One of the most important rules of training for climbing is that the worst kind of training is the training the gets you injured.  However, an unfortunate reality of climbing is that it is really hard on our shoulders.  All of the overhead pulling combined with our tendency to hang incorrectly means climbers need to actively care for their shoulders to avoid injury.

However, not all injury prevention methods are equally effective.  Here’s an article by professional climber and chiropractor Natasha Barnes in which she makes a case for the barbell overhead press being the single most effective exercise climbers should be doing to care for their shoulders.

“A correctly performed overhead press is the single most useful strength training exercise for shoulder health in climbers.”

“Unlike other pressing variations it does not isolate one muscle or one joint, it uses the full kinetic chain to transmit force from the ground all the way up to the hands to press the bar overhead.” – Natasha Barnes

Why The Barbell Overhead Press:

As we stated above, there are loads of shoulder injury prevention exercises out there for climbers including those with resistance bands and light dumbbells.  While there is definitely nothing wrong with these exercises, Natasha believes that they are all less effective and less efficient at keep climbers’ shoulders injury free.  Here are the main reasons she prescribes the barbell overhead press:

  1. Pressing is a true antagonistic movement to all the pulling we do in climbing.
  2. As mentioned above it trains the entire body much like climbing.
  3. It keeps the shoulder balanced by training all the muscles around the shoulder including the rotator cuff.

Ultimately, Natasha’s goal with the barbell overhead press is to truly strengthen the stabilizing muscles around the shoulder while preserving range of motion and balance.  With an approach like this getting stronger is a form of injury prevention.

It is important to note, as Natasha does, that full body strength training exercises like this one are only effective when performed properly.  Take the time to learn the correct form otherwise your injury prevention work will quickly cause injuries of its own.

More From Natasha Barnes:

Click through below to read more about why Natasha likes the barbell overhead press so much.  While you are there, check out the rest of Natasha’s website  It is full of great articles in which Natasha shares her knowledge as a chiropractor and bodyworker to help climbers specifically.

Then, if you are in the Bay Area and are interested in working with Natasha in person, be sure to contact her at the Motus Rehab Clinic in San Francisco, CA where she practices.

Full Article: Natasha Barnes – Barbell Overhead Press

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(photo courtesy of | @natashabarnes |@climbingperformancetherapy)

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