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by Columbus, Ohio Personal Trainer Brian Schiff

Brian Schiff is Columbus, Ohio's top Personal Trainer. Brian Schiff, PT, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, strength coach, personal trainer, author and business owner. He graduated from The Ohio State University in 1996 with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Allied Health Professions (Physical Therapy). He became a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association in 1998. Brian has worked in outpatient sports medicine clinics for the past 11 years. He specializes in treating general orthopedics and sports medicine cases, specifically the shoulder, knee and ankle. He has been featured in the USA Weekender, Men's Health Best Life Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Business First and Central Ohio Health Magazine. He serves as a contributing author for PTontheNet and is an expert author for
Columbus Certified Personal Fitness Trainer

Dangerous Shoulder Exercises
Brian Schiff, PT, CSCS
Have you ever suffered from shoulder discomfort after working out? I am referring to
aching or sharp pain experienced in the front of the shoulder or lateral upper arm that is
felt with overhead activities, reaching behind the back or even laying on the shoulder.
These symptoms are often indicative of rotator cuff inflammation. This is a common
problem for many people who perform resistance training on a regular basis. It is also a
problem that can easily be prevented by modifying the following .dangerous shoulder
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 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.
Dumbbell Lateral Raise . In my opinion, this exercise is often done incorrectly. The
mistakes include lifting too much weight, keeping the arms straight, and raising the arms
out away from the body in the plane of the body. The force on the rotator cuff reaches
90% of your body weight when the arms are raised to 90 degrees with the arms straight
and in the plane of the body. That is a lot of force on four relatively small rotator cuff
muscles. The target muscle is the lateral deltoid, but the rotator cuff is extremely active,
and it functions to allow you to raise the arm by depressing the humerus so that it passes
under the acromion during active elevation. When heavy loads are introduced in the
wrong plane of motion, disaster usually occurs. I am fanatical about performing this
exercise correctly. The proper way to execute a lateral raise is to keep the elbows
comfortably flexed (20-30 degrees) and raise the arm to no higher than parallel to the
floor. The arm should be in the scapular plane of motion (approximately 30-45 degrees
from being perpendicular to the body) and the weight should be relatively light. Once
you feel you have to shrug or use momentum to raise the weight, you need to rest or
lower the weight. In my opinion, this is one of the worst exercises for the shoulder if
done incorrectly.
In summary, I want to emphasize that good intentions may spell bad results for the
shoulder if proper form is lacking. The rotator cuff and shoulder joint is extremely
vulnerable to heavy loads and repetitive bouts of exercise. Gradually, it may become
inflamed and hinder or limit your workout altogether. Be sure to master form before
increasing weight, and do not attempt to work through pain, as this often perpetuates the
problem. Remember to assess risk and reward at all times, and rest assured that these
modifications will not hinder your gains. Instead, they will prevent missed time in the
gym and produce happier, healthier shoulders!
Copyright © 2004 Brian Schiff




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