From a functional whole body standpoint, any form of a loaded carry is always a go-to exercise for me. This is especially true for overhead carries - which are a great way to train proper shoulder muscle recruitment under heavy load. You need good lower trapezius, serratus anterior, and upper trapezius muscle activation to maintain a STABLE, upwardly rotated scapula. Not only that, but the ability to maintain a stable humerus in the overhead position places a huge demand on the rotator cuff. Adding an element of instability (not shown here) like with bottoms up kettlebells, is a great way to further challenge the rotator cuff.
In this first overhead carry sequence, I’m demonstrating a PASSIVE vs ACTIVE overhead carry position. We want to maximally activate our scapular upward rotators to provide a stable scapular base when under load overhead. I’m pointing to the inferior angle, or bottom part of my scapula, to provide a cue to get maximal lower trapezius and serratus anterior activation (relative to the upper trapezius). The cue I like to use with my patients is to “POINT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR SCAPULA FORWARD”. I find this helps promote scapular posterior tilt and external rotation (in addition to proper scapular upward rotation).
In the last overhead sequence, I’m demonstrating what we don’t want to see - excessive upper trapezius recruitment and subsequent scapular ELEVATION instead of UPWARD ROTATION. Making sure to maintain a nice window of space between your neck and shoulder is a great way to ensure you're not excessively using your upper traps.