IF THE CONSTRUCTION OF A set of broad shoulders is your goal, it’s standard procedure for adding some sort of heavy pressing motion into your workouts. And although most variants offer a lot of payouts, some choices will be more advantageous than others. Example: One of the most common choices for giant bodybuilders, the behind the neck press offers more risk of pain and injury than its value for everyday men looking to build muscle.
Why? According men’s health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, and Mathew Forzaglia, NFPT, CPT, founder of Forzag Fitness. Even though this move has long been a staple of shoulder day, the behind the neck press isn’t the most joint-friendly shoulder exercise unless you’re extremely mobile in the shoulder area. , and most of us are not so lucky.
“Just because you see an influencer doing it doesn’t make it worth it,” says Samuel. “It’s about staying healthy.
3 reasons why you should avoid the press behind the neck
Pressing behind the neck is bad for shoulder health
When it comes to pressing in the gym or even lifting overhead in your daily life, it’s most optimal to keep your movements in the scapular plane – a position in which your shoulders and arms are at 45 degrees to your torso – to keep your rotator cuff muscles in a safer position. And hardly at any time from the presses behind the neck will you find your shoulders in that safe place. Instead of working at an angle of around 45 degrees, more joint stress is placed on your rotators. “We want to keep them healthy for as long as possible and it’s just not worth it,” says Samuel.
The press behind the neck invites poor positioning of the neck
Besides rotator cuff issues, behind the neck presses will force you to place your neck in flexion, a poor position for safe and comfortable lifts. Yes, placement behind the neck may give us a slightly greater range of motion, but it’s just not enough to sacrifice being removed from work from a neutral spine.
“Not only does this window of injury open, but it forces us to compensate in other parts of the body,” says Forzaglia.
The press behind the neck cannot be heavily loaded
Unless you’re one of the few with exceptional shoulder mobility, most people aren’t quite capable of handling heavy loads while still being able to lift comfortably from this position. Therefore, most people are not able to go as far as other variations of the shoulder press.
3 alternatives to behind the neck presses
Dumbbell External Rotation
3 sets of 15 repetitions
This light exercise gives you the opportunity to focus on your rotator cuffs. Grab a pair of dumbbells, raise them to a pressing position above your shoulders with your elbows at 90 degrees, but rather than lifting, rotate your shoulders to move the weight down and then up. the back.
“It won’t be a heavy exercise,” says Samuel, “but if you really want to live in this position, it’s the safest exercise and something that will really improve your shoulders.” You can use them as a warm-up or as a complementary movement to other exercises.
Overhead press with dumbbells
3 to 4 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions
Samuel doesn’t think moving your stance to the front of your body is enough for your intense press – he’d rather you drop the bar completely for the dumbbells instead. You’ll be able to lift heavier while remaining in the joint-safer shoulder plane position, giving you the best of both worlds. You can also press into a wider variety of positions, from classic standing to sitting or kneeling to reinforce better spinal posture.
Half-Kneeling Single-Arm Overhead Press
3 to 4 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions
You’ll be able to load each shoulder much more heavily with this underrated one-sided exercise. More load with less stress not only on your rotator cuffs, but possibly also on your lower back, can lead to bigger gains.
Find out which exercises you’re better off avoiding by checking out our entire Overrated series here.
Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.
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