Fix your Overhead Mechanics With The Javelin Press

By Dr. Joel Seedman PhD

This is the full-length version of Dr. Seedman's article that was originally featured on T-Nation

If you’ve ever examined pictures of strongmen from 50-100 years ago you’ve probably seen images where they overhead press a large barbell with one arm.  In essence this is a Javelin press.  This lift has gained recent popularity thanks to football superstar James Harrison performing these with incredibly heavy loads. 

With your hand perfectly centered, grip the barbell aggressively, keep tall posture, produce ample t-spine extension, and drive the weight overhead in a smooth yet forceful manner.  In addition, don’t allow the elbow to drop excessively low in the bottom position as this promotes collapsing and faulty recruitment patterns. Because of the offset loading you’ll also be forced to resist rotation as you produce heightened levels of rotary stability from your core.

Few exercises require such a high degree of shoulder and grip stabilization while simultaneously challenging the entire musculature of the core.  In addition, it forces the lifter to pack their shoulders into the optimal position as anything less will cause the bar to tilt uncontrollably.  It’s for this very reason that the javelin press tends to be very joint friendly as the heightened instability requires the lifter to centrate their shoulder joint into the most biomechanically sound position.  This takes stress off the joints and connective tissue thereby ensuring the surrounding musculature absorbs all the force.

The javelin press also requires a controlled eccentric contraction as free-falling mechanics are punished with greater volatility to the barbell.  To make it even more effective try pausing at the top and bottom.  This stimulates a greater hypertrophy response as the amount of mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress particular to the shoulders, traps, upper back and triceps, are through the roof.

These can also be performed in an isolateral or double arm fashion. Although most of the rotary stability demands to the core are eliminated, the heightened degree of motor control tends to make his more difficult as you’ll have to stabilize two volatile loads simultaneously.