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A Safer Shoulder Workout

Is your shoulder workout doing more harm than good?

For gymgoers looking to build strength and fill out their T-shirts, poor form or technique can turn shoulder workouts into a fast track to physical therapy. About a third of all resistance training injuries involve the deltoids, the muscles that form the rounded contour of the shoulder, making them one of the most common injuries that occur in the weight room.

But many of these injuries can be prevented with small changes in technique, a fact highlighted by new research published in the latest issue of Strength & Conditioning Journal.

The research focuses on one of the most popular shoulder exercises for men and women: the upright row. If you spend any time around the weight rack at your gym, chances are you know it.

To perform an upright row, pick up a barbell with an overhand grip, hold it by your waist, and lift straight up toward your chin. Some people use a pair of light dumbbells, kettle bells or a cable machine. All accomplish the same goal, strengthening the trapezius (a large muscle that spans the neck, shoulders and back) and the medial deltoid (the middle of the three muscles that make up the deltoids).

The problem, research shows, is that most people invariably lift the weight too high, which can lead to shoulder impingement, in which the shoulder blade rubs, or impinges, on the rotator cuff, causing pain and irritation.

The study found that three simple steps can reduce the risk of injury.

  1. Keep the weight as close to your body as possible during the movement.
  2. Avoid the temptation to pull the weight up to your chin or nose.
  3. Don’t let your elbows or the weight climb any higher than your shoulders.

Usually people are trying to pull the weight as high as they can.  You increase the chances of impingement when you bring your elbows up beyond 90 degrees — basically when they’re past parallel to your shoulders."

The same rule holds for another popular exercise called the lateral raise, which develops the medial deltoids.  Starting with a weight or kettle bell in each hand, arms at your side and knees slightly bent. Lift the weights out to the side, arms slightly bent — but do not extend any higher than the level of your shoulders. Just as with the upright row, poor form in the lateral raise can lead to impingement.

Exercising the medial deltoids carries a number of aesthetic and practical benefits. In addition to creating more muscle definition, the exercises can round out the shoulders and enhance the look of the upper arms.  The exercises can also build strength for everyday activities like carrying groceries, lifting heavy objects or hoisting small children.

Eliminating two shoulder exercises from your workout. Skip the behind-the-neck shoulder press because lifting behind the neck can easily strain the rotator cuff and put excessive stress on the shoulder joint. A related exercise, the behind-the-neck pull down, causes similar problems and raises the risk of impingement.

Instead, just pull the bar down in front of your head, not behind it.

You should always do the pull down from the front, If you pull down hard behind the neck it can damage the cervical spine, and studies show that the front lat pull down has greater muscle recruitment. I just can’t think of any reason why you should ever do the behind-the-neck pull down.

 

 

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