Has the behind neck military press been hurting your shoulders? Here are much safer alternatives that will get you the muscle growth, shape and strength you want.

Even if so far, you’ve had no problems with your shoulders (particularly the rotator cuff) from pressing a barbell behind your neck (either free or Smith machine), you may still want to consider safer alternatives.

After all, an annoying chronic shoulder issue could be awaiting you around the corner.

Whether you want to shape your shoulders, get stronger shoulders or are aiming for hypertrophy, there are other options that will get the job done just as well and even better.

Keep in mind that the military press does not mimic natural motion.

In a real life circumstance in which you must hoist a heavy item over your head, you will be pushing slightly forward — as in placing the item on a high shelf.

You will likely never be pressing the item overhead vertically.

Military Press Alternatives

Standing front overhead press. Simply press the barbell over your head.

This can be done with a free barbell or on a tracked (Smith) machine.

Seated tracked barbell. Use a bench or fitness ball for your seat, and press upward. Sitting prevents using your legs to help boost up the weight.


Seated dumbbell overhead press. Have a seat and start lifting. The seat may be either a standard bench or a fitness ball.

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Standing dumbbell overhead press. You can alternate hand position: palms forward throughout the entire movement; palms facing each other throughout the entire movement; or palms starting out one way or the other and then shifting into the other position as you straighten your arms.

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Cable machine and tension band. These are two more alternatives to pressing resistance over your head.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/Serghei Starus