Self-Assessments: Standing Shoulder Flexion

Learning how to perform self-assessments is a simple way to determine which exercises you’ll get the most benefit from and which exercises may be too risky. The assessment below is an easy way for you to check if your shoulders are ready to handle performing two of the most commonly utilized exercises on a weekly basis: the pull-up and the overhead press.

How to Do It:


What goes into performing well on the standing shoulder flexion test?

1. Your shoulder joint itself is able to move into an adequate range of shoulder flexion. Ideally, you want this to be 180 degrees.

2. Adequate amount of scapular upward rotation. According to Shirley Sahrmann, this number is 60 degrees. An easy way to judge this is to check if the inferior angle (bottom tip) of your shoulder blade can rotate to your armpit.

3. Demonstrate good rib cage and spine control. You do a good job using your ab muscles to make sure you don’t overextend your lower spine or flare your rib cage in the front.

4. You’re able to stay neutral with your cervical spine. Your head isn’t jutting forward, placing unnecessary stress on your neck.

Smarter Overhead Exercises

If you performed poorly on the standing shoulder flexion test, below are smarter exercise choices that will allow you to continue building upper body strength and size while you work on improving your mobility:

How to Increase Your Overhead Shoulder Mobility

If overhead presses and pull-ups are exercises you enjoy doing, and you want to be able to perform them safely, improving your overhead shoulder mobility is something you need to place a high value on. Increasing your mobility overhead relies heavily on four factors:

1. Your ability to inhibit and lengthen your lats and pecs

2. The strength of your serratus anterior and lower traps

3. The strength of your anterior core to prevent compensation in your spine and rib cage

4. The position of your spine, rib cage, and scapula and your ability to move these structures effectively

Exercises to Increase Overhead Mobility

In Summary

The more you learn how to adapt an exercise program to better fit your body, the healthier you’ll be and the more consistently you’ll be able to train, allowing you to reach your goals faster. A common mistake many lifters will make is performing exercises overhead when their shoulder joints can’t handle such motions, especially under load, and done repetitively. Before you go crushing pull-ups and overhead presses just because someone told you to or because you saw it in a magazine, be sure to assess yourself and find out if the exercises you’re performing are right for you.