By: Bob Kupniewski
In today’s article I am going to go into detail on a few exercises I feel should be avoided in work out routines and that are not going to aid you in your training program. I see a lot of individuals performing these lifts in the gym and have found them to be talking about injuries due to prolonged use of these exercises. They also complain that when performing the exercises something does not feel right, or they say it hurts when performing the motion. That alone should raise a red flag on why are you completing that exercise if its not doing anything for yourself or your physique. Prolonged injury is the last thing any trainee should aim for because it is not going to help regarding their overall goal and training in the future. Injury should be the #1 caution in regards to training and should be a priority. Lets get into the article and discuss some exercises that I feel should be placed on the backburner.
First and foremost pressing movements (shoulder movements) are very hard on the joints, especially your elbows. Not only that, they are also targeting your whole deltoid region, traps, and if performed improperly could cause some neck problems. Ever do a standing overhead press and jerk your neck when trying to grind out a rep and then have a stinger? That is just an example of what I am talking about and how there can be some nasty side effects from working on max effort lifts and a small mistake could lead to a load of pain. This leads me to the first exercise, which is behind the head shoulder press. People who perform their military press in a seated fashion tend to switch between regular military and behind the head military. Individuals may think that because you are utilizing the movement behind your head you will stimulate more posterior deltoids (the muscles in the back of your shoulder) compared to a regular military press. The major drawback here is joint health, which I have already touched upon. Because you are doing this movement with a very end range of motion, this is placing extreme stress on your shoulder joint specially the AC joint, which is a common injury among lifters. The glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) is a very mobile joint but the only drawback is its stability. The stability on this joint is among the worst in the body hence its common injury occurrence that is shown in the gym with most lifters who perform lifts incorrectly or utilize improper form over a prolonged period of time. It is much safer to keep the barbell in front of you due to staying on a scapular plane (raising your arms straight out the side would be a frontal plane such as a lateral raise). The takeaway note here is that behind the head press may get some recognition, but the long-term health effects on your joints will tell you otherwise. So be very cautious on performing this exercise and consider sticking to the basic military press with strict form.
Sticking with shoulders, this exercise is not seen often but an isolation movement that is usually performed wrong in work out routines called the upright row. The premise of the exercise is taking a weight (such as a barbell or dumbbell) from your waist and bringing it straight up to your shoulders to hit your front delts in the exercise. While most people who do the exercise tend to over exaggerate the Range of Motion (ROM) this can have a negative effect on shoulder impingement syndrome. This can happen when the tendon of your rotator cuff will be inflamed from bony acromion being pressed against it (muscle rubbing on muscle/joint). This is where inflammation can happen and cause for consistent pain in the shoulder tendon. The outcome may be surgery to get that tendon taken care of or very long rehab on your shoulder and lying off the gym for a very long time. Are those two things something you would want to have happen? Absolutely not, and something I would want to avoid if all possible. How should the exercise be performed? You should bring the barbell or dumbbell below the shoulder level to just stimulate the muscle and not over exaggerate the shoulder joints/tendons. Doing so with an increased ROM will cause long term injury and what we are avoiding as athletes who enjoy training in the gym. Overall the movement is used to intentionally impinge the supraspinatus. In other words take caution when performing the exercise!
We go with shoulders again–the shrug is an exercise you see done in numerous fashions in work out routines. Individuals will take the barbell right off the rack and shrug, some will use a smith machine and shrug, utilizing dumbbells standing off the rack or lying in a 45 degree angle bench, or how about those who shoulder press the barbell above their head and do overhead shrugs? All of these variations are perfectly fine assuming your form is in check because there is one major drawback I see being performed on these lifts and that is “Rolling” your shoulders while executing the motion. Why do people do this and what is the drawback?
Since we are targeting1 our trap region while performing the shrug the primary function is to elevate or shrug our shoulders (people tend to emphasize reaching their ears when they shrug to get the full ROM on the lift and stimulate the muscle with slower negatives (as I talked about in my previous articles). As we want to shrug upward in the motion, some people take the extreme and roll their shoulders back at the top of the motion, which is a major no-no. What does it do? It takes the movement off the anterior delt and takes the focus off your upper traps (which you are trying to target). Now we are rolling forward and taking the stress off the intended muscle, so the takeaway message if you do roll please try to limit it and roll backward to help engage some portion of your trap region. Keep in mind that you are taking off a lot of extra work from the rhomboids, lower and middle traps in the process.
Last but not least in this article is Stiff Legged Deadlifts and their focus on hitting the hamstrings. I see a lot of individuals turning this into an exercise to corrupt their back due to very bad form. When performing a stiff legged deadlift our sole focus is on keeping an arch in our back while descending and pushing our hips back to place the emphasis on our glutes and hamstrings. The bar should stay very close to your legs and if you prefer a slight bend in the knees may help depending on your flexibility. Some individuals will get a better ROM or stretch in their hamstrings with a small inclusion of the knee bend (as seen in a Romanian Deadlift also known as an RDL). This will be personal preference and based on the individual’s frame. Those who are shorter may need a small knee bend because they are already so low to the ground compared to those who are taller and travel a further path when executing the motion.
So what is the drawback from a rounded back, what are the downfalls, and what are the long-term problems with rounding? Rounding in general is very popular when people deadlift and is seen in this movement, which can strain the discs in your back (specifically the nucleus pulpous). We also have to consider that you are going to compress your spine when rounding your back, which is causing more damage and pain that you will want to avoid when performing lifts. Training coach’s will emphasize to keep your chest tight during the motion because this will aid in keeping a flat/arched back on top of tensed traps/lats to prevent the back from falling forward during complex movements. The takeaway message here is do you want a herniated disc from prolonged rounding of your back during these movements such as the stiff legged deadlift or deadlift alone? I tend to think your answer will be no unless you are a sucker for pain! Keep your back flat and remember that this can carry over into squatting and barbell rowing as well.
Overall this article is going to stress your health first and foremost. Keep working on staying strict with your form and tempo during your lifts to ensure you are doing the right thing and preventing injury. Doing lifts with bad form over long periods of time will be a recipe for disaster and have you heading to the hospital for the wrong reason. These are just a few things I have seen recently that have caught my eye and caused me to rant on this article. I hope you can take away some good information from this article and what can happen when lifts are performed incorrectly. Next time you are performing these lifts or lifts similar to these think about the long-term problems that can happen when form corrupts. Lifting is a hobby individuals do because they enjoy it, lets not dread it by setting ourselves up for failure.
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