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  1. #1
    Ravishing Sick Dude Ravish's Avatar
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    Overhead shoulder press - behind the head or in front???

    Does it make a difference? Are different muscles brought into the exercise if you do one over the other? I've only done it in front, I tried switching to BTH (Behind the head) and I could only manage 3/4 of the weight that I would normally use. I find it much more difficult to do compared to doing it at the front.

    Most people in gym I see do BTH, very rarely is there someone who does shoulder presses at the front so I'm wondering whats the reason.
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  2. #2
    Brothers of Metal Crew the_fixxxer's Avatar
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    i do in front of my head....BTH hurts my shoulders too much.
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  3. #3
    Train hard play harder Tommy W.'s Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Ravish View Post
    Does it make a difference? Are different muscles brought into the exercise if you do one over the other? I've only done it in front, I tried switching to BTH (Behind the head) and I could only manage 3/4 of the weight that I would normally use. I find it much more difficult to do compared to doing it at the front.

    Most people in gym I see do BTH, very rarely is there someone who does shoulder presses at the front so I'm wondering whats the reason.
    BTH is great if it doesnt hurt you. Going down 3/4 of the way is fine as that is the most effective part of the ROM in that exercise anyway. You'll want to to in front also as you can use more weight and get a different attack angle on the delts.
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  4. #4
    vem som helst kan vinna! CelticTheTruth's Avatar
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    I'm the opposite I guess, my sholders hurt a little when I do sholder presses in front but behind the head it's aight.
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  5. #5
    THE HEAVY IRON SQUAD,CUZZ ygbodybuilder10's Avatar
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    i do both of them but i only do behind the back on the smith machine

    if u do do them behind the back do use a real wide grip
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  6. #6
    Inspire to Achieve Oakey's Avatar
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    Yeah man...

    I say do both... Hitting the shoulders from different angles like someone said.


    Also BTH isolates the actual delts.
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  7. #7
    Registered User Kostabot's Avatar
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    BTH anything is dangerous for most peoples aesthetics. Be very careful. BTH lat pull downs etc puts your shoulder joint in an awkward position, not designed for bearing too much weight, so your form has to be perfect.
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  8. #8
    Registered User Verdelet's Avatar
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    I can press behind and infront the same weight. People associate behind the neck presses with injury but i have never had a problem with them, it depends on shoulder flexibility.

    With back presses the POSTERIOR and LATERAL fibres are used more then anterior. The trapezius, triceps brachii and your serratus anterior are also hit but not as much. The rhomboids, teres minor, infraspinatus and supraspinatus also contract slighty.


    With front presses the ANTERIOR and LATERAL are used more then posterior fibres. The clavical head of the pectoralis major, triceps brachii, serratus anterior, trapezius and the supraspinatus are the other muscles slightly hit.


    - Obviously stabilizing muscles are used, this varies however depending if your doing them seated or standing.
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  9. #9
    Banned Arlecchino's Avatar
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    The only way to know is to experiment.

    I really like BTN better, but that is me. I know some people who cannot do them at all.

    ymmv
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  10. #10
    Yes. I'm bigger than you. hessunit's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Kostabot View Post
    BTH anything is dangerous for most peoples aesthetics. Be very careful. BTH lat pull downs etc puts your shoulder joint in an awkward position, not designed for bearing too much weight, so your form has to be perfect.
    This^^

    I've seen way too many people get hurt with behind the head. Everyone seems to always say the same crap..."well, it doesn't hurt me, so I'm going to keep doing them". Inevitably, these are the same people that get effed up shoulders down the road. Never fails.
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  11. #11
    Keep It Simple... FAO's Avatar
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    I just started doing BTH BB overhead a few months ago and my shoulders have really reespnded. I did not do them for the longest time due to the negs, I think they have place like everything else. 4trict form though is a must!
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  12. #12
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    i do both, but yeah when going behind the neck be careful. when i see myself doing it, i can really see and feel the danger of one wrong move.

    keep it VERY controlled. i cant imagine how long an injury like that would keep you out of action.

    damn i cant wait to get in the gym today. i havent been able to go all week, and i have a weekend full of work to do. its going to be a brutal session with the iron
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  13. #13
    Myuziweighsaton! brighamw's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Originally Posted by Arlecchino View Post
    The only way to know is to experiment.

    I really like BTN better, but that is me. I know some people who cannot do them at all.

    ymmv
    Originally Posted by blaqsand View Post
    i do both, but yeah when going behind the neck be careful. when i see myself doing it, i can really see and feel the danger of one wrong move.

    keep it VERY controlled. i cant imagine how long an injury like that would keep you out of action.

    damn i cant wait to get in the gym today. i havent been able to go all week, and i have a weekend full of work to do. its going to be a brutal session with the iron


    These, I do both & I've never had a problem. Unless you have pre existing shoulder issues you will be fine with both. BTN shoulder presses won't "cause" shoulder problems, improper form will or going too heavy too quickly (dropping the bar rather than controlling it's decent)
    Just start slow & emphasize form throughout...
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  14. #14
    The generalist. iSkinny's Avatar
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    Behind the neck presses place the shoulder in a position of excess external rotation and abduction. In this position the imposed load creates an external rotatory moment on the glenohumeral capsule. Basically it creates an unstable position, therefore technique is of utmost paramount. "Correct," technique can, however, not be achieved without sufficient flexibility - something a large amount of general population lifters lack.

    Just to add to the debate; there are no studies to show any true significant differences in activation between the two exercises.
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  15. #15
    Bulk it and HULK it hulkinout's Avatar
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    Based on my personal experience, while both exercises emphasize the front delts above all, I feel like I'm getting more side delt involvement when pressing behind the neck. Maybe it's just mental...

    If you have the shoulder/rotator health to do behind the neck, I see no issue. I also prefer them on the Smith.
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  16. #16
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    both. they hit your shoulders differently. i like doing behind the head for better trap separation but in front gives more mass overall.
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  17. #17
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    I feel like sometimes with in front of the head the tendency is to arch your back a little bit, which brings in a bit of upper pec.
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  18. #18
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    Originally Posted by iSkinny View Post

    Just to add to the debate; there are no studies to show any true significant differences in activation between the two exercises.

    OH really. I've done a fitness instructor course and learned that behind the neck is a compound for posterior delts(rear delts).

    Doing normal military press will hit the front delts a lot more though. I'm not too keen on doing press behind the head though myself because after when I put the weight down my shoulders kind of hurt for a bit so I just stick to bent over lateral raises now for rear delts.

    Oh and If you want to hit the whole shoulder really well then dumbells are the way to go!
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  19. #19
    nevigsawkufelgnisaton in10city's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Ravish View Post
    Does it make a difference? Are different muscles brought into the exercise if you do one over the other? I've only done it in front, I tried switching to BTH (Behind the head) and I could only manage 3/4 of the weight that I would normally use. I find it much more difficult to do compared to doing it at the front.

    Most people in gym I see do BTH, very rarely is there someone who does shoulder presses at the front so I'm wondering whats the reason.
    Behind the head minimizes upper chest involvement in the exercise. A lot of people turn the standard press into a chest movement with sub-optimal form.

    So while it may isloate the shoulders a bit more, the net benefit and risk vs. reward ratio may not be favorable for some people. It all comes down to the person and application. Inadequate flexibility coupled with bringing the bar too low & use of excessive weight does cause more stress on the joint and increases the risk of injury over time.
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  20. #20
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    To the front, always.

    BTH risks>rewards.
    akkxn - just lift heavy ****.
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    There's a lot of scare tactics about BTH barbell out there, which is why you see them being done less and less nowadays. Personally, BTH hits my shoulders better where fronts hit my lats.
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    Originally Posted by in10city View Post
    Behind the head minimizes upper chest involvement in the exercise. A lot of people turn the standard press into a chest movement with sub-optimal form.

    So while it may isloate the shoulders a bit more, the net benefit and risk vs. reward ratio may not be favorable for some people. It all comes down to the person and application. Inadequate flexibility coupled with bringing the bar too low & use of excessive weight does cause more stress on the joint and increases the risk of injury over time.
    ^^^^ This.
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    Originally Posted by in10city View Post
    Behind the head minimizes upper chest involvement in the exercise. A lot of people turn the standard press into a chest movement with sub-optimal form.
    mhm ... i need to check my form,
    I think i use my chest a little
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    I do both, but prefer front more, behinde the neck tends to make my shoulders hurt(AC Joints).
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    Originally Posted by TheDirtyCat View Post
    OH really. I've done a fitness instructor course and learned that behind the neck is a compound for posterior delts(rear delts).
    Oh really? You should probably find a better course to be honest.

    All three deltoid heads abduct and externally rotate the shoulder... HOWEVER the posterior delt, unlike the anterior and lateral heads, extends the shoulder. Overhead pressing is shoulder flexion...


    Originally Posted by TheDirtyCat View Post
    Doing normal military press will hit the front delts a lot more though.
    EMG studies do not suggest this.


    I'm not too keen on doing press behind the head though myself because after when I put the weight down my shoulders kind of hurt for a bit
    That is likely because you have bad technique/lack flexibility.
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    Thumbs up

    Originally Posted by Oakey View Post
    Yeah man...

    I say do both... Hitting the shoulders from different angles like someone said.


    Also BTH isolates the actual delts.
    Agreed!
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    I used to do them BTH, but doing them that way does put the shoulder joints in an awkward position and always seemed to aggravate the tendonitis in my right shoulder. The overhead press is my big ego lift; I'm obsessed with it like most lifters are with benching and doing them to the front has actually seemed to help the tendonitis.

    If you feel like the lateral head isn't being hit enough when pressing, try neutral grip db overhead presses.
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    Go tell a physiotherapist or exercise specialist that you're going to do behind the neck presses or pull-ups/pull downs....they will likey freak out, as have the ones I've spoken about this with....and for good reason.
    Lift smart.

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    I do none of my lifts behind the neck. My military presses are always to the front. Going btn is too awkward for me.
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