Behind The Neck Push Press, or BTN Push Press, is a movement derived from the Olympic lifts. It is traditionally used as a variation of the overhead press and the Jerk. The push press is used as an overhead pressing movement to gain strength and power in the upper body.
One of the big benefits of the push press is the utilization of the legs to help drive the weight overhead. The push press has proven to be very beneficial for Olympic athletes and powerlifters, but also the field or court sport athlete that needs overhead upper body strength and power.
Specifically, Behind The Neck Push Presses can be a great substitute for lifters with wrist flexibility issues or other struggles push pressing from a front rack position.
In this guide, I am going to teach you how to do Behind The Neck Push Presses, coaching points, common mistakes, muscles worked, and more.
Table of Contents
How To Do BTN Push Presses
- Multi-purpose lifting rack
- Bumper Plates (technically possible to do with Iron Plates, but Bumper Plates are highly recommended)
- Set the barbell at the height you would normally back squat with.
- Grab the barbell with an overhand grip one thumb length from the start of the knurling (grip wider if necessary based on shoulder mobility).
- Set the bar on the traps as you would with a back squat.
- To unrack the bar, take a deep breath and brace the abdominal muscles and upper back. Use a staggered stance to unrack the bar.
- Take 2 steps backward and be sure that you will not hit the hooks or anything above your head when you start to press.
- Initiate the movement with a “dip” or bend of the knee that will help you propel the barbell up with momentum. Do not bend the knee forward onto the toes.
- Think about how you initiate a squat. The knee bend should be very similar to this movement.
- This is a quick movement that helps get the barbell moving upward.
- As you extend the legs, press the barbell up. Lock the rep out by holding the barbell overhead for about 1 second.
- Control the bar back down toward the starting position. ‘Absorb’ the bar back to the shoulders by bending as you receive the bar. This will help soften the landing back onto the shoulders.
Most issues with the Behind The Neck Push Press do not occur during the press, but rather when receiving the bar. If at any point you feel that you are losing control of the bar path, the lift should be bailed on immediately. This means dropping the bar behind or in front of you and moving out of the way of the bar.
Before moving up in weight, bailing correctly is something that should be practiced.
Speaking of moving up in weight – the Push Press (unless you are an actual Olympic Weightlifter) is an exercise to train explosiveness created by the hips, core and upper body working in unison. It is not a lift that ever needs to be done with heavy (relative to the lifter) weight. Stick with weights that are moderately challenging and focus on moving the bar fast.
The push press is a compound movement specific to Olympic lifts and powerlifting (depending on the event). This is also a great movement for field and court sport athletes that need overhead strength and power. This movement should be trained and programmed according to goals, injury history, athlete readiness, and time of year.
This lift is very technical, uses the whole body, and requires patience and persistence, lifters often times have incorrect form without realizing it, go up in weight too quickly, and may injure themselves.
Be patient with your mobility and flexibility. Persistence and working hard on your flexibility will pay off with Olympic lifts and variations. Remember to always warm up prior to any lifting session. Work on flexibility drills during warm-up sets as well. After your session, use cool-down techniques, foam roll, stretch, and hydrate.
The push press is a full-body movement and does require all musculature to be working in some way. Remember muscles work to concentrically, isometrically, and eccentrically contract. But the push press is a more upper body-based and therefore I will list the prime movers of the lift.
- Upper back
- Lats and biceps (Strong isometric stabilizers and eccentric movers in this movement)
- Quadriceps (Knee extenders)
- Abdominal and lower back muscles (Stabilizers in most movements)
BTN Push Press Alternatives
If you’re not quite comfortable with your Push Press technique, or you lack some of the proper equipment, here are a few alternatives that you may be able to use as a substitution.
Obviously, Push Press would be the most common alternative. A ‘regular’ Push Press is done from a front rack position instead of behind the neck on the shoulders.
I always taught both variations and then let my athletes choose which they preferred.
DB Push Press
Grab 2 dumbbells and set them in the pressing position. I recommend facing the dumbbells so that your palms are facing your ears. Perform the “dip” and drive the dumbbells overhead. This is a great movement for novice lifters looking to gain experience in overhead movement before attempting anything with a barbell.
Landmine Single Arm Press
Use a landmine attachment (or make one yourself with a tennis ball) and push one end of your barbell into a corner or stable surface. Load the other end with some weight.
I would recommend starting very light at first as you get used to this movement that is most likely new. Standing in an athletic position, perform single-arm presses with the “landmine”.
Med Ball Overhead Toss
The med ball overhead toss is an exercise that sounds exactly what it describes. The athlete will assume a position over the med ball, hinge at the waist, forcefully lift the ball, drive the hips, and lifting with the arms, throw the med ball as high into the air as possible.
This lift is highly technical and requires a tremendous amount of attention to detail, practice, and a slow gradual increase in weight. An athlete who does not consistently set up the right way and sacrifices form to lift more weight will get hurt.
It is also important to consider rest, recovery, and balancing other life activities.
Because the Behind the Neck Push Press stresses the entire body and is very hard on the central nervous system, it takes time to recover from a serious pressing session. Field and court athletes should consider what day of the week they are utilizing Olympic lifts and their variations.
If you are going to press heavy on a particular day of the week, if it is not recommended you do any other heavy upper body lifting, sprinting, or serious competition, until fully recovered. Training history, readiness, and history of injury all need to be considered.
As an athlete, it is important to make sure the lifting in the weight room is correlating and in conjunction with your sport. Rest and recovery are absolutely critical to reap the benefits of any lift and should be taken seriously by all athletes.
More Links and Info
If you’re looking for more Olympic lifts and Olympic lift variations, head over to the Olympic Lift page in the Horton Barbell Exercise Library. Here you’ll find a growing collection of movements to help you develop strength and power.