What To Do If Your Traps Are Sore From The Overhead Press

April 22nd 2019

Is trap soreness normal in the overhead press?

Why does almost every body part hurt whenever I do full body compound lifts?

Especially with the overhead press, I need to tighten all my body.

My abs, glutes, quads, forearms - everything needs to be ready.

Only after tensing up, I need to now rely on my triceps and deltoid strength in order to press the weight overhead.

With that, the shoulder joint adds even more complexity if you have limited or restricted range of motion.

But today, we will focus on what you should do if your traps are sore from the overhead press.

Sore traps from the overhead press

Sore traps are normal for the overhead press. One or a combination of the following reasons could be why you are feeling soreness in your traps:

  • You have tight traps
  • You are a beginner lifter
  • You have an inefficient form


It is normal

Your traps help pull your shoulders up when locking out the overhead press.

So, as you lockout your overhead press, you will use your traps to help elevate your scapula.

This is a normal way to efficiently push weight overhead.

Your body is actively engaging your upper, mid and lower traps in order to stabilize and press weights overhead.

Your neck, shoulder and scapula should also move fluidly without pain during this motion.

Tight traps

Another reason why you may have very sore traps the next day is because you have limited upper back mobility.

If your traps are tight, your body will try to compensate during the lockout of the overhead press.

One example of compensation is that you will be shrugging during the top of the overhead press, rather than just pressing the weight overhead and locking it out.

There is a difference between the two.

You will notice if you lift your arms over your head, you are not supposed to be shrugging.

With healthy upper back mobility, your traps should be able to freely mobilize your scapula.

Cat Camel stretches

So, the cat-camel exercise is one way to mobilize your thoracic spine, which is your upper back.

While on your hands and knees on a flat surface, you will perform the cat and camel stretch.

In the cat position, you will arch your back so that it is shaped like a “U”.

You will tilt your neck upward and look up to the ceiling.

You will inhale during this position.

Next, you will do the camel position, where you will round your back.

Now, you will tilt your neck towards the ground and look downward.

This is where you will exhale.

After you perform both one cat and one camel position, that counts as one repetition.

Do this for 10-12 repetitions for 1-2 sets.

Foam roller

You can use a foam roller to help your upper back relax.

Using the foam roller to help stimulate some blood flow to the area is a good idea since you will engage the muscles.

Child’s Pose

During yoga, there is a great position across all different practices.

The child’s pose has you resting on your knees, while you try to sit back on your ankles.

You will stretch your arms out in front of you and allow your upper back to relax and be pulled by the stretch.

Hold that position for about 20-30 seconds.

You can do it for a couple of sets to feel your upper back starting to relax.

To make this exercise a bit more engaging for the upper back, you can add arm rotations.

From the original position, take your right arm and slide it horizontally across your body, underneath your left arm.

You should want to lay down on your right arm and relax your upper back. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.

Repeat it for the left arm.

New lifter

If you are a beginner lifter, you may not have the experience to develop your upper back.

As a result, the overhead press could leave you sore for a few weeks.

This is a normal part of strength training and you should work on developing stronger and bigger traps to aid in your overhead pressing ability.

Do not tilt your head

If you have bad form, this can place unwanted pressure on your traps.

Bad form during the overhead press usually involves excessive upper back movement in your neck, body, etc.

It is dangerous to jerk your neck at an awkward angle while doing the overhead press.

You can run the risk of developing neck pain.

You want to look straight ahead and have a fixed point to lock your gaze into. Do not make your head and keep your entire body tight.

What do your traps do for the overhead press?

Stabilizes the weight overhead in the lockout position

The traps are one of the widest upper back muscles in the human body.

They help support our upright posture.

One of the most crucial functions of the traps is to help mobilize our scapula.

It helps us elevate, depress, rotate and retract our shoulder blades.

So, if you have tight traps, you are restricting potential from your overhead press.

Stabilizes your other joints

The traps also aid in the movement of other surrounding joints.

The traps help us turn and tilt our head, shrug our shoulders, and twist our arms.

Being one of the most superficial muscles (muscle closest to our skin), it serves as an extra layer of muscle to aid in joint movement and stability.


The overhead press will workout your traps.

As someone who has always done overhead presses in all my strength programs, I still get occasional soreness from time to time.

During my first year, I would get frequent soreness all over my body.

Though I was running a bro split during those times, it just shows that lifting weights will target new muscle groups that you have never worked before.

And if you keep on being consistent and working out hard, you will reap the benefits of your hard work.

I have reached up to a 135lbs overhead press with moderate struggle.

For the past few months, I did not incorporate any overhead presses since I was trying a new program.

However, I have recently added back overhead presses since I did not want to bench press 3 times a week.

So, let us continue to get stronger every day.

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