I recently started working out and realized that one can to overhead press in two different ways.

  1. (I can lift more) I root myself leaning slightly back so that all the weight when lifting concentrates on my hips/lower back(I can feel it there, this is my stabile point)

  2. (I lift quite less) I try to be straight and lift it, without any lower back support.

Which way should I use and why? What are the certain pros and cons to those ways?

2 Answers 2


There are many ways to press a weight overhead. What you describe are a (1) a specific trick used in several overhead press styles, called a 'lay back' or a 'lumbar tilt' (it's unclear from your description which you're using) and (2) a strict military press:

This is where it all began, in about 1920, with only the del­toids doing the work. You can­not press much this way, but you will even­tu­ally have a pair of mas­sive shoul­ders.

There are benefits to both, although any form of lay-back should be used judiciously since it is easier to injure oneself using that method. In general, pressing strictly is good because it ensures that you're properly using all the muscles involved and not relying on momentum or other tricks. However, simply lifting more weight can make you stronger than if you refuse to use methods such as the lay-back.

Personally I allow some lay-back when I'm first mastering a heavier weight, but my goal is to gradually remove that lay-back for the same weight.


Overhead press can be very demotivating if done right, because the right way is heavier.

What happens when you lean back, is that the chest muscles assist more, and chest muscles are predominantly stronger than the shoulder muscles, by virtue of being larger and more frequently used in general.

The lean-back however, can damage your spine in the long run. The reason for this is that your lower thoracic spine is bent during the lift, and with all that extra weight on top of it, that's not something your back should endure.

Keep your back straight. A good rule-of-thumb here is to look straight ahead. Don't look up at the bar. You know where it is, and it's not going anywhere.

If you're still having problems with this, and leaning back by default, consider lowering the bar behind your neck, instead of in front, on your chest. This will force you not to lean backwards.

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