Overhead Pressing – Why is it so HARD???

My nephew is a master of the overhead press – here’s how you can do it, too!

Overhead pressing is a challenge for a lot of people because:

  • It requires good shoulder mobility: Our typical modern lives tend to create a stiff shoulder joint because we don’t require a lot of range of motion there.
  • It works somewhat smaller (and therefore, weaker) muscle groups in the upper body, so it just doesn’t feel as good as some lower body movements (like squats).
  • It’s scary! – You can’t see where the weight is going! And I commonly hear from clients about the fear of dropping the weight on their heads.

And all these reasons are exactly why I LOVE coaching this movement – Overhead pressing empowers people to feel flexible and strong!

It’s important to build mobility in your shoulders first, before attempting to press heavy weights overhead. This ensures you’re using your larger, stronger primary muscles, rather than overworking smaller, stabilizer muscles (like your rotator cuff).


Wall Angels

    • Do a mini squat against a wall and engage your core muscles so that your lower back isn’t pulling too far away from the wall.
    • Raise straight arms up overhead, palms face out
    • As arms slide down, bent your elbows slightly and attempt to keep the back of your arms against the wall the whole way
    • For a more intense version, try this on the floor while lying lengthwise on a foam roller

Doorframe Chest Stretch

  • Use a narrow doorframe to stretch both shoulders and step through, or use a pole or corner of a wall to stretch one side at time.

Child’s Pose – Hands on Bench or Chair

  • Kneel a little more than arm’s length away from a bench or chair, knees slightly apart
  • Let hands rest on bench just wider than shoulder width and sit butt down and back into heels, letting chest and head hang through arms
  • Hold and try again with different hand position (wider, narrower, etc)

Shoulder Circles (use broom/mop/rake handle, long towel, or resistance band)

  • Start with hands extra wide – just narrow enough to let bar pass overhead
  • Keep elbows straight so the stretch happens through the shoulder joint
  • If this was easy, bring hands narrower a few inches a try again
  • If you are extra tight, use a stretchy resistance band and work your way up to using a bar or non-stretchy towel

Bent Elbow Lat and Tricep stretch

  • Stand tall grabbing elbow behind head
  • Lean away from stretching arm continuing to hold elbow
  • You should feel this in the back of your upper arm (triceps) and under your armpit down your torso (lats)
  • Repeat on the other side


Before picking up weight, master these bodyweight movements. Once they feel easy, use them as a warm up before overhead pressing.

Reach, Roll, and Lift

  • Forward fold and rest elbows at knees (if your knees hurt in this position, perform this sitting in a chair, leaning forward onto a table)
  • Reach right arm forward, straightening elbow all the way
  • Roll palm up
  • Lift ENTIRE arm up (not just the forearm) using the upper back/shoulder
  • Slide elbow back to knee and repeat on the left

Superman Overhead Press

  • Keep legs straight and lift off ground using glutes
  • Lift chest off ground using low back
  • Touch thumbs to shoulders then press overhead
  • Keep neck/chin neutral

Superman Overhead Press with PVC Pipe

  • Use a broom, wooden dowel, or PVC pipe
  • Same set up as the superman press, keep bar behind head

Dumbbell Overhead Press

  • Create a solid foundation by standing tall, engaging your core, quads (thighs) and glutes (butt)
  • Start dumbbells in neutral position (palms facing each other) at shoulders
  • Press in a straight line overhead, so that at the top position, elbows are straight (but NOT hyperextended) and biceps are in line with your ears
  • Keep pulling your rib cage down towards your hips to engage your core and protect your low back

Barbell Overhead Press

  • Once you feel confident with dumbbells of equivalent weight to a barbell (check barbell weight, as they can vary) try the barbell
  • At the bottom position, keep elbows slightly out in front of the bar to create leverage for pressing
  • Pull your head out of the way by creating a double chin as bar is passing in front of face, then go back to regular position after.

9 Basic Foam Rolling Moves

Not sure how to use the foam roller? Here are 9 ways to add it to your warm up, cool down, or mobility routine.

Spend about 30 seconds on each area, each side so if you do all 9 moves, it should take you about 10 minutes.

Curious about what foam rolling is and what it does? Check out this article.


  • Keep foot relaxed
  • Rock leg side to side while slowly working from the ankle to the knee
  • (optional) add pressure by stacking other leg on top

Hamstrings (back of thighs)

  • Keep leg relaxed
  • Rock leg side to side while moving from knee to bottom
  • (optional) add pressure by stacking other leg

Quads (front of thighs)

  • Keep leg relaxed and limit pressure by using your other knee and elbows for support
  • Starting from knee, roll up and down 3 inches, then rock side to side 3 times, then bend your knee 1-3 times. Perform the rolling, rocking, bending in several spots while working up to your hips

IT band (side of thighs)

  • Starting at your hips, work down to knee by rolling down 3 inches, up 1 inch; down 3 inches, up 1 inch, etc.
  • Keep knee slightly bent
  • Keep weight slightly forward onto side and front of thigh

Adductors (inner thighs)

  • Roller parallel to your body
  • Start at inner knee, work in to groin by rolling in 3 inches, out 1 inch; in 3 inches, out 1 inch, etc.

Glutes (bottom)

  • Prop up right ankle on left knee, lean into right glutes

Upper back

  • Roll with hands behind head
  • Hug yourself while rolling to get between shoulder blades (skip this if you have neck pain)

Lats (sides of torso)

  • Lay at a slight angle with roller under armpit
  • Roll up and down
  • Rock side to side


  • Lying lengthwise on roller, keeping low back neutral
  • Reach arms up and over, drag elbows down to sides
  • Repeat slowly 10 times

What was the tightest area for you?

Super simple fitness advice

I recently heard this interview with personal finance expert, Harold Pollack, about how he wrote all his financial advice on a single index card.

Brilliant! I thought. We all tend to get caught up in the details when it comes to topics like personal finance, but most of it can be simplified into actionable steps for anyone to understand and do.

And of course, I immediately saw the similarities between personal finance and fitness:

  • Both can seem out of reach because some elements are out of your control (your genetics, the stock market, unforeseen circumstances)
  • Lots of misinformation, “magic bullets” and snake oil salesmen, making it really tough to trust any source.
  • Both topics have been vastly over complicated for the average person’s needs and most people don’t know where to begin.

What if I could try and get all my fitness advice onto an index card?

Here it is – did I miss anything? (written out below)

NOT active? Move your body in a way you enjoy 1x/week. Ready for more? Add another day or another activity.

Already active? Build and maintain enough strength, flexibility, and cardio to move well (as YOU define it).


  • Squat, hip hinge, push, pull, using equipment you like;
  • Front/back, side/side, diagonal directions
  • Bilateral and unilateral (single arm/leg) variations.


  • Speed/power (short sprint burst, then rest long enough to recover and repeat);
  • Tempo (semi-intense burst, then low intensity or rest); and
  • Endurance (low intensity over long time without rest).


  • Pain-free acceptable range of motion for ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, neck
  • Stretching, foam rolling, corrective exercises to address issues

***Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not punishment for what you ate!***

This list can serve as a great starting point for your own research, or a conversation with fitness professional who can give you more detailed, prescriptive actions personalized to your needs.

Smart moves with dumbbells

Keep it simple!

Dumbbells are an excellent way to add resistance: They are found in most gyms and are usually more available than machines. Find a small area and you’re ready for a full body strength session!

Goblet Squat – Strengthen your legs, hips, glutes, and core

  • Dumbbell against chest
  • Elbows to the insides of your knees
  • Drive knees apart
  • Weight in heels

Reverse Fly – Stabilize your shoulders and prevent rotator cuff injuries

  • Body in deadlift position OR supported on an incline bench
  • Relax neck and upper trap muscles
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together, keeping slight bend in elbows

Deadlift – Build lower back and glute strength

  • Reach hips backwards
  • Keep chest tall, shoulders packed down away from ears
  • Low back remains flat, not rounded

Lunge row – Engage mid and upper back muscles, arms, and core

  • Long lunge stance, back foot turned out
  • Left elbow on left knee
  • Right elbow reaching up and back (then repeat on other side)

What’s your go-to dumbbell move?

Lunch Break Strength Session

Don’t have time to work out AND shower during your lunch break?

This workout is designed to maximize your strength building and minimize cardiovascular conditioning (more muscle action, less heavy breathing).

To do this, KEEP YOUR REPETITIONS LOW (8 reps or less) and INCREASE THE DIFFICULTY (by adding weight or trying movements at a greater intensity level).

Bulgarian Split Squat (5-8 each leg)

  • Use support for balance the first several times you try this
  • Keep the front knee BEHIND the toe
  • Keep torso vertical
  • Add depth, before adding resistance (dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance band)

Pushups (5-8 reps)

  • Do FEWER reps than you might normally do, but use a table/bench/chair that is LOWER than your normal height.
  • If you don’t have a taller tabletop to use, try knee pushups, but touch your chest to the ground
  • If you can already do several regular pushups, try negatives: Go super slowly on the way down, then quick and powerfully on the way up.

Glute Bridge with HOLD (5-10 each leg)

  • HOLD at the top for at least 5 seconds and SQUEEZE as hard as you can (note that the animation above does not show the hold)

Rows (6-8 reps)

  • Use a heavier band or weight than you normally do, but reduce the reps
  • SQUEEZE the shoulder blades together, keeping shoulders down
  • If you don’t have access to a band or weights, try the superwoman or I,Y, and Ts

Hope you enjoy your lunch break workout!


Energize: Quick pick me up workout

It may seem counter intuitive to exercise when you’re feeling tired, but movement may be just what you need to increase your energy level.

(Not sure if you just need rest? Check out this post on intuitive exercise).

Do a few rounds of the following moves to get your blood flowing and brain re-set for the rest of the day!

10 Squats

(bodyweight, or add a resistance band, kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell)

INHALE on the way down

EXHALE on the way back up

10 Jumping Jacks

I’s, Y’s and T’s (5 each)

  • Thumbs up to the sky
  • INHALE as you bring arms down;
  • EXHALE as you squeeze arms up overhead, over shoulders, and out to sides

10 Mountain Climbers (10 on each leg)

  • Keep shoulders over hands; prevent hips from popping up and down
  • Try doing them on elevated surface before progressing to the floor
  • Change speed to your desire

Enjoy your workout pick-me-up!

Do you have FOGA Syndrome? (Fear of Getting Active)

FOGA Syndrome, Fear of Getting Active, is characterized by a paralyzing sense of doom of further injury or pain with any type of movement or activity.

OK, this is just something I made up – a bit of exaggeration on a real topic inspired by this post I just read.

I see it all the time – people who hold themselves back because they are “prone to injury,” “imbalanced;” have “tight shoulders,” “glutes won’t fire.” They define themselves by the list of dysfunctions found by their doctors, physical therapists, and trainers are all saying the same thing.

The health professionals say you need to be treated, corrected, reprogrammed, repaired, reconditioned. What many professionals leave out during these consultations are all the things a person still can do, despite their condition.

So what people really hear is, “I need to drop everything and focus on fixing this one thing.” They shift to all or nothing / black and white thinking: “My PT told me I should take a break from running, so I’m not going to do anything.”

I’m NOT saying that there is no such thing as injury, pain, or imbalances in our bodies that can vastly limit our movement. But if you choose to focus only on the areas of limitation, your identity starts to get wrapped up in the “I am broken” mindset. And the “I am broken” mindset only begets more pain and injury via lack of physical activity.

What I wish I could tell everyone who has been told some variation of “you need to be fixed” is:

“Keep working on the source of your injury/pain/dysfunction, but don’t let that stop you from finding other ways to move your body.”

Otherwise, that dysfunction becomes a part of your identity, or your “invisible script” that will play over and over in your head every time you attempt to get out there and move your body.


Please do not be paralyzed by fear that you are damaged, fragile, or unable to continue with activity. If you’re unsure how to find something that works for you, start slowly and gently and find a professional who can balance the line between keeping your safe and encouraging you to progress in whatever ways are important to you.

And most of all, keep moving in a way that feels enjoyable to you!

More Core

Ready to try some core strengthening exercises that aren’t the plank?

(And if you DO want plank ideas, check out this post).



  • Hands under shoulders, knees under hips
  • “Pack” shoulder blades down into back
  • Brace core and pull knees 1 inch above the ground

Once you can hold the quadraped for 30 seconds, try these challenging variations:

Quadraped opposite hand and foot lifts

Quadraped bird dog

V-Sit / Boat pose

On a bench or chair:

On the ground (progressed version):


  • Sit up tall, low back extended
  • Lift feet off the ground

Once you can maintain a V-sit on the ground for 30 seconds, try extending your legs:



  • Brace core and reach opposite arm and heel to ground
  • Do not let low back move up and down – keep it in it’s original, neutral position

After you’ve mastered the bent knee deadbug, straighten your legs and try again.

Leg raises with overhead press


  • Legs up in “tabletop” position (hips and knees both at 90 degrees)
  • Push overhead against wall and feel your core engage
  • One at a time, tap heel to ground
  • Like the dead bug, do not let your low back move

For some more challenging variations, move both legs at the same time, then extend your legs straight.

Which exercise made you feel your core the most?

Ask Coach Jean: How do I stay motivated?

Coach Jean: I’m really good when I start a new exercise program, but after a few weeks or months, I lose all motivation and can’t seem to get it back. How do I stay motivated?

Quick Summary

To create a consistent exercise routine, use the fleeting “motivation” emotion to get you started, but don’t rely on it long-term. Build your exercise habits around autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Self-Determination Theory), and continually re-evaluate how your habits reflect your values and self-care needs.

How to Start

Understand first that motivation is an emotion, just like any other, that ebbs and flows.

If you want to exercise consistently (or do anything consistently, for that matter), you cannot rely on the fleeting “motivation” emotion. Instead, you can ride the wave of the initial motivation to feel excited about a new goal, but long term, you’ll need to rely on habit building.

Habit building is way more boring and way less sexy than motivation. It’s doing something small (which can be progressed over time), preferably at the same time each day, repeating it over and over, until it becomes a part of your unconscious decision-making .

The other component to creating an exercise habit is understanding why, on a deeper level, some habits are easy to create, but others just don’t seem to stick. Why were you able to go to that awesome Spin class regularly years ago, but not anymore? Why does the Body Pump class frustrate you rather than make you feel powerful like you do in yoga?

A well-researched psychological theory called the Self Determination Theory (SDT) says we need 3 things to change our behavior and create new habits that stick:

  1. Autonomy – ability to make our own decisions based upon our circumstances and our values (which change over time)
  2. Competence – knowledge, experience, confidence, and just the right amount of challenge to improve ability to perform a skillset or activity
  3. Relatedness – connection to others and sense of belonging to something bigger than one’s self – sense of greater purpose and meaning

If your exercise habit includes all these components, you’re much more likely to be feeling joy during exercise. Joy not only in the fact that you are exercising regularly (meeting the extrinsic/external motivation “goal”) – but exercise can give you joy in the moment (intrinsic/internal motivation).

For more on how to bring the joy back into exercise, check out this post.

Take a look at the habits or activities you’re currently trying to start. Do they meet any or all of these SDT (Self-Determination Theory) criteria? 

Let’s use the example of walking:

You decide you want to start walking as a form of exercise and you use a FitBit to motivate you. At first, you love it – you enjoy the thrill of seeing how many steps you can accumulate in a day. But after a couple weeks, you’re demotivated because you rarely are able to hit 10,000 steps, your right foot has a mysterious pain, and your family makes passive aggressive comments when you leave after dinner to get your remaining 5,000 steps instead of spending time with them watching your favorite TV show. Within 2 weeks, your FitBit has found its way to the junk drawer. How can we use SDT (Self-Determination Theory) to build this walking habit?

First of all, why do you want to walk?

I want to walk to be healthier.

Drill down a few times: Why do you want to get healthier?

Because I want to have energy to do well in my job and raise my family.

Why is having a job and raising kids important?

I enjoy the challenges of my job, and I love being a part of my family.

(You can drill down even further)

How can we use SDT to create a sustainable walking habit?

10,000 steps might be way too much with your busy work and family schedule. You need the autonomy to say, “No! My goal right now is 2,000.”

You may also need a coach or a friend who has been successful doing this to help you create a plan (develop competence) and ensure your stride, foot placement, and footwear are appropriate for the miles you’re putting in to prevent injury.

Lastly, you can start holding walking meetings with co-workers and enlist family and friends to join you for regular walks during the week – getting them on board makes it fun (relatedness) and you’re promoting a healthy community around you!

Top Tips

If you’re considering starting an exercise habit or program, make sure it incorporates SDT elements:

  1. Are you doing this based upon your own values and self-care needs? Does the program include modifications based on your circumstances and situation? (Autonomy).
  2. Does the program start with the basics, teach you skills and increase the challenge over time so that you can continue to grow? (Competence)
  3. Do you interact with other people, get feedback, ask questions, share triumphs and challenges? (Relatedness)

If the program doesn’t, can you hire a coach or talk to a friend that’s mastered this skill? Can you join an online or in-person group that you can check-in with regularly? Sometimes the program can simply be supplemented with additional support, sometimes you might need to find a different solution.

Resources ; overview of the theory, research and everyday application; podcast, articles, and more relating to motivation and creating habits

How to Apply Intuitive Eating Principles to Exercise

New to Intuitive Eating? Check out more about it here, here and here.

Many people on the body-positive/IE/HAES (Health at Every Size) journey quickly find that the diet mentality is also deep-rooted in exercise and fitness culture.

If you have a difficult relationship with exercise, it can get better! Just like you can make peace with food, it’s absolutely possible to make peace with exercise too! Below are the Intuitive Eating principles, interpreted from a fitness/exercise point of view.

What principles resonate most with you?

Reject the diet mentality

The diet mentality applied to the fitness world is that exercise exists to lose weight, get lean, or build muscle.

Exercising without regard for your mental and emotional health can lead to cycles of over training, injury, movement restriction, then mental/emotional turmoil from not being able to work out.

End the cycle by changing your intention: Moving for pleasure and self-care.

In addition,  there’s the belief that exercise (and “eating well”) is part of an overall obligation to “be healthy” and if you don’t do it, you’re lazy or morally inferior. The truth is that your physical health is not wholly under your control and judgement towards yourself and others is counterproductive to holistic wellness – you cannot guilt yourself or others into improving health.

Get curious about your thoughts around exercise to lose weight and “get healthy.” What judgments are you making about yourself and others regarding weight and health? Is it possible for you to exercise as an act of self-care and pleasure?

Honor your energy (Honor your hunger)

Remember when you started eating intuitively and you couldn’t always figure out how your body told you it was hungry? The same might be true for understanding how your body signals your energy level.

Physical fatigue requiring rest feels different than mental or emotional fatigue that might also require rest, or it could benefit from gentle movement (your favorite yoga poses, or walking in the sun perhaps?).

And sometimes, your body might be asking for something more intense, or more fun like a dance class or weight lifting session!

For both eating and movement, it takes time, experimentation, and endless self-compassion to figure out what your body cues are and how to listen to them the best you can.

Try keeping a journal of body sensations you notice and types of movement (or rest) that you tried. Then note the after effects of that rest or movement – does your body feel the same? Better? Worse?

Make peace with exercise (Make peace with food)

Exercise, like food, is not up for moral debate.

Exercising and being “fit” does not make you a good person. “Missing” one workout (or years, or a lifetime, of workouts) doesn’t make you a bad person, lazy, or undisciplined.

Exercise is just that – exercise.

In addition, no one type of activity or workout is “better” than another: When you want a grilled cheese sandwich, you eat it. When you want ripe strawberries, you have those. So, when your body needs a stretch session, enjoy the sensation it gives you. When your body wants to run, put on those shoes and hit the pavement!

Challenge the fitness police  (Challenge the food police)

Once you become aware of the societal pressure to exercise, and to exercise in specific ways, you’ll notice the constant chatter about it everywhere – friends, family, and all forms of news media.

Fitness has become a religion of sorts, with several branches of dogmas – you must do high intensity interval training, or functional movement is best, or building long, lean muscles by using a special machine.

Keep in mind, these dogmas are exactly like different types of diets – there is no one size fits all fitness program, and most are unsustainable long-term.

Find the activities you enjoy right now, and continue to modify and change your routine to fit your life and your physical, mental and emotional needs. Anyone who tells you otherwise (including the “fitness police” that lives in you own head) is plain wrong.

Respect your fatigue (Respect your fullness)

Many fitness programs and classes promote pushing yourself well beyond fatigue during workouts and furthermore, not taking appropriate amounts of time for rest and recovery between workouts.

Just as discussed in the “Honor your energy (Honor your hunger)” principle above, it takes time and experimentation to understand how fatigue feels in your body, and how much rest you need.

If you have a history of over training, fatigue may feel like an everyday norm for you. This is why it’s sometimes recommended that you take several days, weeks, or months completely off from exercise to let your body fully recover so that you understand what your true “normal” feels like. Speak with your healthcare team to see if this might be the case with you.

If you haven’t been consistently active in a long time, suddenly adding lots of exercise puts a lot of stress on your body (not to mention your mental state!). Incorporate new activity slowly; a good rule of thumb is to add around 10% more volume or intensity week over week.

For example, you might start your first week with 2 workouts of 20 minutes (total of 40 minutes), then in your second week you can do 1 workout of 20 minutes and 1 workout at 25 minutes (45 minutes total; just a bit more than a 10% increase from week 1).  The following week both workouts can be 25 minutes, and so on. [This is an example, some folks may require different activity levels].

Note that the 10% rule is a very different approach than most workout programs out there – many popular fitness programs start with several, long (60 minutes) workouts in a week and increase intensity level very aggressively in a short period of time. This can lead to injury at the worst, or at the least a combination of physical and mental burnout by the end or soon after the end of the program. Unfortunately, a lot of people blame themselves instead of realizing that the program set them up to fail.

Trust that listening to your body and slowly increasing time, intensity, and complexity of your fitness activities is a better long-term option than an all-or-nothing intense program.

And, have compassion for the inevitable periods in your life (illness, injury, stressful circumstances) where you may have to scale way back on the time you spend on your fitness.

Finally, you don’t need an excuse to not exercise -it’s your body and you owe absolutely no one a justification.

Discover the satisfaction factor

Have you ever distracted yourself from walking on the treadmill by watching TV? Wished the clock would tick faster during a boot camp class? Silently pictured hitting your instructor instead of the punching bag?

These distractions while exercising aren’t very different than eating while preparing dinner, squirting Sriracha on your steamed broccoli so you can choke it down, or realizing you ate the whole bag of chips on the drive home from the grocery store.

What happened to making eating and exercise pleasurable?

You won’t be satisfied if you’re not fully present. Ask yourself why you watch TV on the treadmill – do you actually like walking on the treadmill? Or are you just doing it because you “should?” Maybe there’s another activity that you actually ENJOY?

After associating exercise and movement with what you love, you won’t need to distract yourself; it’s a welcome part of your life!

Respect your body

Your body has physical, mental, and emotional needs and limitations.

Finding the right balance between these needs and limitations is a challenge, but it’s possible.

If your health and fitness decisions come from a place of respect and kindness, you are much more likely to find this balance.

Eat Intuitively- feel the difference (Exercise – feel the difference)

Exercise and eating are inextricably linked; exercise is a part of the Intuitive Eating principles because humans were meant to move. Without movement, it becomes much harder for our bodies to give clear hunger and fullness signals.

And the reverse is true: To move regularly, we need to nourish our bodies.

Listening to and trusting your hunger and fullness cues helps give your body the energy it needs to live and move!

Honor your health

Did you know that one of the greatest predictors of health is your socioeconomic status? This shows that health is a lot more complicated than food and exercise!

Your social and family relationships, emotional and mental health, financial status, spiritual growth, career aspirations (and more!), are all a part of your overall “health,” not just exercise and food.

Instead of trying to control your body, exercise, and food intake, ask yourself, “How can I honor my health today?”

If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, please discuss any concepts you read here with your treatment team before making any changes to your activity level.