Variations for the Reach, Roll, & Lift

     This past weekend, Anthony Vittese, a great physical therapist in the south New Jersey area and I were talking about restoring proper overhead movement which is usually pretty poor with most people because of terrible kyphotic posture.  In his setting specifically, this is one motion that he works on to help his clientele function without pain in their lives.  In an athletic population, this is also one pattern that should be restored so that athletes can have  proper function in the shoulder which can decrease the risk of shoulder injuries.  Especially if they are overhead athletes.  The lower trap is often a muscle that gets inhibited due to upper trap dominance and poor posture.  Gray Cook in one of the strength coach podcasts called the Reach, Roll, and Lift one of his favorite shoulder exercises.  What this exercise does…

  • Restore correct muscle recruitment patterns of the lower trap, rotator cuff, and lats
  • Pattern an overhead movement position

     One of our clients at Endeavor has had pain with simply raising his arms overhead and this was just one of the exercises we use because he does have poor overhead range of motion and is upper trap dominat (a lot of shrugging while raising the arm overhead or when rowing).  One of the compensations I see our client when doing the reach, roll, and lift is flexing at the elbow during the “lift” portion of the exercise.  In talking with Anthony Vittese, this was a typical compensation.  A few ways to regress the  exercise was in this order.

Compensation: Flexing at the biceps while lifting



1. Band Assisted

2. On Stability Ball

The third phase would be on the floor as is in the first videos.  You could also do the exercise in prone position

How to do the reach, roll, and lift

1. Lying prone or sitting back into your hips (the videos that I show first), purposefully shrug up with the scapula while sliding the hand, palm down, as far as possible without lifting it off floor.  This lengthens the lower trap, rotator cuff, and lat which helps facilitate the contraction of of these muscles during the roll phase.

2. Next rotate the hand up (palm up as much as possible), then “pack” the shoulder down & back which is pulling the humerus (upper arm bone) down and depressing the scapula.  The packed position is the stable, safe position you want in order for the scapular muscles to work optimally in the overhead position.

3.  The “lift” is now attempted.  The height of the lift will only be an inch or two, but that is not important at the time. Keep the shoulder packed and arm straight as you lift.  Focusing the mobility and lower trap/serratus strength is what we want to focus on.

     If someone has poor overhead range of motion, simply doing this drill will not cure it.  You need to work on  t-spine mobility and other overhead mobility drills.  Also, if someone’s posture is God-awful this puts the scapula in an unfavorable position which limits the overhead motion so doing just a reach, roll, and lift may not be good enough to get the full overhead motion back.


Categories: Injury Prevention

Tags: , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Can someone tell Anthony Vitesse to get on social media already?!

  2. Thanks for the kind words and compliments. I’m hoping to spend more time with you guys during the week.

  3. great exercises but what about the neck position? chin tuck or just laying head on towel. i ask cause i had c5-c6 fusion a few years back but still have issue with the lower traps activation.

    • Nick, with all the exercises we coach, we always choose to “pack” the neck to try and maintain a normal alignment in the c-spine. However, I am confused by you saying that you have trouble with lower trap activations? Although, the fusion may play a part in the activation of your lower traps, it could also a whole host of other things such as tight pec minor, upper trap dominance, and kyphotic posture. I worked with one client specifically who had VERY limited c-spine range of motion because she had a cage put in that area due to a big car accident. She always complained of neck pain, but after working with her for 2-3 months, we worked a ton on 1)soft tissue quality (pec minor, traps, rhomboids, lats) using a lacrosse ball specifically for the rhomboids, pec minor, 2) thoracic rotation & extension mobiity drills) 3) and with every exercise focusing on keep the neck packed. After incorporating these on a daily basis her pain was limited. Your situation may be different, but I hope I answered your question. Maybe, you could be more specific? If the answer did not help, I can do my best to find out. Another idea that works wonder for people is to find a good manual therapist in the area. There may be some nasty trigger points in your scalenes, upper traps, SCM, that may be causing some problems for you. Get back to me with anything you need!



      • Proper neck position/posture is important, of course. The reason i taught Matt the exercise resting on his hand is to give proprioceptive feedback as to not use any cervical or thoracic extension to assist(cheat) the movement pattern. If that position is not attainable, then the “best possible” posture needs to be found(i.e. neutral as possible). “Packing” the neck is used to promote increased responsiveness of the nervous system by providing the brain with messages of a favorable environment in which to move……Basically(see Charlie Weingroff’s Core Pendulum Theory writings). That doesn’t mean it is a must for certain populations of people that cannot get into that position. Simply stated, modify the position with the best possible posture available to your condition/limitations.


  1. Regressions and Progressions for Scapular Stability

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