I have a tendency to tuck my chin in when doing exercises like the military press or overhead dumbbell triceps extensions, I find this brings my neck forward a little.

Is it safe for the neck or would it be more appropriate to keep the neck neutral?

  • 2
    Just from a physiological standpoint, when you hunch your neck forward, you compromise your breathing.
    – JohnP
    Dec 12, 2016 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


In some ways, tucking your chin in may be equivalent to performing a behind the neck press when considering the movement plane of the shoulders and arms. I can tell you from anecdotal experience, that the behind the neck press is contraindicated once you've experienced a rotator cuff tear. And, while a recent study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that:

“For participants with normal trunk stability and ideal shoulder ROM, overhead pressing is a safe exercise (for the shoulder and spine) when performed either in-front of or behind the head. “

Tucking your chin, in my opinion, does not seem to qualify for “ideal shoulder ROM” and should be considered as improper form as it may result in compromising the ROM to counteract the “tuck”. The simple fact you are asking the question indicates to me that you are aware that there's a potential for improper form on the movements you've indicated. Why take a chance at injury? Work with a spotter, trainer, etc. to ensure that your form is correct.


This question is a little vague, because the answer could vary depending on specific exercises.

For overhead pressing, the advice I've read most often is to pull the head back and tuck the chin – as if you were making a double chin. On a military press, this is partially a matter of logistics, allowing for a safer bar path. But I've also found it to be better for DB presses too.

If I try to keep a neutral neck or even worse, head tilted up, I'm much more likely to over-engage the small muscles in the neck and have a painful strain, specifically the levator scapulae. I tweaked my neck doing DB OHP probably 20 times before I figured this out, and I think only once since (sloppily pushing for a PR). You'll see advice to "look up" when pressing overhead, but that generally refers to your eye position, not your neck or chin.

My experience is anecdotal; I don't have science creds to back it up. Do your own tests. See what works for you. But it has also helped some friends, and you see the instruction to tuck your chin in plenty of legitimate sources:

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