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Is It Bad To Arch Your Back When Shoulder Pressing?

There are several exercises to target your upper body by executing a variety of presses, namely: shoulder press, overhead press, bench press, standing shoulder press, incline bench press, push press, and so on.

They might sound and look similar; however, there are substantial differences in their forms and targeted muscles.

So, while you might get away with arching your back on some of these exercises, you should never arch your back with shoulder pressing. But why is it bad to arch your back when shoulder pressing? Because it might lead to several problems like back muscle strain, disk issues, and shoulder injury.

Arching Your Back During Presses

Let’s go through about arching the back during different types of presses.

Your Back During Shoulder Presses:

The shoulder press works your deltoid and your trapezius and pectoralis, which are the trunk muscles. During shoulder pressing, you have to keep your chin up, head high, and your back as straight as an arrow as you do the presses.

This movement should be devoid of any sort of arching because you don’t want to end up with lopsided muscles or any vertebral disfiguration.

What About Standing Press?

The only difference between a shoulder press and a standing press is that you will be using a barbell instead of a dumbbell. This is important as it is tougher to deal with barbells than with dumbbells.

And this might invite unwanted situations where you are using too much weight. As a result, you might end up having an arched back that potentially hurts your lower back while lifting.

Since this exercise is done in a standing position, there are high chances of losing balance and injuring your shoulder joint if you are not maintaining a straight back.

Incline Press – The Easiest Form

The incline press is done in a seated position, with your bench fixed at a 45-degree angle while you lift a substantial amount of weight overhead. As you already have your back supported by a surface, there shouldn’t be much to worry about for an arched back.

But as you retract your shoulder blades, there could be a slight arch over the lower body, and that is fine.

If your back is arching more than the aforementioned level, you might end up having a slipped disk or a torn pectoralis.

Overhead Press

The overhead pressing is a better and slightly easier version of the standing press. You will be doing the same thing but in a seated position. This offers better support if you struggle with getting rid of a back arch.

Moreover, the increased stability also allows you to add more weight. However, this position warrants more back arch than most others, and you have to be aware to keep your core tight and your bar straight. Do not lean backward, as it gets harder during progressive overload.

Overhead presses strengthen your involved muscle, mostly the anterior fibers. For increased shoulder mobility and stronger lateral deltoids, you will want to do lateral raises. This is another move where it is incredibly important to keep your back straight as a lamppost.

So, Is Arching Your Back During Shoulder Presses Bad?

If you haven’t guessed already, it is highly detrimental to arch your back during any variation of shoulder pressing. Here is a brief discussion as to why a perfect form is essential:

Slipped Disk

Between every two vertebrae, there is a small, spongy cushion; that is supposed to act as a shock absorber for your spine. If you are arching your back as you pull heavy weights, it creates unnatural tension and force on your vertebrae, causing those cushions to slip away to an abnormal position.

This will bring pain, debility, and other complications, such as nerve compression.

Back Muscle Strain

Any undue or unexpected force and pull on your back muscle may cause mild to severe tears. Although mild tears and strains are inevitable and will heal on their own, a significant rupture will cause immobility, limited range of motion, excruciation agony, and spasms.

An injury this severe will potentially tank all your progress, as you will have to rest for a long time.

Shoulder Injury

As you press with an arched back, your joints are not properly aligned, and the exercise will fail to coordinate the natural rhythm of your full-range movement.

A common injury of the shoulders is rotator cuff injury, along with tendinitis, biceps rupture, etc. People tend to lift their bar directly without warming up or flexibility training and end up hurting essential muscles.

Fall Risk

When you lift the barbell and set it into the initial motion, there is going to be some unavoidable strain on your spine. But if you have your lower back jutted out, your neck craned, and your chest flaccid, then you will likely lose balance very easily.

Not only will you fall head-first backward, but you might also get crushed under the weight of your barbell. So, watch out.


Weightlifting is all fun and games until your organs start protruding out of your body. The most horrifying consequence of bad exercise is hernia (at least to me). Whether it’s a squat or a press, if you have your back arched, it regularly creates increased intra-abdominal pressure.

And the straining that comes naturally, along with the weight of the dumbbell, will aggravate the issue. What happens next is that your abdominal organ will start pushing against the abdominal wall and come out through a weak opening, such as your inguinal or femoral canal.

Does Arching Your Back During Shoulder Pressing Have Any Impact on Height?

When it comes to the effect of shoulder press on height, arching your back might not have a direct impact. The shoulder press primarily targets the shoulders and upper body strength. While correct form is crucial for preventing injury, arching your back is more about stability than affecting your height.

How to Not Arch Your Back

There is no way you are not going to focus on attaining a good form after the nightmare that you just read. So, to alleviate the situation, here are some tips:


Some people have congenital or acquired vertebral deformities, such as scoliosis or kyphosis, making it impossible for them to have a perfect form. Get yourself checked by a qualified healthcare professional to exclude such scenarios.

And in case such a condition exists, talk with your GP about its management.

Personal Trainers

It’s an amazing idea to get a trainer of your own who will spot you during your sessions. They will instruct you on having squared shoulders and an erect back as you squeeze the bar. Excessively arching your back will send your trainer into a meltdown, so you can say bye to that.

Progressive Overload

Many people screw up their form by ego lifting, where they stack up more than enough weight, drop the dumbbell like a deadlift barbell instead of slowly lower, and push way over their limits with the pressing. Don’t be that guy; increase your load and reps slowly and without injuring your lower back.

Work Your Arms

I know you are already working your arms by pressing, but they are mostly targeting your abductor and that muscle groups. You can also feel stronger and attain a better form by exercising your extensor muscles.

Bottom line

It is bad to arch your back while shoulder pressing and will result in several serious medical conditions, ruining your progress and disfiguring your aesthetics. Learn techniques for maintaining your joints and be aware of your body.

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About Ben Adler

I'm Ben, a passionate fitness enthusiast on a mission to help you achieve your fitness goals. With a love for lifting and building a well-rounded physique, I founded Swole Class to provide beginners with the guidance and knowledge they need to navigate the gym and embrace a healthier lifestyle. Join me on this journey as we unlock our potential and inspire greatness together. Learn more about me