So whenever I do standing military press with any weight, it seems to kind of tear at my back. Not my lower back, but maybe my upper or middle. Anyone with similar experiences?How do I avoid this? Am I using proper form?

  • 1
    Use less weight. Train your core. Do the exercise correct. How do you expect better feed-back without videos?
    – Thorst
    Aug 19 '15 at 12:40
  • Perhaps your upper-mid back is just weak? Perhaps a note about how much you are using, whether you are using non-standard equipment, how you train military press in general. Video is beneficial, but it's not a first class citizen on this site (sigh). What's your training maturity? How long have you been training military press and what's the weight on the bar? Sep 18 '15 at 16:04

It may sound unnatural, but squeeze your glutes (butt cheeks) as hard as you can during the lift. It will prevent your back from bending. Stronglifts explains it very well. The section "Common Pains" explains how to avoid injury.

  • This is what I do. A slight backward back bend is fine (and normal), but it should be with tense glutes/abs.
    – Eric
    Sep 18 '15 at 17:49

Hard to say anything definite without seeing a video or pictures but I'm thinking it could be a combination of a weak core and faulty technique.

Try doing the plank and back raises, without and with added weight, and see how it feels. Does it hurt similarly?

As for diagnosing your form: look in a mirror to see the curvature of your back, as you're pressing. It should be pretty straight – otherwise you risk overextending and hurting your back.

You can also try laying down on your back and having someone put their hand under the small of your back. Tighten your core and press down against the hand – that's the form you want to press from.

If the pain is located very high up, you could experiment with your grip width. Does wider feel better than smaller?

Also try to push your elbows out, so you're not pressing in front of yourself as much as straight from the sides.

Hope that helps! Else please upload a video so we can check your form. Of course, if it keeps hurting I would strongly recommend also seeing a proper physio in person.

  • I doubt it is a weak core, I can plank for over 5 minutes, I think it is a form problem, and doing it sitting doesn't change the feeling, which requires no core strength because I am using a barbell. It feels like my traps are being pushed out of my back whenever I do it, not in a good way, even after a single rep. So I feel it must be form. Lately I just haven't been doing it and I am using dumbbell seated shoulder press instead, which is much more comfortable. Aug 18 '15 at 15:56
  • Wait, hold on. This isn't even my question. That's funny, I thought I asked it because I have the same problem when military pressing Aug 18 '15 at 20:58
  • Are you keeping a tight core when you press? It's common to overarch the back, creating a curvature from the side and that'll make you more susceptible to pain. Squeeze your abs and glutes and make sure you're pressing overhead instead of infront of you – don't lean back. Aug 19 '15 at 8:14

Your primary concern here is obviously to identify the cause of your pain. To investigate this, you will need to use exercises which are broadly similar to the military press, compare which of them cause pain, and use these as a basis from which to locate the issue.

For instance, in this video by Jeff Cavaliere, he uses barbells, dumbbells, and cables to demonstrate the differences to the body by the different approaches to overhead press exercises. As he observes the cable press at the end provides a massive additional effort to the core, so if your core is the problem, you are likely to notice a difference. Alternatives to these approaches are using bodyweight exercises such as the upside down press against a wall, or the pike press.

If it is a core or back problem, it is highly likely that you will feel a problem during core or back work as well. The question then is whether or not you have a balanced plan which works out your whole body, from which you could make a judgement. Other indications could be from for example barbell squats. If you can do barbell squats without a problem, then your posterior chain can be ruled out as having the issue.

If you need to find this problem by yourself without professional help, eliminating the possible culprits will probably be the best way of finding what the problem could be.


I like standing diagonally, because you have balance in all directions, you won't have to compensate with the curvature of your back as much to avoid falling over.

Also, keep your core tight while pressing.

  • A picture could improve the answer
    – FredrikD
    Aug 14 '15 at 8:29
  • It was surprisingly hard to find one, but what I mean is that you stand in parallell and take one step back with one foot.
    – Mårten
    Aug 14 '15 at 11:23
  • "Standing diagonally" sounds alot like leaning, which is obviously a bad idea.
    – Alec
    Aug 18 '15 at 9:36
  • No, the torso is upright, in fact, for me, that's the ONLY way of keeping it upright, because if you stand parallell, you have to lean backwards slightly when the weight is in front of you.
    – Mårten
    Aug 18 '15 at 12:05

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