T Nation

Behind the Neck Press

Hey, what is everyones opinion on shoulder press behind the neck with a barbell? Personally I love it, my dad taught me it when I was pretty young and he has done it it for years with light weight.


I love it. My shoulders feel healthier, stronger, and more mobile when I do them, so I keep some form of them in my training plan at all times. They also help my press and bench press. I rotate through cycles with standing, seated with back support, BTN push press, and every now and then I’ll throw in a snatch grip press. I’m considering just making some version my main overhead movement instead of the press.

It is my belief that if your shoulder function is good, then it is a very effective exercise. Some people say that it’s dangerous, but that is if your shoulder function is impaired in some regard (more often from tight internal rotators).

It was the (or one of) the main pressing exercise of many very strong men, from Reg Park, to the Barbarian Brothers to Dmitri Klokov and Paul Carter… In fact Paul told me that the behind the neck press makes his shoulders feel great but the military press hurts him.


It hits more shoulder muscles than pressing in front, and your chest can’t help out so your shoulders do more of the work.

Agree man. I dont know why there are so many nay sayers against it.

It’s because too many people concentrate on the bench way too much and mess their shoulders up and can’t do it properly. When Reg Park, Arnold, Franco, Ed Coan and others were doing it, you never heard about it making anyone’s shoulders explode. Olympic lifters do it a lot with serious weight and they don’t get hurt because they’re actually flexible and mobile.

That is a very valid and accurate point. The bench press, or more precisely the exaggerated focus on it is responsible for more shoulder issues than any other exercise.

Also I believe I have seen the Russian Demitri K guy doing it, and he is
insane strong.

Yes I mentioned Klokov in my post

More interesting is that both Klokov and Paul Carter (both who can do more than 315lbs behind the neck presses) had serious shoulder injuries in the past and can do the behind the neck press just fine. When you have full access to the whole range of motion of the shoulder, they are fine.

And like I said earlier, they definitely make my shoulders feel better. Whenever I’ve dropped them, my shoulders start to feel crappy (and weaker). I’m glad to see someone like CT speaking out for them because so many people have just come down on them for whatever reason or because it’s the popular thing to do. A bunch of successful lifters already named in this thread have used them as a major part of their training and not had them destroy their shoulders. People hurt their shoulders ALL THE TIME benching, but you don’t hear everyone telling people not to do it because it will make your shoulders fall off.

Agreed that does it is a go

Get this Chistian in a demonstration in england in late 80’s Gary tyler, former Olympian in weightlifting, and 93 Wsm, jerked 600x2, behind neck. My training cycle now is incline, row and leg press based, my next cycle will be behind neck jerk , trap deadlift, and front squat basef can hardly wait. Goals 385 jerk, 635x 5 dead, and 500 front, awesome exercise but if you are a belly bencher wont have flexibility tp do.

I actually remember Gary jerking 2790kg behind the neck in a WSM competition. Don’t remember the year but the “plates” looked lie boulders if I’m not mistaken. Gary was my favorite strongman at the time, mostly because he was short :slight_smile:

CT, Is there a mix up of Gary Taylor with someone else as Gary’s official height is 183 cm. I wouldn’t call it exactly short. Though Gary jerked 210 kg behind the neck in WSM 95 with boulder like plates.

I new he lifted the 270kg so yeah it might be a mix-up, but I remember those boulders! Well 183cm is short for a strongman… I always liked his physique

Curious question when did behind the neck press start getting such a bad rap? I know in the late 80,s it sure as hell didn’t. I know the worst thing i ever did was stop doing them because I feel in retrospect probable kept my shoulder mobile and healthy.

Although I’m getting older (39) I’m not old enough to have been there where the shift happened.

My theory is that its loss of popularity began shortly after the bench press became the no.1 gym lift in the late 70s… I think that in the 50s, 60s and early 70s bodybuilders focused a lot more on shoulders, not on chest. Then Arnold came along and pecs where the new craze.

People began to focus on chest development, which often led to a reduced range of motion at the shoulder joint which made the behind the neck press hard to do properly and even painful in some csases.