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Must know about Dangerous Shoulder Exercises

Bench Press – This is a popular exercise chosen to build the chest, along with the anterior deltoid and triceps. Most teach taking the bar down until it lightly touches the chest. However, I believe this is unsafe because it exposes the anterior shoulder capsule to excessive load, in addition to compressing the soft tissue of the rotator cuff between the humerus and the acromion. Over time, with repeated bouts and heavy loads, the rotator cuff becomes inflamed.

Individuals with any anterior shoulder laxity (loose joints) or history of subluxation/dislocation are also at increase risk for rotator cuff injury or labral (shoulder cartilage) damage. Furthermore, you also have the potential to rupture the pectoralis tendon with full range pressing during heavy loads. The safe answer is to lower the bar until the upper arm is parallel to the floor (elbow bent to 90 degrees). This prevents the shoulder joint from moving into the unsafe range. The same advice applies to push-ups.

Lat Pull Downs – This is a good exercise to strengthen the back, but when done behind the head it can cause problems. Like the bench press, pulling the bar down behind the head positions the humerus in such a way that the rotator cuff can be pinched. This may depend on other factors, including the shape of a person’s acromion and degree of any present arthritis, but I still believe the risk outweighs any benefit. Not to mention that keeping the bar in front of the head still accomplishes the same movement for the target muscle, while eliminating the risk of shoulder injury. Remember not to sway during the movement, and position the body in a slightly reclined position, pulling the bar toward the sternum. Another unrelated reason not to do behind the neck pull downs is that it places undue stress on the cervical spine.

Military Press – This exercise when performed behind the neck with a bar, positions the shoulder in the aforementioned unfavorable position. Done repeatedly, the rotator cuff can become inflamed. Similar to behind the neck pull downs, you also expose your neck to unnecessary stress. It is safer to perform the exercise in front of the head or utilize dumbbells and work in the scapular plane. You must watch to avoid arching the low back and it is best to use a bench with back support to prevent this.

Dips/Upright Row – As before, the key mistake made with these exercises is allowing the shoulder to move beyond 90 degrees relative to a position parallel to the floor or perpendicular to the body. I always recommend stopping at 90 degrees to protect the shoulder capsule and the rotator cuff.