T Nation

Behind the neck Military Press

What’s the advantage of the bar going behind the neck on a barbell military press. I’ve tried it and it feels awkward as #$%*. I prefer touching the upper pecs in the front. Am I robbing myself?

Interestingly, M&F has a feature on that particular exercise this month.

BTN presses focus more on the medial delt and traps. The standard military emphasizes the front delt.

Stretch your pecs and shoulders for a few days. If it’s still awkward, don’t do it.


Personally I think more shoulders are ruined by this movement than any other. I gave these up two years ago when I tore up my shoulders. It’s just an un-natural plane of movement and I don’t believe in them at all.

It may hit the medial more but you can do lateral raises and isolate the medial delt if that is what you are after. I’ve noticed that the behind the neck press helps most with postural deviations such as Kyphosis because you have to contract the traps quite a bit to pull the shoulder girdle behind he neck. Be careful though as Phatmans concerns seem to be fairly common in that this moves does injure shoulders quite often. I’m not the type to avoid any proven and tried move, but I do suggest a lot of pectoral and anterior delt stretching as to not tear them while doing BNMP.

I guess I could do a much lighter weight for the behind the neck.

A much lighter weight behind the neck may be easier on your shoulders, but won’t give your medial heads near the workout that can be achieved through other various presses and lateral movements.

This is why I use dumbells so much for shoulder pressing movements. You can pick what plane you’re working in, or work in two separate planes.

I don’t know why, but behind the neck press for me is one of the easiest lifts around.

In front shoulder press on the other hand feels like I have an awkward/weird/unnatural pressure on my shoulder joints. And I ‘click’ a lot too. I wish I could do it, but feels like I’m just going to injure myself.

I guess everyone is different. BTW - I’m not flexible by any means, especially in my shoulders.

Flat bench feels bad too, but decline is nice… :slight_smile:

With my new found shoulder mobility arising from ART, I asked my chiropractor about this, he warned against behind the neck presses due to lack of (muscle and ligament) support for the shoulder joint and increased strain and risk of injury when it’s rotated so far back. But some guys can do 'em, some can’t. Me, I’ll avoid 'em as my DB presses seem to work fine and cause no issues.

Sunder, I’m with you. I find them easy, and comfortable. And I can go heavier than I can with front presses.

One thing I find though is you have to be very careful not to bend your neck forward. You should be able to look into the mirror in front of you. Instead, draw your shoulders back further.

DocT want to go at it again w/ th BTN military press ;). JK, Z-man if you feel its akward then I wouldn’t continue BTN, Front presses are just as good. And then do Dumbbell press. you may injure yourself in the long run.

The most unstable position you can place the shoulder in is achieved through abducting and externally rotating the upper arm. You then propose to add weight to this unstable configuration.

I’m not saying that they’re a bad exercise but you must possess a decent amount of strength and flexibility to properly take advantage of them. Most of my clients (male particularely) lack the shoulder flexibility to safely engage in this. In fact I see a number of guys at the gym who can’t get their arms into the right position without the weight, this is a good clue that you should leave these alone.

That all haveing been said, I do them. But I’ve got extremely flexible shoulders from Judo and Gymnastics. I don’t load the weight as high as doing them in front and if I feel any impingment I stop.


phat-man, you said a mouthfull!
i totally agree. BNP=injury!

BNP works, but theres no reason not to do both imo.

Too many that only do their shoulderwork infront of the neck with dumbells and sitting with backsupport find ways to transfer the load from the shoulders to pecs.

OK the reason for doing behind the neck MP would be to isolate the front delt(i.e less clavicular pectoral head involvement). If you choose to do these, try warming up with front DB military presses (3 sets on 80 degree incline bench). You’ll then logicly use a lesser charge for your behind the neck presses('caus of fatigue of course:)thus less chance of injury.
Allways be sure to have a guy help you unrack the bar and help you for last reps. DO NOT bring the bar below the ears… and show these nancy boys proper form.

oh yes i forgot! Your hands should be at the proper width so that when your elbows are at shoulder hight you’d have a nice 90 degree

carry on

Aye, The internal RC for those of us with scar tissue or tight shoulders is under immense strain. CHECK out Paul Checks articles either here or on his site. He is a T-Mag contributor so it should be cool 4 me 2 refer you.

Dumbells all the way dude - you don’t have to sacrifice posture by pushing your neck forward and it recruits more stabilising muscles as well.

Yep, and as others have stated better than I, there are so many other movements that you can do to hit them.

Here I go again beating the Eric Cressy fan club drum! If you are having problems with external rotation give Eric a shout. He sent me a article on rotator cuff (External rotation movements) that healed my shoulders completely. I now do these at least once a week. If you want the article PM me your e-mail and I’ll shoot it out to you.

Behind the Shoulder BB Presses have a very strong place in shoulder training. As has been said, they place more emphasis on the Medial Delts and Traps, and less on the Front delts. That is a great plus, since most people have over-developed Front Delts when compared to their Medial Delts. Also, it makes up one of the very few heavy movements you can do for your medial delts.
Additionally, your external rotators are activated to keep your shoulders that far back - and again, most people’s internal rotators are overdeveloped and overworked in comparison to the external rotators.
Many peopl can’t do them. Why? Maybe they’ve been injured in the shoulder girdle. That’s a l;egitimate reason. Most, however, simply lack the flexibility to do these - so work on your flexibility (overhead squats are darn good), and strengthen your external rotators and medial delts to better handle the load.

This is just another example of an exercise that’s been sworn off because a few misinformed individuals abused it when they shouldnt have been doing it in the first place. All it takes is a teenager picking up a Fitness Magazine that swears by these, and head over to the gym to perform BNSP without any regard to his lack of flexibility or strength in his cuffs and medial delts. Your shoulders are not in the most advantageous position. It’s only a problem if you do not proprly strengthen the muscles involved prior to performing it, don’t increase your shoulder flexibility, and use more weight than a reasonable person would.

Squats got the same bad rap among some Football teams because a few individuals hurt themselves. Are they bad? Not if you know what you’re doing. Are Behind the neck shoulder presses bad? Not at all - not if you know what you’re doing.