We often get asked by our gym-lovers if one version of an exercise is safer to perform than another.
When comparing front to behind-the-neck overhead press, here are the important points to consider.
When we perform the behind-the-neck version, shoulders have to be heavily externally rotated, and shoulder blades are squeezed together. Which puts a lot of tension on the joints and the anterior part of the capsule - protecting the joints. The risk for shoulder impingement is also higher, compressing one of the rotator cuff tendons while overstretching another.
On top of that, most people lack the shoulder and thoracic flexibility to keep a straight line of pull behind the neck. Which results in a forward-positioned neck, adding neck strain to the previous shoulder strain.
To avoid shoulder instability, and potential shoulder and neck strains, it is safer to keep your overhead presses to the front of your body.