behind the neck press

Is Behind The Neck Press A Dangerous Exercise?

Behind the neck, the press is one of the forms of shoulder press which is often called overhead press also. It is generally practiced in the gym to work your shoulders out. The reason why behind the neck press has gained momentum is that, more often than not, people have found this exercise dangerous as it puts too much pressure on the shoulders.

While exercising behind the neck shoulder press, one works a variety of muscles such as the front, outer and rear deltoids which are present in the shoulders. It also involves the upper back muscles which are called trapezius, along with your triceps and armpits. Some people also practice behind the head shoulder press while standing which often creates pressure on their core and legs.

What are the Benefits of Behind The Neck Press?

As mentioned earlier, the neck press works out a variety of muscles in your upper body, including your upper back and armpits. This helps in building a significant upper body strength which helps in increasing flexibility and stability.

In addition to this, improvement in upper body strength helps in building resistance against external stimuli which might cause you pain or injury. Now, that we know the benefits of practicing overhead press, let us understand how to do it.

behind the neck press
behind the neck press

How to do a Behind The Neck Press?

As a beginner, it is always prescribed to practice behind the shoulder press in a seated position while using a lighter barbell. With improvement in your strength, you can exercise in a standing position and use a heavier barbell under the supervision of a trainer.

Here’s how you can do an overhead press:

  • Sit on the bench and plant your feet on the floor with your knees bent 90 degrees. When you sit, take a barbell across the back of your shoulders.
  • Next, grip the bar firmly, with your palms facing forward. You need to tighten your core and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • While exhaling, you need to lift the bar to the top of your head and pause.
  • Then, take a deep breath and come back to the starting position.

Is Overhead Press Dangerous?

Not gonna lie, so yes. In comparison to other exercises, the overhead press is dangerous as it puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders and upper back muscles. If the barbell is heavier than what you can handle or if your shoulders cannot move easily, you might cause some serious damage to it.  

Not only that but practicing overhead press incorrectly can hurt your neck as it puts a strain on it. You have to take utmost care while doing overhead press because if the bar slips from your hand while bringing it down, you might hurt your neck and your back.

Therefore, it is best to practice behind the neck press with a personal trainer and if you have enough strength in your upper back, shoulders, and arms. However, if your shoulder or your back was badly hurt or if you had some kind of injury in that region in the past, it is highly recommended to not do it at all.

behind the neck press
behind the neck press

Are there any other Safer Alternatives?

Several other safer alternatives could help you get similar fitness benefits to behind-the-neck press. Moreover, these exercises have a lower risk factor of injuring your upper body.

Behind the Neck Shoulder Press with Dumbbells

More often than not, behind-the-neck press involves higher risk factors when they are practised with a barbell as they are heavier. However, to reduce that risk factor, you can use dumbbells which will help lower the risk of injury.

Dumbbells put less stress on your shoulder, back or neck, therefore they will not cause any pain or discomfort. In addition to this, according to Healthline, dumbbells, can help you increase the mobility of your shoulders and also improve your upper body strength.

Follow the below-mentioned steps to do a behind the neck press properly with dumbbells:

  1. Similar to the barbells version, you have to sit on the bench, with your feet planted on the floor and knees at 90 degrees.
  2. Next, one dumbbell in each of your hands and then lift them to the levels of your shoulder with your palms facing forward.
  3. Once you are done with that, keep the dumbbells behind your ear and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Tighten your core and lift the dumbbells to the top of your head and then pause.
  5. Take a deep breath and come back to the starting position.
  6. If you are a beginner, you can do 10 reps as one set.

If you are still an amateur trying to find a way with the weights, you can begin by using just one dumbbell. Gradually, with the improvement in your upper back strength, you can take two dumbbells. However, make sure that you are not causing any unnecessary stress on your shoulders or neck. Once you have improved your strength, you can also do this version by standing. The standing version will help you build core strength and even tone your legs.  

These are some of the simple ways you can practice behind the neck press in the gym under the supervision of a personal trainer. Be that as it may, if you are sure that you have enough strength in your upper back, but the exercise is not working out for you the way it should, then the problem might lie in your posture. While doing this exercise, your posture is the most important thing. You need to keep in mind that your spine should be ‘S’ shaped and not ‘C’ shaped, that is, you should not be hunched while practising this move.


Apart from this, if you have a history involving a spine injury or neck injury, then several shoulder presses might be difficult for you to do. Therefore, it is essential to consult a fitness expert and your physician before beginning these workout sessions in the gym and then prudently take action. This will save you from permanent damage to your body parts.  

Also Read: Isolation Exercises