How to do a Standing or Seated Behind the Neck Press – Benefits, Proper Form, and Tips

  • By: gymtrix
  • Date: January 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 8 min.
How to do a Standing or Seated Behind the Neck Press - Benefits, Proper Form, and Tips

Getting strong and defined shoulders is an important part of any well-rounded fitness program. The behind-the-neck press is a great way to tone and strengthen your shoulders.

This exercise is similar to the overhead press, just with one key difference – instead of lifting the weight in front, you’re lifting it behind your head.

While this move has caused controversy due to its risky nature, done correctly the behind-the-neck press can be an effective form of shoulder exercise.

That said, beginners should be sure to get instruction from a certified personal trainer before attempting this lift to ensure proper form and maximize safety.

With good technique and support, you can make this exercise a helpful part of achieving your health and fitness goals!

What is the Behind the Neck Press?

The behind-the-neck press is an extraordinary exercise that can help you develop and fortify your upper body.

Starting from the shoulders with a barbell, it places greater focus on the triceps and shoulders, while still getting all of the benefits of a standard overhead press.

This exercise can be performed both standing and seated, and while it looks disconcerting to many, it shouldn’t cause any discomfort; when done right, just like any other movement, execution is key.

With regular practice and proper form, you’ll soon start feeling the strength of your tris and shoulders building up and your upper body looking more formidable in no time!

How to do the Behind the Neck Press

Both versions will be explained in this section:


Seated behind the neck press is a great exercise for developing shoulder strength and stability. To get the most out of it, start by setting up a bench in a squat rack, with the backrest vertical and support bars at an appropriate height.

The best thing about this exercise is that you can also do it on a Smith Machine to gain more control over the movement.

When performing this exercise, keep in mind to focus on good form and use a slow, controlled tempo.

Step to Step Guide How To Do A seated Behind the Neck Press

Step 1: Begin by sitting on a bench with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Make sure your back is properly supported and your core is braced.

Take an overhand grip on the barbell, wider than shoulder-width apart. If necessary, request the assistance of a spotter.

Step 2: Brace the core, and glutes, and hold firmly while inhaling deeply to ensure stability during the exercise. Retract (back and down) the scapula to provide optimum support and range of motion for your shoulders.

Step 3: Keeping your elbows close to your body, thrust the weight up to the ceiling until your arms are fully stretched above. Take care to keep a strong core while doing this to avoid injury to the lower back and shoulders.

Step 4: After a few seconds of holding at the top of the movement, carefully bring the weight back down along the same path it came up until it reaches just above your traps (the upper region of your back).

Maintaining muscle tension throughout this step will aid in injury prevention by providing stability throughout all aspects of this exercise.

Step 5: At this point, drive through your elbows, keeping them tight to your body as you press the weight up again until your arms are fully stretched overhead. At this point, exhale as you push upward against gravity.

Step 6: Hold for a few seconds at full extension overhead before gradually bringing the barbell to starting position just above the traps as instructed in Step 4 above. Maintain proper form throughout this period of exercise to avoid injuries.


The standing behind-the-neck press is an advanced variation of the overhead press, requiring greater balance and core stability for effective execution.

As such, it’s best to start with a very lightweight and take time to adjust your body’s path and overall feel of the exercise before increasing the intensity.

Without access to a bench, you must especially focus on core bracing to ensure proper form while doing this lift.

Despite being more difficult than a regular overhead press, the benefits are invaluable; increased core activation and stabilization will help you develop better all-around athletic capabilities, plus there’s no need for a spotter!

Step to Step Guide How To Do A Standing Behind the Neck Press

Step 1: Place the bar on a rack at a height that is slightly lower than your shoulder blades when standing in front of it. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and slightly turned out, with your weight evenly distributed between both legs.

Step 2: Maintain a wider-than-shoulder-width grasp on the bar throughout the exercise. Lift the bar off the rack, keeping your elbows close to your body, and walk back one foot at a time until the bar is directly in front of you. Throughout this action, keep your body upright with a small arch in your lower back.

Step 3: Firmly brace your core, glutes, and grip before raising the bar above your head into the overhead position (start position). Maintain control of the barbell during the motion and don’t let it slip forward or away from you.

Step 4: Inhale deeply while retracting (back and down) your scapulae for added shoulder support and range of motion. This will assist prevent injury or pain during this exercise, as well as provide greater power while pushing/pressing the weight up above because you have more stability in a better-aligned movement pattern.

Step 5: Lower the weight slowly back to just above your traps, maintaining tension on the barbell throughout the descent. This can be accomplished by deliberately pushing against an imaginary wall behind you while maintaining a straight line from hands to hips during this portion of the workout.

Step 6: To return it to an overhead position, begin by driving through with both knees before pressing/pushing with both arms simultaneously (keeping them close to your ears).

The power created by this leg drive should move the majority of the weight upwards, requiring only a modest effort from both arms to lift it back above head level without losing posture or form along the way up or down throughout each rep (exhale on completion).

Behind the Neck Press Benefits

The exercise offers numerous wonderful benefits:

Muscle Growth

The behind-the-neck lift is a great way to build muscle in the upper body that doesn’t get enough attention.

With correct form and a consistent approach, this move can provide rapid results in terms of mass and strength generation across areas like the shoulders and lat

Increase your strength

Increase your strength with a behind-the-neck exercise. This movement not only strengthens the shoulders, upper back, and arms but also makes other types of overhead pressing exercises feel easier than before.

Shoulder Stability

Ensuring your shoulder stability is an integral step in making sure you can lift the bar with proper control.

Keeping an eye on how stable your shoulders are will help you improve your form and technique, which will make you less likely to get hurt.

Good shoulder stabilization gives you balance, makes it easier to lift, and improves your coordination and core strength. This lets you lift as much as you can while staying safe.

More Difficulty for the Deltoids

For those looking for an even more intense exercise to focus the strain on the shoulders, try the Behind the Neck strict press.

This difficult variation is intended to isolate the deltoids from other involved muscle groups.

Since this change in movement requires more effort and stability in the head, neck, and upper back, it’s important to pay close attention to make sure that the right form is kept throughout this exercise. 

A Unique Way to Exercise the Shoulders

Behind the Neck Pressing is a great way to step up your shoulder workout.

When you press forward, you might overwork the anterior deltoids, but when you add pressure behind the neck, you can balance out the whole program and make it more well-rounded.

It’s not only a great variety technique; it also reduces stress on your shoulders over time. 

Muscles Targeted by the Behind the Neck Press

The Behind the Neck Press is a fantastic exercise for toning, strengthening, and developing muscles in the shoulders and upper body.

Specifically, it works your front deltoids, outer deltoids, rear deltoids, trapezius (upper back), triceps brachii (back upper arm), and serratus anterior (armpit over rib cage).

What’s more, because you’re doing this press standing up, your core and legs have to work extra hard to keep your movement steady and controlled throughout.

Behind the Neck Press Tips

An effective Behind the Neck Press requires concentration and control! To maximize your results, be sure to focus on maintaining control throughout the exercise.

As you press the weight up, be sure not to let your head move back and forth. Consistently keep a steady tempo and weight that you can handle to guarantee a safe and productive workout every time. There’s no need to rush or try to lift too much!

If you can follow these tips, you’re guaranteed an efficient exercise for working out your upper body.

Behind the Neck Press Variations

Include these different approaches in your training.

Behind the Neck press with Dumbbells

The behind-the-neck press with dumbbells is an excellent exercise for building up mobility and strength.

Not only does it give you a great way to practice the full barbell version, but it offers less chance of injury because dumbbells can move freely into different positions, meaning there’s less strain on your shoulders.

Also, as you build up the necessary range of motion, you can move your arms further back over time. This makes for a truly effective and safe workout.

Strict Press

The strict press is hands-down one of the best exercises for training your shoulders. Not only does it strengthen your deltoids and upper torso, but it also offers an intense pump.

By combining it with a Behind the Neck Press, you can mix things up and get even greater gains.

This way of training ultimately offers increased muscle activation through different angles and tools, which any fitness buff will tell you is the best bang for your buck when it comes to strength building!

So if you’re looking to become formidable in the gym, acknowledge the power of the strict press and get ready to fuel yourself with serious gains along the way.


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