Should You Keep Your Back Flat While Doing a Shoulder Press?

A straight back prevents muscle strain during a shoulder press.
i Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Also known as a military press, a shoulder press involves lifting a barbell or set of dumbbells over your head. While you may have your choice of weights, both exercises should involve keeping your back straight as you perform them. Maintaining good form can ensure you prevent injury and get the best results from your shoulder press exercise. Always speak with your physician before beginning any exercise program to ensure you are not at risk for injury.

Doing a Shoulder Press

The shoulder press can be performed while either sitting down or standing. Hold a barbell or two dumbbells at shoulder height with your palms facing forward. Your back should be kept straight and upright throughout the exercise. Keep your shoulders back as you lift the barbell or dumbbells in the air, stopping when your arms are extended. Slowly lower the weight toward your chest and repeat 10 to 12 times. Rest for 30 seconds to one minute and perform one to two additional sets.

Posture Importance

If you find you have difficulty maintaining your posture during the shoulder press, this could be due to your hand positioning. If your hands are too wide, you may feel as if you have to arch your back to lift enough weight. Also, if the weight you are lifting is too heavy, you may have difficulty maintaining your straight back position. Drop down in weight slightly and concentrate on tightening your abdominal muscles, which can improve your posture.

Leaning Back

Another tendency when the weight is too heavy or your muscles are too tired is to lean back as you are lifting the bar in the air, according to "Muscle & Strength." Leaning back can increase the likelihood you will experience muscle strain or lose control of the weights as you have them in the air. Recruit a spotter during the exercise who can control the weights for you should your muscles become too tired and you find yourself starting to lean backward.

Exercise Tips

The key to a successful and safe shoulder press is pressing the weight in front of your body, not behind you, according to the American Council on Exercise. When first performing the exercise, use a mirror and turn to the side to ensure you are pressing the bar or dumbbells slightly in front of you instead of slightly behind you. This can help you maintain your back position and prevent injury.

the nest