When doing seated shoulder presses, must the bench be set to 90 degrees? I seem to be seeing many videos where people are setting up the bench to about one notch before 90. Last night I tried this myself and felt less strain on my lower back. In addition I was able to press 35's as opposed to 30's.

My question is weather this is wrong, and if it is then how can I reduce the stress on my lower back when the bench is at its upright 90 degree angle?

Some example videos:
Rob Bailey presses 150s
Bodybuilder Vs powerlifter. 100x19 shoulder press.

  • @Informaficker just posted exemplary clips. Nov 14, 2012 at 19:27
  • When you're doing a standing press, maintain tension in your abs is one of the main challenges, and an isometric abs workout is a secondary benefit of that exercise. I'd think that a seated, 90-degree shoulder press would require a similar level of abs tension (to protect your spine) as a standing press, and that using a slightly reclined (85-degree, or whatever) chair would remove this bracing requirement.
    – DavidR
    Nov 14, 2012 at 19:41
  • @DavidR so what you're saying is that it isn't necessarily wrong but simply lacks the benefit of also engaging the core while working the shoulders? Nov 15, 2012 at 3:38
  • 1
    Yeah, the leaned back seated bench is fine, as far as I can tell, most of the "military press benches" at the Golds Gym I lift weights at have a slightly leaned back bench. I personally prefer to do a standing press (because it will develop my abs more), but it does take a little more technique, and there's a chance I could injure my back if I have bad technique. I feel like I'd rather either do it standing (and have a natural, intuitive sense of how to engage my abs) or just do it seated with a reclined bench... having to brace my abs while seated might be confusing. My $0.02
    – DavidR
    Nov 15, 2012 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


A good way to know if your back is in the right place is to sit up right, pushing the chest out and tightening the abs even in the seated position. This will create a small arch in your lower back releasing some of the tension, but the abs will serve as a stabilizer for the stance.

In essence this give you a 90 degree upright position and a chair with a back could be used to brace the back some more.

There are variations to the lifting of the weights, you have:

  • Lifting both sides simultaneously
  • Alternating (lift and drop one side, before you do the next side)
  • Reciprocating (lifting the other side and meeting the already lifted one half way into the move). This is like a faster version of alternating.

It would be good to use all three techniques in the same workout. If doing 3 sets, do each kind for each set. Its a great challenge

  • use a seat back
  • try 80 and 90 degrees and see which you feel more comfortable doing.
  • do both arms at the same time

I would also add the following: Do not bring your elbows down past 90 degrees (may be hard on your shoulder joint). Do not touch the weights above your head (you lose tension on the shoulder muscles) and stick to a weight you can press for at least 10-12 repetitions (shoulders require more attention than some other muscle groups).

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