jump Step Downs.

Lessen the weight for the Shoulder to Overheads.

Swap Toes to Bar for Knees to Elbow or Sit Ups.

WORKOUT 20

AMRAP in 20 minutes

  • 3 Rope Climbs
  • 8 Shoulder to Overheads (135/85 lb)
  • 34 calorie Row

On a clock with 20 minutes and 20 seconds, complete as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the total number of rounds and repetitions completed before the clock stops.

Scaling

Exchange Rope Climbs for Lat Pull Downs

Lower the weight for the Shoulder to Overheads

WORKOUT 19

For Time

  • 10 Shoulder to Overheads (185/135 lb)
  • 20 Hand Release Press Ups
  • 15 Handstand Push Ups
  • 20 Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)
  • 15 Hand Release Press Ups
  • 10 Handstand Push Ups
  • 30 Shoulder to Overheads (75/55 lb)
  • 10 Hand Release Press Ups
  • 5 Handstand Push Ups

Use a single barbell. Athlete must change his/her own weight.

Scaling

Replace the Hand Release Press Ups with regular Press Ups or Press Ups on your knees.

Swap Handstand Push ups with Dumbbell Shoulder Presses.

WORKOUT 18

For Time

  • 30 Power Cleans (135/95 lb)
  • 20 Shoulder to Overheads (155/105 lb)
  • 10 Pendlay Rows (185/135 lb)

Use three barbells

Scaling

Lower the weights.

WORKOUT 17

For Time

  • 5 Overhead Squats (bodyweight)
  • 10 Shoulder to Overheads (bodyweight)
  • 20 Deadlifts (bodyweight)

Scaling

Reduce the weight to half bodyweight for each exercise.

SHOULDER TO OVERHEAD WORKOUT 16

EMOM in 20 minutes

  • 6 Alternating Dumbbell Deadlifts (50/35 lb)
  • 4 Alternating Dumbbell Squat Cleans (50/35 lb)
  • 2 Alternating Dumbbell Shoulder to Overheads (50/35 lb)

Remaining time in each minute, AMRAP:

Goblet March (L+R=1)

On a 20 minute clock, every minute on the minute (EMOM) perform 6 Alternating Dumbbell Deadlifts, 4 Alternating Dumbbell Squat Cleans, and 2 Alternating Dumbbell Shoulder to Overheads (50/35 lb). In the remaining time in each minute, perform Goblet March.

Score is the total number of repetitions completed before the 19-minute clock stops.

Movement Standard

Goblet March: Hold the dumbbell as if doing a Goblet Squat and march in place like a Lunge. Left leg then right leg counts for 1 rep.

Scaling

Lower the weight for each exercise.

Replace Dumbbell Squat Cleans for Squats with the Dumbbells resting on your shoulders.

WORKOUT 15

4 Rounds for Time

  • 25 Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)
  • 400 metre Run
  • 15 Barbell Thrusters (135/95 lb)
  • 400 metre Run

Scaling

Reduce the weight for the Shoulder to Overheads and Barbell Thrusters.

WORKOUT 14 – FRIDAY FUN FROM ANNIE THORISDOTTIR

Annie Thorisdottir is a 5x CrossFit Games podium finisher, 2-time Fittest Woman on Earth, and a senior coach at CrossFit Reykjavik

Three AMRAPs in 21 minutes

AMRAP in 3 minutes of:

  • 20 Gorilla Jump Squats
  • 40 Single Dumbbell Cleans (15/10 kg) (alternating)
  • 20 Gorilla Jump Squats
  • 40 Single Dumbbell Shoulder to Overheads (15/10 kg) (alternate every 10 reps)
  • 20 Gorilla Jump Squats
  • 40 Single Dumbbell Hang Snatches (15/10 kg) (alternating)

Rest 1 minute

Then, AMRAP in 6 minutes of:

  • Same as above. Resume where you left off.

Rest 2 minutes

Finally, AMRAP in 9 minutes of:

  • Same as above. Resume where you left off.

On a 21-minute clock, perform as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written. Do the 3-minute AMRAP then rest 1 minute before moving on to the 6-minute AMRAP (start where you left off after the first 3 minutes). Then rest 2 minutes before moving to the final 9-minute AMRAP (again, start where you left off after the 6-minute piece).

Score is the total number of rounds and repetitions completed before the 21-minute clock stops.

Tips and Strategy

Find a pace where you can keep moving throughout the workout and still be able to breathe. Try to control your heart rate, especially on the Jump Squats—your legs are going to burn, but you’ll get a break when you move on to the other movements. Instead of moving fast, think about limiting your breaks. Focus on one movement at a time. Figure out where on each movement you can catch your breath. If you stop, only stop for 2-3 breaths and continue moving.

Movement Standard

For the Gorilla Jump Squat, perform a standard deep Air Squat with both of your hands touching the ground (like a gorilla) and jump. Make sure there’s air between the ground and both feet.

Scaling

Use a lighter Dumbbell.

WORKOUT 13

21-15-9 Reps for Time

  • Power Cleans (135/95 lb)
  • Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)
  • Burpees

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. Athlete must accomplish 21 Power Cleans, 21 Shoulder to Overheads, and 21 Burpees before moving on to 15 reps of each movement and so on.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of burpees is completed.

Scaling

Lessen the weight for each exercise.

Swap Power Cleans for Dumbbell Swings.

SHOULDER TO OVERHEAD WORKOUT 12

Four 2-minute AMRAPs in 11 minutes

  • 15/11 calorie Row
  • 5 Hang Power Cleans (135/95 lb)
  • Max Unbroken Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)

Rest 1 minute between rounds

On an 11-minute clock, perform 4 rounds of 2-minute AMRAPs of 15/11 calorie Row, 5 Hang Power Cleans, and max unbroken Shoulder to Overheads.

In the Shoulder to Overheads, athlete has one attempt to complete as many repetitions as possible in one go. Rest 1 minute between rounds.

Score is the total number of repetitions completed before the 11-minute clock stops.

Scaling

Lower the weight for the Hang Power Cleans and Shoulder to Overheads.

WORKOUT 11

AMRAP in 25 minutes

1 Rope Climb (4.5 metres)

6 Pull Ups

6 Front Squats (60/40 kg)

4 Shoulder to Overheads (60/40 kg)

Scaling

Exchange the Rope Climb for Lat Pull Downs.

Perform Banded Pull Ups or Ring Rows instead of Pull Ups.

WORKOUT 10

AMRAP in 20 minutes

  • 16 Deadlifts (135/95 lb)
  • 12 Hanging Power Cleans (135/95 lb)
  • 6 Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)
  • 49 metre Overhead Carry (135/95 lb)

At 3-2-1-GO, begin performing rounds of the barbell complex of deadlifts, hanging power cleans, Shoulder to Overheads, and overhead carries. Use the same weight for all movements.

Scaling

Intermediate

AMRAP in 20 minutes

  • 16 Deadlifts (95/65 lb)
  • 12 Hanging Power Cleans (95/65 lb)
  • 6 Shoulder to Overheads (95/65 lb)
  • 49 metre Overhead Carry (95/65 lb)

Beginner

AMRAP in 20 minutes

  • 16 Deadlifts (65/45 lb)
  • 12 Hanging Power Cleans (65/45 lb)
  • 6 Shoulder to Overheads (65/45 lb)
  • 49 metre Overhead Carry (65/45 lb)

WORKOUT 9 – TRAINING AT HOME

10 Rounds for Time

  • 30 V Ups
  • 10 Weighted Lunges
  • 10 Shoulder to Overheads
  • 10 Deadlifts

Use whatever equipment available.

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 10 rounds.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of the Deadlifts is completed.

Scaling

Swap V Ups for Sit Ups.

WORKOUT 8

4 Rounds for Time

  • 40 Double Unders
  • 12 Shoulder to Overheads (135/95 lb)
  • 12 Back Squats (135/95 lb)
  • 12 Burpees

Scaling

Switch Double Unders for Single Unders.

Lower the weight for the other exercises.

WORKOUT 7

3 Rounds for Time

  • 9 Shoulder to Overheads (155/105 lb)
  • 19 Press Ups
  • 29 Burpees
  • 39 Double Unders

Scaling

Reduce the load for the Shoulder to Overheads.

Switch Double Unders to Single Unders.

WORKOUT 6

4 Rounds for Time

  • 10 Overhead Squats (95/65 lb)
  • 10 Box Jumps (30/24 in)
  • 10 Shoulder to Overheads (95/65 lb)
  • 10 Wall Ball Shots (20/14 lb, 12/10 ft)

Scaling

Lower the weight for each object used.

Change Box Jumps to Box Step Ups.

Reduce the height of the target for the Wall Ball Shots or perform Air Squats.

WORKOUT 5

5 Rounds for Time

  • 7 Squat Cleans (165/115 lb)
  • 7 Shoulder to Overheads (165/115 lb)
  • 7 Burpee Pull Ups
  • 2 minutes Rest between rounds

Use a pull-up bar that is 6 inches above your max reach when standing.

Scaling

Lessen the weight for each exercise.

Switch Burpee Pull Ups to Burpees.

WORKOUT 4 – PAY THE MAN

For Time

  • Buy-In: 1,000 metre Row
  • 5 Squat Clean to Overheads (185/125 lb)
  • 15 Pull Ups
  • 4 Squat Clean to Overheads (185/125 lb)
  • 12 Pull Ups
  • 3 Squat Clean to Overheads (185/125 lb)
  • 9 Pull Ups
  • 2 Squat Clean to Overheads (185/125 lb)
  • 6 Pull Ups
  • 1 Squat Clean to Overhead (185/125 lb)
  • 3 Pull Ups

Complete the 1,000 metre Row before moving directly to the 5 Squat Clean to Overheads, 15 Pull Ups, etc. until all the prescribed work is completed.

For each Squat Clean to Overhead, start with the barbell on the ground and complete a full clean. Once standing with the barbell in the rack position, either press or jerk (either is allowed) the barbell into the overhead position.

SHOULDER TO OVERHEAD WORKOUT 3 – PARTNER TRAINING

For Time (with a Partner)

  • 90 Pull Ups
  • 90 Shoulder to Overheads (95/65 lb)
  • 90 Front Squats (95/65 lb)
  • 90 Burpees

With a running clock, with one partner working at a time, perform the prescribed work in the order written as fast as possible. Partners switch as needed.

Score is the time on the clock when the 90th Burpee is completed.

Scaling

Lower the weights.

WORKOUT 2 – PARTNER TRAINING

For Time (with a Partner)

  • Buy-In: 2,000 metre Ski Erg

Then, 15 Rounds of:

  • 12 Dumbbell Thrusters (2×50/35 lb)
  • 10 Stone Over Shoulders (100/70 lb)
  • Cash-Out: 3,000 metre Bike

*Every 7 minutes, perform 22 Burpees (each)

Time Cap: 40 minutes

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. Athletes must accomplish the 2,000 metre Ski before moving on to the 15 rounds of dumbbell thrusters and stone over shoulders. If you don’t have a Stone, use a Dead Ball, Sandbag, or other odd object.

After the 15 rounds, athletes must accomplish the 3,000 metre Bike.

Score is the time on the clock when the bike is completed.

WORKOUT 1 – PARTNER TRAINING

AMRAP (with a Partner) in 40 minutes

Every 2 minutes, perform:

  • 8 Wall Ball Shots (20/14 lb)
  • 8 Deadlifts (40/30 kg)
  • 8 Power Cleans (40/30 kg)
  • 8 Shoulder to Overheads (40/30 kg)
  • Max Calorie Row (in the remaining time)

One partner works at a time. You go, I go style.

From 0:00-2:00, Partner A does 8 Wall Balls, 8 Deadlifts, 8 Power Cleans, and 8 Shoulder to Overheads, then max calories on the Rower. Then, from 2:00-4:00, Partner B does the same. Continue switching every two minutes until the 40-minute clock stops.

Score is the sum of the total number of repetitions and calories completed by both partners.

Scaling

Switch Power Cleans with Dumbbell Swings.

Lower the weights for the other exercises.

Reduce the height of the Wall Ball Shots target.

Building Powerful Functional Strength with Shoulder to Overheads

A highly functional and useful exercise, Shoulder to Overheads allow you to work with a variety of different training tools and objects in order to improve your full body strength, skill and conditioning.

They are applicable, useful and transferable for other outdoor fitness activities such as kayaking, climbing and swimming. They teach the body to stabilise, balance, generate power and augment considerable back, core, shoulder, arm and chest strength.

Want more workouts? Check out these articles and learn how to develop your legs, abs, arms and core.