I love overhead(military) shoulder press that activates my shoulder.

But I've found a problem:

If I don't squeeze my back when doing overhead(military) shoulder press, my left shoulder kind of feels uncomfortable and makes some noise and hurts though rather slightly.

Do I need to squeeze my back when I am doing overhead(military) shoulder press ?

I am asking this because overhead(military) shoulder press should aim at practising my shoulder rather than my back.

  • What do you mean by squeeze back? Moving shoulder blades together, and down? Or trying to flex spine? Aug 27, 2018 at 14:36

2 Answers 2


A very common movement impairment is using the lower back to compensate for a lack of overhead shoulder mobility.

Here is a person with their hands above their head:

               Hands overhead

BUT, the person is actually leaning back to get this overhead motion:

               Overhead motion compensation

Their hands are over their head, but, relatively speaking, they are not over their torso. The torso is leaning back, but the arms are not:

               Overhead range of motion compensation

(The other way to view it is neither is perpendicular to the floor.)

This can be a habit, but it's also often commonly from a thoracic (upper) spine that isn't extending effectively. If the upper back doesn't have the motion, the body tries to get it another way => extend the lower back.

Image source and more detail.

If you take these people and have them perform an overhead motion with their entire spine against a wall, they will often have a rude awakening for how little overhead mobility they actually have. Again, not always. Some people it's simply a habit they've gotten into. However, when pain or stiffness is involved, usually that thoracic spine needs some work.

Example of overhead motion with back on wall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgc-QxIStyc

Lastly, I'm a big fan of using the wall / support because the primary purpose of overhead pressing is to work the shoulders, not the lower back. Furthermore, by leaning back you start turning the motion into more of an incline press. Plus, if we can work on extending the upper back -which many need due to hunching over a computer all day- we get some more bang for our buck.


i don't see a problem with engaging your back when doing these exercises. as you can see below its a full body workout that also works your core. its main target is upper back shoulders and triceps and engaging and becoming familiar with those muscles as you begin to use those parts in the exercise is great for building them. never continue doing an exercise if its making you feel that uncomfortable pain feeling.

Why Overhead Press? The overhead press is revered for its brute-strength production and renowned for its seeming simplicity. Just press a barbell, or one of its cousin 'bells, from the top of your chest to its overhead, arms-extended destination. That's the lift in a nutshell, and the juiciest fruits of your overhead labor are unmatched shoulder and upper-back development.

Of course, the brute strength developed by the standing overhead pressing reaches far beyond the shoulders and arms. Full-body engagement builds full-body strength. The standing overhead press also builds the abdominal wall, strengthens the hips, and builds stability through the legs.

But we can't forget the main targets: the shoulders, upper back, and triceps. Search the world over and you won't find another exercise that dramatically develops the shoulders and upper back like the overhead press.

Even though the overhead press is simple to describe, it's actually a relatively technical lift that should be approached intelligently, practiced, and mastered. Here's how to get it done.

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