T Nation

Behind-the-Neck Press


Just began incorporating it into my routine by chance, after all the benches were taken for seated DB press and one of the amazing things i've found is that after warming up properly, performing my working sets, my shoulders felt better than normal.

Maybe its the stretch that comes from the exercise or just the incorporation of a new exercise but after having poor shoulders whenever performing exercises involving the shoulders, they feel much better, almost looser and more "comfortable". Seems like an exercise thats fallen off the mainstream since the golden ages of bodybuilding.

Anybody use this exercise?

Am i kidding myself or am i just setting myself up for injury going heavy with an exercise which, if performed from the front, would work the shoulders just as well??


Depending on your shoulder flexibility and overall health, it can be a great exercise... I'd not go down too low though.
Once you get bigger, it becomes a little hard on the bicep tendon it seems...
Yates and Levrone liked it, though Levrone does it in the smith.

Need a strong upper/midback too.


I have used them several times. It definitely hits a different part of the muscle but I would not go much below parallel if at all on the negative.


The general consensus among most coaches, if I remember correctly, is that going heavy on BTN presses is not worth the injury risk, for exactly the reason you gave: too many other safer exercises that do the same thing.

I do them only rarely, and never for low reps. That being said, some people feel they are mostly safe if the ROM goes no lower then, say, the "bump" on the lowest part of your skull.


It is hands-down my favorite shoulder exercise, but I cant really do it because of my messed up shoulders (previous injuries). I wouldnt really recommend low reps on this exercise though - reps in the 8-12 range would probably be best.


I do them in the smith to right above the ears and really really like them. I just feel like they allow for a much easier time of doing the pressing with my shoulders.


Actually I wanted some variety (I've been doing front presses in the last 3 months) so I did them today. For me, the best if I lower it to my "ponytail" (long hair, so I lower it to the rubber band what keeps it in pony) and don't lock it out.

For higher reps, I mean 8-10. Got nice pump from them, otherwise, I never did them regulary, just occasionally dropped them in when I felt I need some fun.


Its what is considered to be a higher-risk exercise, but if you have adequate shoulder flexibility, or are willing to work on it, it is a great movement.


I use it against popular recommendations and I bring the bar down to my traps, past parallel. I don't recommend most people use it though, flexibility must be in order and I am usually very well warmed up at that point.


I use it as a finisher on my delt days. I find them brilliant because they hit the side/rear heads for me. I always do them high reps and fairly light.


I was thinking. If you only bring the bar to parallel or around the ears, would this not be more triceps than delts? Over the past 6 months I've found that the lower half of a shoulder press hits my delts much better than the top portion, and intentionally cut the top ROM out of the press for most reps.

I usually do SHIP's ad Arnold presses which seem to allow for a decent ROM below parallel. And that portion seems to hit the delts before the tris really kick in on the upper portion. So would doing BTN presses with only parallel and up remove significant stress on the delts? Seems sub-optimal to do those with the other choices out there.



benching to 90 deg. and back up (not necessarily to lockout) with a wide-enough grip will put a lot of stress on the pecs... Even overhead lockouts place a lot of pressure on the delts as long as your grip is not a narrow one. And depending on limb-length, going to 90 degrees can be pretty much around ear-level... So between 90 deg. and just shy of (or quite a few inches away from) lockout next time you train shoulders and see how that feels.
Of course mind-muscle connection and technique play a role here, too.

In theory, you're right. That being said, the bottom part of a military or push press (where you go down to your chest) doesn't do anything for the delts (at least nothing good) as far as I can tell... So the very bottom is theoretically not all that useful either and not only does it keep your numbers low on delt movements (on a strict press, which quite frankly does not make shoulders strong), it also seems to be quite hard on the shoulders when trying to get your elbows under the bar, depending on how you're built/structure-wise.

It's a bit like the position you're in in a low-bar squat? Not too nice on the shoulders for most people... And the BTN press actually mimicks that more than a front-press if you go all the way down.

If you look at guys like Ronnie, their favored part of ROM for an overhead press seems to be from about ear level to a few inches overhead or so. If you have long limbs, you may really end up in a higher range though... No shame in that.

Anyway, I overall prefer seated high incline work (usually in the smith), particularly for very strong guys as the backrest allows you to retract your scapulae and almost get a pl bench setup when pressing overhead. Much safer with 315+ on the bar than free-weight military or btn imo. Kind of like PL bench setup vs. beginner-scarecrow-shoulders-rising-off-bench-setup.
Most guys seem to have no clue what to do with their shoulders during a free-standing overhead press... And as I said, past a certain weight things get dangerous if you shoulders just sort of hang in the air while pressing.


i use them regularly in the smith machine too ear level, was doing them standing down to the back of the neck but there was too much pressure on my lower back too be worth the reward. I believe doing them has greatly increased my shoulder developement


I'll give that a shot next time. I agree with the high incline and PL bench set up. Once I started doing that excercise, I almost immediately fell into retracting my scaps and it's definitely allowed me to move more weight. In regards to the very bottom portion, close to chest: in your opinion, does that apply to the Arnold press as well? My elbows seem to come down AT LEAST as far as they would on a standing military. Would regular seated DB press with the above mentioned ROM be more effective?


It should allow for more weight in the really effective part of ROM anyway, so theoretically it's better for sheer delt size. Of course handling the heavier 'bells and setting up with them can become a problem, even in higher rep ranges... And you still have to just try it and see whether you like doing it or not.

(oh, and let's not forget that Arnold's shoulders were a weak point of his, particularly when standing relaxed. Sure, in a back-double-bi they looked nice due to his muscle-bellies etc, but really... They were far too small. They were somewhat decent when he was pumped only... So I don't think his pressing variant did much. Too light. If you want to focus more on the lateral head, a mix between lateral raise and upright row is a better way, or even a good lateral raise machine. I'd rather maximize the overload in whatever part of ROM is the most effective for a certain muscle or part thereof rather than creating a new movement which trains more muscles but to a much lesser degree)


Awesome. My delt development has always lagged behind everything else and as you said about Arnie, aren't all that great standing relaxed. I've just in the last 6 months or so really started to get some development and mind connection going. Thanks for the discussion. Looks like I'll be dropping that movement and trying some others.


My pleasure.

Do you have a v-squat/power-squat machine at your gym?


Hey, CC. Been out of town for a week. No, I don't have access to one of those. I plan on switching in the next 4-5 months, though. What were your thoughts?


What would be a good way of increasing my strength on the bottom part(from the chest up) of presses? Would weakness in the shoulders cause weakness from the bottom or are the shoulders only involved in the upper part of the lift?



They're involved, all right. However, I don't think it's all that easy to get very strong in the bottom part of a mil press compared to the other parts... No idea how you'd do it. I just avoid it.
Mechanically, you're in a fairly awkward position there so hmm... There's a reason why people generally like push presses and such, which basically allow you to take the shoulders pretty much out of the lift at the bottom range and only engage them further up.

No reason to really focus on that bottom part anyway, unless you found a local strict mil press competition or something like that.

If you're after more off-the-chest and general bottom to mid-range strength on the bench press though for PL purposes, then regular delt work, DB benching, paused benching and benching from a dead stop off or just shy off the chest should work a lot better?