Overhead Carry Muscles Worked

Overhead Carry Muscles Worked

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Overhead carry exercises work many muscles in the body. For example, deltoids contract to hold the load overhead, while obliques and abdominals resist trunk extension and lateral flexion.

This resistance is necessary because the ribs flare out when you are carrying weight, so the abdominals help clamp the ribs in place and direct the weight stimulus.

The overhead carry exercise

The overhead carry is an exercise that will build strength and stability for the shoulders, upper back, and core. It can also be used to increase muscle hypertrophy and endurance.

An overhead carry can be done with just a barbell or dumbbell. In fact, you do not have to limit yourself there, you can use kettlebells, weighted ammo box, a wegihted power bag or anything else that has a bit of weight and is sturdy and safe enough. 

Carrying exercises will alos strengthen your core, hips, and shoulders. They are ideal for building a rock-solid jerk and a big push press, not withstanding its development of your mental toughness and discipline.

While carrying weights overhead is a great exercise, you should also make sure you are doing it correctly. Poor posture can cause injury. A common mistake is to over-extension the shoulder. That can lead to a flared rib, or leaning back which arches the back.

One way to prevent this is to keep your shoulders in a neutral position. The scapular stabilizer muscles are an important part of the overhead carry. When you're holding a load overhead, they will contract isometrically to support your body.

In addition to strengthening the shoulders and core, carries can provide a way to gauge your overhead stability. If you find you are prone to instability, consider using a waiter walk to test your strength and mobility.

Balance and stability

Balance and stability are essential to a healthy lifestyle. Without them, you may find yourself unsteady and prone to falls and injuries. Whether you are a competitive athlete or simply want to live a more active life, you can benefit from balance and stability training.

Balance and stability training helps you to improve your strength, coordination, and reaction time.

It also helps you avoid injury. You can also use balance and stability exercises to strengthen the muscles of your ankles and feet. Increasing your balance and stability will reduce your risk of injury as you age.

The importance of balance and stability is especially true for older patients. This population is at a greater risk of developing chronic musculoskeletal pain. These patients often have weaker muscles and lower balance.

Developing your core, lower back, and pelvic muscles will help prevent injury.

A good balance and stability program will strengthen your core, and improve your overall muscle strength and coordination. In addition, balance and stability training can help you recover from injuries or illness.

Back muscles

If you have problems holding weight overhead, it's crucial to strengthen the back muscles. The exercise can improve your overall strength, thoracic mobility, and stability, which are all critical for effective overhead carry.

Moreover, overhead carries are beneficial for developing core strength. When the weight is high, you're forcing your abdominals to brace while you're flexing your shoulder, which is a real world stimulus for your abs.

To strengthen your back muscles for overhead carry, start by focusing on the trapezius muscles, which are located towards the rear of the neck and head.

These muscles stabilize the spine and help in bending, flexing, and rotating. They start at the neck and extend across the shoulders, while other muscles attach to the vertebrae and ribs. 

Posterior chain

The posterior chain is a group of muscles. They are located on the back half of your body, including your hamstrings, glutes, traps, erector spinae and rhomboids.

These muscles are important for your posture, allowing you to maintain an upright position. A strong posterior chain is also necessary for field sports.

The key to building a strong posterior chain is to train for the right exercises and to stretch properly. This is the best way to get a healthy, long-lasting workout.

You can work your posterior chain with body weight, barbells, or even kettlebells. Your goal is to find a routine that allows you to achieve your fitness goals without causing unnecessary pain.

Posterior chain exercises are great for building strength, flexibility, and a strong core. However, they can be intimidating to beginners. To start, start with simple exercises and make sure to stretch beforehand.

A great example of a posterior chain exercise is the calf raise. To do a calf raise, you stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold your heels off the floor for a count of one.

Some of the most popular exercises for building a powerful posterior chain include the deadlift and the Olympic lift.

In a conventional deadlift, you are forced to use most of your muscle mass. But you can get a more intense exercise by pulling a heavy weight from the floor.

The posterior chain also helps you maintain good posture, preventing you from curling up into a ball while sitting. Likewise, a strong posterior chain can help prevent minor injuries. 

Strengthening the shoulders

Strengthening the shoulders for overhead carry is an essential part of lifting heavy objects. Lifters often lack stability and awareness in the overhead position, resulting in poor posture and shoulder mobility.

By engaging in a series of exercises, a lifter can strengthen his shoulders, increase his lockout performance, and reinforce joint integrity.

Overhead carry requires a complex combination of shoulder, scapular, and core musculature.

The scapular stabilizers, or muscles on the scapula, are particularly important. In an overhead carry, these muscles contract isometrically and act on the shoulder joint throughout the set.

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The triceps

Strong triceps contribute to overall upper body strength and range of motion. They help lift weights and improve shoulder stability.

Let's not forget that in a military context having robust and strong triceps helps with pushing yourself up from the ground, pushing up over obstacles, lifting equipment on to vehicles and carrying your rifle above your head when crossing water.

To develop the triceps with the overhead carrying exercise always start with a light weight. Avoid arching your lower back during overhead triceps extensions because this can cause spinal injuries. To avoid this, make sure to keep your glutes and abs tight.


If you want to improve your performance and endurance while performing sports, developing your quadriceps will be essential. The quads don't work alone, however; most lower body exercises involve co-activation of glutes and hamstrings.

Quadriceps are engaged during the  overhead carry exercise. By developing them further it can improve your performance by improving muscle hypertrophy and increasing time under tension.

By training your quads and hamstrings, you will be able to perform more complex movements, such as carrying weights and executing heavy squats. It will also help with loaded macrches and running.

The abs and core

When we lift a heavy object, our deltoids and obliques engage and contract to hold the load overhead. The muscles in these two areas act as a stabilizer of the shoulder joint during the entire set.

Likewise our abs and obliques also contract to resist trunk extension and lateral flexion. While carrying weight, we often flare our ribs out, so the resistance we apply to the core helps direct the force.

Overhead carries are an excellent way to improve your core stability and strength. They force the abs to brace with the shoulder flex, which improves your push press and jerk.

They also allow you to develop isometric strength, which is essential for achieving a big push press or rock solid jerk. You can also use overhead carries to improve your grip strength and develop bigger shoulders and arms.


In the military there are many occassions where you may have to lift and carry equipment above your head and potentially walk with it there.

Overhead carries using different forms of equipment are a great way to develop the posterior chain, the core, shoulders, legs and arms. In fact it is a great whole body exercise and good for the cardiovascualr respiratory system too.

If you want to improve your overhead carrying perfromance you can simply practice the movement, or exercise the aforementioned areas of your musculature to be more specific this would be ideal if you are lacking in certain parts.

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