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Easy 4 Exercise Progression to Return to Overhead Pressing After a Shoulder Injury

Shoulder pain is one of the most common, and most frustrating, issues that many people deal with during their fitness journeys. It often limits training whether people want to just work out at their local gym, try an obstacle race, do CrossFit classes, or compete at an elite level for their sport.

Many times when coming back from an episode of shoulder pain, people are really nervous about trying to get back to overhead pressing exercises. These can range from simple dumbbell or barbell pressing to complex movements like snatching or handstands. If not approached with the right exercise progression, pain often creeps back and causes ongoing issues. It can be really tough for coaches and athletes to tackle, especially when it keeps causing someone to heavily modify or miss workouts.

My good friend Dan Pope and I are fortunate that we have helped hundreds of people recover from shoulder injuries, and successfully get back to the fitness exercises they enjoy training. One of the key components of this is a slow return to overhead pressing load using step by step exercise progression. The 4 exercises we suggest people use are,

  1. Reverse Bear Crawling
  2. Half Kneeling Landmine Overhead Press
  3. Half Kneeling Dumbell Press
  4. (Once 90% Symmetry Close) Standing 2 DB Press with 3 Second Eccentric

We wanted to share this with everyone to help, so here is a short 4-minute video that walks through why we love this progression.

After this 4 exercise progression, things really open up to more exercises depending on the person’s end goal. Some people just want to lift dumbells overhead, some people want to do Olympic Lifting, and others want to work handstands. Despite that, these 4 exercises are pretty much our bread and butter for getting people back to overhead pressing.

The concepts behind this progression have widespread applications and are relevant for all other types of shoulder exercises like push-ups, bench pressing, pull-ups, and more. These important progressions are just the tip of the iceberg.  Dan and I have been working for the last 2 years putting our thoughts together for how people can get rid of their shoulder pain and get back to high-level training. Our new monster online course is called “Peak Shoulder Performance“, and we are excited to say it was officially released.

The release came with a HUGE positive response from the fitness and medical community. Here is what world-renowned Physical Therapy Dr. Mike Reinold had to say


“Peak Shoulder Performance is an amazing resource for rehabilitation specialists, strength coaches and even fitness athletes themselves that want to truly understand how the shoulder works and why shoulder pain is so common.  Unfortunately, traditional rehab often misses the boat by not understanding the unique demands of the high level fitness athlete.  Luckily Dan and Dave have been working with high level athletes for years and have finally put together their process on how to return from injury and also preventing future injuries from occurring”.


Here’s what Jason Leydon (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach / Owner of CrossFit Mildford and Coach to 2nd Place CrossFit Games Team 2015) had to say


“Dave and Dan have undoubtedly created an amazing course.  This is something that all gym owners, coaches, and athletes should have.  Movement is number one, and if you are looking to create loyalty, and bring the best possible service to your athletes, then this is where you need to start”.


We deal with so many shoulder problems on a regular basis that we knew we had to unleash this one to the community.  There are a lot of shoulder rehabilitation programs out there but nothing that caters to athletes, coaches and therapists like us.  We aren’t just trying to get out of pain.  We’re trying to get out of pain and get back to training.  We want to win that powerlifting meet, get back to push jerks or just be able to hit the gym hard over time without worrying about shoulder issues.

We designed the program to benefit therapists, coaches and athletes alike who deal with shoulder injuries.  We want you to not only understand your own shoulder injuries better but to help others, whether you’re a coach attempting to keep your athletes healthy or the therapist who’s directly working with people to get them out of pain.  We go over:

  • Functional anatomy of the shoulder
  • Common shoulder injuries: subacromial impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tears, biceps tendon issues, bursitis, AC joint injuries, upper body strain injuries and labral tears
  • Common mechanisms of injury – learn exactly why we believe these injuries are occurring so we can prevent them
  • Technique advice on the major lifts (bench press, push-ups, dips, pull-ups, snatch, jerk, overhead press) for not only performance but joint health
  • Advanced rehabilitation strategies to help bridge the gap between stage 1 rehabilitation and high-level performance
  • Progressive exercise plans to take your athlete from being unable to perform a push-up due to pain back to push jerks and muscle-ups
  • Programming and training strategies to help athletes return to training and stay healthy in the long term with case studies to help you understand the process in real time
  • Maintenance programs over the course of the year to keep you and your athletes safe and performing at top levels.

The program dropped in October 2017, and has already had over 400 sign ups without a single refund requested.  (click here to learn more)


Definitely chek it out, and I hope you have a great week!

Dave Tilley DPT, SCS, CSCS

CEO/Founder of SHIFT Movement Science