Shoulder problems? Be careful of these exercises: Bench Dips, Incline Bench Press and Lateral Raises. First off, Stack edits the hell out of my articles- this is my original article. Please understand that the restrictions for these exercises are for those who HAVE shoulder pain. If you don’t, exercises 2 and 3 are acceptable to perform. Have fun!
Before I get into why to avoid these exercises, let’s examine the anatomy and general rules of thumb regarding shoulder problems. First off, be weary of anyone giving shoulder advice if they can’t name at least 10 muscles around the shoulder- they’re actually 17. Second, I am a certified personal trainer (CSCS) with a degree in Kinesiology and I’m an instructor at a six month personal training school (National Personal Training Institute). This doesn’t make me an expert. There’re copious amounts of information on the web that may be inappropriate for your specific condition. So make sure to consult with your physician if something feels off. With that being said, there are experts in the industry who are well respected when it comes to this shoulder stuff. To learn more, check out Eric Cressey and/or Mike Reinold.
Shoulder Anatomy and seeking proper guidance.
Yes, there are 17 muscles around the shoulder. This means you need to get a diagnosis for what exactly is your individual problem. For example, you could be experiencing a sharp pain on the front side of your shoulder and think its ok to perform bicep curls. Little do you know that one part of the bicep tendon originates on the Supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula which usually causes bicep tendonitis. If you were to perform countless bicep curl repetitions, the likelihood of exacerbating your injury will increased!
When your shoulders are bothering you, understand that there are plenty of potential problems: your back (Lats), Pectoralis Major or Minor, Upper Trapezius or even the “lats little helper,” the Teres Major. All these muscles could be too tight. On the other hand, your Middle or Lower Trapezius, Rhomboid Major or Minor, or Posterior Deltoid could possibly be too weak. Here is the take home message, THE SHOULDER IS COMPLEX! I haven’t even covered the bones, joints or capsules that could potentially make things worse. Bottom line; your friend or trainer likely doesn’t know what they are talking about when it comes to shoulder problems. Please seek a professional’s opinion!
General Rules of Thumb: “Pain= no gain.”
In my opinion, No Pain, No Gain is one of the best sayings out there. Pushing oneself to the point of acidosis (lactic acid build up, aka burn or “pain”) in the muscle is a great way to maximize the production of Human Growth Hormone. The burning you experience during a max set of Push-Ups is a great physiological sensation! Pushing a body beyond the point of physical discomfort because of an injury is STUPID! If you perform an exercise and your shoulder hurts, stop that exercise immediately. Here is how I can tell if my athletes are potentially injured and trying to tough it out. Ask yourself this question, “Does your forehead hurt”? Your immediate answer should be “NO.” You see how subconsciously your brain executed an immediate answer without thinking about it? It was a natural and quick, “NO.” The same test can be applied with an athlete who has been complaining about shoulder pain. When I ask the athlete if his shoulder hurts during a Chin-Up and it takes him a few seconds to respond, i.e., “Naaaa, its fine,” then I know that his shoulder really isn’t “Fine.” How do I know? He subconsciously measured the degree of pain in his shoulder and tried to tough it out by saying, “its fine.” Actually, there is subtle pain in that area and he is trying to tough it out. When an athlete responds with a delayed response, I will stop the exercise immediately and find an exercise which truly exhibits zero irritation. A good trainer is one who can find an exercise that works for every athlete. Remember, if pain is present, there will be no gain!
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s take a closer look at Shoulder problems? Be careful of these exercises:
1- Bench Dips. Every celebrity trainer enjoys suggesting this exercise as a killer exercise to “tone up” the triceps; lose fat and you’ll be able to see muscle in your arms, not by doing Bench Dips! A healthy shoulder is engineered to handle around 50-60 degrees of extension (keeping your arms straight and pulling them behind your body). Obviously, they’re populations that can handle extreme ranges of motion like gymnasts, but we aren’t gymnasts are we? If you are incapable of getting to at least 50 degrees of extension, then forcefully pushing through that range of motion will cause havoc on your shoulders. The solution: Stretch your Latissimus Dorsi. Find a door handle or doorway that’s tall enough and hold the stretch for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. No more old school methods of 30 seconds, that’s for beginners. The longer you hold a stretch, the greater the influence you’ll be making on the tight soft tissue surrounding the restricted joint.
Look at image 1 vs image 2 with Arny. The Govna’s arm is perfectly extended behind him roughly around 60 degrees, whereas image one, the dudes arms are wrenched behind him at 90 degrees… OUCH!
2- Incline Bench Press. There are four joints around the shoulder where the AC (Acromioclavicular) seems to get irritated during this exercise. Compared to the regular Bench Press, Incline pulls the Humerus near maximal extension (see bench dips). Solution: Push-Ups. Many athletes require the scapula to move, not be stabilized as seen in the stereotypical benches. Performing Push-Ups will reeducate the scapula on proper movement patterns. The perfect Push-Up is one that allows the chest to touch the ground and return to full elbow extension (locking your elbows out). Pretend you have a magical $500 dollar bill between your butt cheeks and pinch as hard as you can; don’t let any grab that money! Your core and glutes need to be tight! If you want an extra challenge, have your coach or spotter add weights to your back. The extra weight will maximize core engagement. You’ll know the weight is too much when your back begins to sag- avoid this at all costs.
3- Lateral Raises. Lateral raises WHEN performed improperly can be one of the worst exercises to execute. When we abduct (pull your hands away from the body) past 80 degrees, we begin to impinge a rotator cuff muscle (Supraspinatus). Lateral raises, or weight jumping jacks crush this muscle in the tiny space in the shoulder (Subacromial space) which eventually becomes inflamed. After numerous repetitions (overuse), tiny bone spurs are created on the bone which eventually tear that rotator cuff muscle. Sooner or later, you won’t be able to lift your arm above your shoulder and eventually need rotator cuff surgery. Solution: Don’t lift weights above the mid-part of your chest. When you lift to your side, think of a capital T, but about 20 degrees below parallel to the ground. If anyone every tells you that you need to lift the weight higher, drop the weights and run like hell- they don’t know what they’re talking about. Granted, this exercise is purely for aesthetics, but who doesn’t want the side of your shoulder to POP out?
Take home message? Workout properly by listening to what I have to saw… Show Up OR SHUT UP!