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Behind The Neck PressLeave a Reply


There are five major muscles involved in the behind-the-neck press. The reason for this is that separate movements occur in the shoulder girdle (scapula and clavicle), the shoulder joint (arm) and elbow joint (forearm). Without simultaneous actions in each of these areas you would not be able to execute the exercise.

The muscles most involved in the shoulder girdle are the serratus anterior and the trapezius. The serratus anterior is a large muscle that runs from the upper ribs at the side of the chest to the medial border of the scapula, or shoulder blade. In the back the serratus is covered by the scapula and in the front it is covered by the pectorals. However, it can be seen and felt directly below the armpit when you raise your arm
against resistance.

The trapezius is divided into four sections; only the first and fourth sections, which are located at the uppermost and lowermost portions of the upper back, are involved. The upper portion runs from the base of the skull and the neck ligament to the upper outside edge of the scapula. The lower portion runs from the lower thoracic vertebrae to the inside upper edge of the scapula.

In the shoulder joint, the deltoid and the supraspinatus are the major muscles involved. The deltoid covers the outside of the shoulders and gives them their oval appearance. It is attached to the outside border and the top of the scapula at the upper end, and at the lower end, to the humerus, or upper arm bone. The supraspinatus runs from the top of the humerus to the inner supraspinous fossa. This small but powerful muscle is covered by the upper—middle half of the trapezius.

In the elbow joint the major muscle is the triceps brachii, which covers the entire back of the upper arm. The triceps is divided into three sections, known as the lateral, medial and long heads. The lateral head originates on the top of the humerus, the medial head on the lower humerus and the long head on the scapula just below the shoulder joint. All three heads run into a common tendon that inserts on the olecranon process of the uIna bone in the forearm.


In the sholder girdle the major actions are upward rotation and elevation of the scapuila. The rotation occurs on an axis through the center of the scapula. In other words, when looking at the back, the top of the scapula turns in and down, and the bottom of the scapula turns up and to the side. The scapula and clavicle are also raised at the shoulder joints but this is not a major action. It involves the upper trapeziuls and levator muscles.

In the shoulder joint the action is abduction (the same action as in raising the upper arms to the sides). In the elbow joint the action is extension, in which the arm straightens from a flexed position in the elbow.


The combination of shoulder-girdlw upward rotation, shoulder-joint abduction and elbow-joint extension is used in all sports that require an overhead pushing or reaching action.

These actions are seen in weightlifting, gymnastics, acrobatics, hand balancing and other similar overhead type activities that require pressing strength. They are also involved in all overhead-hitting actions. This includes the tennis serve and smash, ceiling shot and overhead kill in handball and racquetball, overhead clear and smash in badminton and others.

Bodybuilders need this exercise to build up the muscles on the sides of the ribs and on the upper and lower portions of the upper back. The development of the muscles on the sides of the ribs (serratus anterior) is especially noticeable. When well defined they show up as a series of short, thick separate sections because of their saw-tooth attachments to the ribs.


When first doing this exercise, execute the behind-the-neck press in a seated position (straddling an exercise bench). Grasp the bar with a palm-down (pronated) grip. Your hands should be 6-10 inches wider apart than your shoulders. The exact amount will depend on your flexibility. With this positioning your elbows will automatically be pointed to the sides and downward. The barbell should rest on your hands and upper trapezius.

With the bar in position, raise it at a slow to moderate speed until your elbows are fully extended. Lower slowly to the initial position and repeat. Keep your back straight, i.e.,in its normal position, and look forward or slightly downward during execution.

Breathing should be as follows: Before beginning the press, inhale. HoId your breath as the barbell is lifted. As soon as your arms are fully extended, exhale. Continue to exhale as the bar is lowered to the initial position.


1) The behind-the neck press is an excellent exercise for developing shoulder-joint flexibility and strength. In proper execution the anterior (front) deltoid is stretched more to allow your elbows to move to the sides and hack. Your scapulae move toward the spine and almost touch one another. This movement maximally stretches the serratus anterior.

The prior stretching of these muscles allows for a more forceful contraction during the lift and thus provides greater development of these muscles. Therefore, it is important that you use weight which allows you to go through the full range of motion. Excessively heavy weights will limit your range of movement.

2) When you lift maximal or near-maximal weights, use a double breathing cycle. Inhale before the lift, hold your breath during the press and forcefully exhale when the lift is completed. Hold the bar on locked arms, breathe in again and hold your breath as you slowly lower the bar, then exhale when you reach the starting position.

Such a double breathing cycle is needed to stabilize the chest so that the required actions in the shoulder girdle and shoulder joint can take place. In addition, it helps you to maintain a rigid midsection. This keeps you from bending your spine during execution and thus helps to prevent injury.

3) When you do the behind-the-neck press in a standing position, more balance is required. And for more balance you must have greater overall strength in the legs and especially in the midsection, both abdominals and lower back. Although not directly involved in the exercise, the leg and midsection muscles must contract isometrically to hold the necessary standing position. They prevent you from hyperextending the spine or tilting to either side.

To help you maintain balance when executing the behind-the-neck press while standing, place one foot slightly in front of the other. This will help you in forward-backward balance. Also, keep your eyes straight ahead. Do not look up, as this can make you lose your balance.

4) The behind-the-neck press can also he executed on an exercise machine. However, on most machines the handles do not move in a straight line directly overhead; they move on an arc of a circle. Accordingly, you should slide the seat forward or back so that your hands remain relatively above your body and do not move too far in front or behind. You will also have to adjust the height of the seat so that your hands are in line with or slightly above the line of your shoulders in the starting position.

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