Why Do You Have Back Pain After Overhead Press?

October 19, 2021
October 19, 2021

Why Do You Have Back Pain After Overhead Press?

Overhead press is a full-body, compound exercise that deals with your shoulders, arms, rotator cuff, traps, abs, and legs. It can be overworked to increase muscle growth and strength. Nonetheless, some people stop and go for other activities when they feel pain while doing this exercise.

Once you begin to exercise, your body gets accustomed to it and requires a workout. For your first attempt in doing an overhead press, your body may be in pain resulting from its discomfort. This increases the likelihood of injury and causes back pain. Having a bad form will also cause back pain due to muscular strain, a pinched nerve, or ligamentous sprain. Making the simplest adjustment to your figure will allow you to perform overhead press painlessly.

Mistakes that may cause back pain:

1. You press in front of your body.

There will be pressure on the spine if you press in front of your body. Position change can cause stressful force on the back, creating upper back pain.

2. Arching way too much.

An arched back is good for executing overhead press. However, when the weight is directed towards the spine, the spine may be overarched.

3. Cheating

As we struggle to finish our reps, we use a bit of leg. But that's cheating. The overhead press requires strict-pressing that uses your arms and your shoulders. Using your legs in an overhead press is performing a push press. Push press needs more initial force to bring up the bar with heavy weight, and doing this frequently will cause back pain.

Proper Form

To have a pain-free workout, make sure that you are executing overhead press properly. As mentioned above, small mistakes in your form can create discomfort. However, it is one of the simple issues that can be fixed easily. To perform this workout, you should always use a power rack and squat. You will be able to retain the bar in the proper location and set the proper form this way.

Once you are ready, follow these general overhead press guidelines to ensure that you have the proper form:


Heels must have a hip-width distance, which means that they shouldn't touch or are shoulder-width apart. Whole feet must be flat on the ground/floor to have a better balance. Don't let one foot be more forward than the other. It may give you more balance, but it also puts uneven pressure on your lower spine and hips, causing lower back pain. You can slightly point them out 15°, but they should always be aligned horizontally.


Keep your knees and hips locked from start to finish. Bending is cheating. Bending your knees is a push press while bending your hips is also a different exercise that works on hip muscles.


Have a full grip by wrapping your thumbs around the bar. Put your hands on the bar just outside your shoulders. Then twist your hands inward to place the bar near your wrists at the foundation of your palms. To prevent the bar from moving, squeeze it with your hand.

Grip Width

Have a narrow grip on the bar, just next to your shoulders. To have an optimal grip, position your forearm vertically to the floor below.


Overhead press with your wrists almost straight, with your knuckles about 75° back. Doing overhead press with bent wrists is not effective and will only cause wrist strain.


Maintain a close distance between your elbows and your torso. Tuck them 45° so they touch your lats at the bottom. No flaring. Finish rep by locking your elbows at the top.


Position your forearms vertically to the floor from all angles: perpendicular from the side view and front view.


Upper arms should not be horizontal to the floor. Keep your upper arms. Keep your upper arms down with vertical forearms.

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Hold the bar on your front shoulder muscles in front of your throat.


Lift your chest before pressing the bar off your shoulders. Make an attempt to touch your chin with your upper chest. Remember to raise your chest between reps before the next one.


Raise the bar by arching your back and lifting your chest. Do not clench your shoulder blades together


Finish every rep by shrugging your shoulders towards the ceiling.


Keep your head neutral. Look forward. Don't look at the ceiling or the bar while you press either look aside or tilt your head.

Lower Back

Keep a neutral lower back. Don't overarch and hyperextend your lower spine to avoid hurting your back.


Lean slightly back at the bottom before lifting the weight off your shoulders. Press the weight in a vertical line up while moving your torso forward.

Way Up

Press the bar in a vertical line rather than in a curve. Keep the bar near to your face on the way up. Stay close to the bar by moving your torso forward as you go up. Remember to have straight legs and keep elbows about 45°.


Balance the bar above your shoulders at the top. Don't hold it in front or behind your shoulders. Lock your elbows. Shrug your shoulders to the ceiling.

Way Down

Lower the bar down to your shoulders. Lowering down is just a mirror of the way up. Lower it under control but not slow. No elbow flaring.


Inhale at the bottom before you press and hold breath while at the top. Exhale at the bottom.

Bar Path

Push the bar vertically from your shoulder to head, raise it above shoulder height. No curve paths.

Within Reps

Breathe out, lift your chest, straighten your forearms, inhale, and push again.

Overhead Press Tips

Tip #1. Keep your glutes solid

The overhead press mostly works on our upper body. Some people make a big mistake by completely neglecting their lower body. Having weak and loose glutes puts you at a greater risk of surgery as your lower back moves into a bow position. This is very dangerous, especially when dealing heavy weight over your head. Make sure that your foundation is as powerful as possible when you are standing for the overhead press.

Tip #2. Contract your core

The overhead press is one workout where you need to be extra careful of your back forms. Holding heavy weights over your head gives a lot of stress on your spine. Contracting your core muscles will create a strong, powerful base as you press.

If you contract your core, it is easier to transmit the force you're developing to your shoulders and your arms in the overhead press. Use it to create a strong base for the correct muscles to work as you lift.

Tip #3. Alternate your presses with other lifts

Overhead press is quite an intense workout and places significant strain on the shoulder joints and lower back, so only train it every few weeks. In doing so, you reduce the risk of injuring your shoulders and back. Consider doing other similar exercises in the meantime that will help you improve on overhead lifts, ensuring continuous training.


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