What does it mean to arch your back?
There can be many reasons for neck muscle spasms / pulls, including (in no particular order):
- Insufficient nutrition: The muscles lack the glycogen stores required and overcompensate for it
- Insufficient sleep: Your nervous system is compromised when you are in a sleepless state, and I have had the most problems with neck cramps in this condition
- Poor hydration: Electrolyte disturbances can lead to annoying pain signals or muscle cramps.
- Upper back weakness: Delts for the upper back and rear do not help to contribute to the lift, so you make an effort to get the lift done.
- Bad form: Your spotters may not know what to look like, or aren't they really paying more attention to it than preventing the bar from crushing your neck?
You may even have a combination of several factors at the same time. Don't rule out "bad form" unless you have a qualified trainer who can tell you your form is in good shape. Someone discovering something just pays attention to safety and not how to get more muscle in the bar.
I'm assuming that food, sleep, and hydration will work well enough for the rest, but just make sure this isn't the problem.
Pushing things overhead
The different variations of pushing things overhead require your upper back to be engaged and shift your weight from in front of your head to just above your shoulders. In fact, you should be able to draw a straight line from the center of the barbell through your shoulder blades and metatarsus. Your lower back should also be in a neutral position.
If you don't end up in this position, the chances are the bar will stay in front of you. Also, chances are your upper back is not involved in the lift at all.
Refine your technique, but don't change it completely. There's a time and place for a flat back with your feet on the bench, but it's important to isolate your arms when they're the weakest.
Arching your back is a good thing, but watch out for the following things:
- Your shoulders, buttocks, and head must be in contact with the bank (note I didn't say neck).
- The bar varies where it meets and when in the lower position, but it should be between the nipple line and the sternum.
- The bar path should end with the bar just above the shoulders and the shoulders should stay in contact with the bench (do not lift them by the shoulders). That means the bar is moving a bit horizontally. This also means that your upper back is involved for support.
Take a little weight off the bar and focus on the start and end positions. Also, try to activate your upper back to help with these exercises.
- Start with a weight that allows you to do the movement slowly and focus on staying in the strongest body position during all stages of the lift.
- Your progress will be adding speed to the bar before adding weight. Every time you increase your weight, start over with a slow lift.
- Perform dumbbell front raises as an auxiliary exercise. Start with a weight that you can do 3x10 with.
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