in The shoulder is the most mobile and one of the most complex joints human body.
Not only do your shoulders flex and extend, but they also adduct, abduct, and they internally and externally rotate.
Since they allow movement in all three planes of motion, and almost all upper body movement requires the use of the shoulders, they are arguably the most important joints in our whole body.
And we quickly realize this when we have a shoulder injury. Unfortunately, an injury to the shoulder joint is an alarmingly common occurrence largely due to the fact that it’s a ball and socket joint that moves in so many different directions.
According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, more than 1.4 million shoulder surgery’s are performed each year.
In one giant review of close to 100 studies, researchers concluded that shoulder disorders may be more common for workers with jobs involving overhead work, lifting heavy loads, and repetitive forceful work.
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But even if you don’t have a physically demanding job you can still very easily wind up with a shoulder injury,
and the last place that I’d want to see that happen to you would be at the gym. Which is exactly why I made this video.
Due to outdated myths and poor exercise selection shoulder injuries are still incredibly common when working out.
So if you have sore shoulder joints, or if you’ve already had shoulder surgery and are now done with rehab,
or even if you just want to ensure that you never have to deal with chronic shoulder pain,
I highly recommend watching this video, because I’m going to go over the 5 worst exercises for your shoulders that are absolutely killing your joints.
You’ll want to follow along through this video because at the end I’ll also give you the number one way to strengthen your shoulder joint to relieve shoulder pain and prevent shoulder injuries from ever happening or ever happening again.
Let’s start with the first exercise, a cross fitter favorite, the Kipping Pull-Up. Now the kipping pull-up itself presents a lot of problems even if you perform it correctly.
While regular pull-ups involve using strict form allowing you to effectively target and strengthen the lats, biceps, and the back of the shoulder in a relatively safe way the kipping pull-up throws all that out the window.
The movement begins by initiating swinging with the shoulders, and then you alternate between arching your back and hollowing it out to generate momentum to get over the bar.
With a regular pullup, your body stays directly under the bar the whole time, on the other hand when performing a kipping pullup you’ll notice right away that your body moves really far away from the bar.
In combination with momentum, this takes a lot of the work of the lats and biceps and puts an excessive amount of stress on the part of the rotator cuff responsible for internal rotation and shoulder stability.
This could be okay for someone that spends a lot of time strengthening their shoulder stabilizer muscles, but most people don’t.
The momentum helps people that couldn’t otherwise do a regular pullup get their chins over the bar.
And these are the exact types of people that are more likely to get an injury during this exercise.
A shoulder injury will usually happen either during the explosive swing in the beginning or during the descent when your muscles have to decelerate your body.
A lot of people don’t have the shoulder stability or strength to perform this exercise without risking injury.
On top of that many Crossfit programs call for excessively high reps. Even if there is actually such a thing as good form during this exercise I doubt you’ll maintain it for very long when you’re doing very high reps.
My recommendation is to stick to regular pull-ups because not only are they safer, but they’re also more effective for building muscle and improving upper body strength.
However, if you are thinking about trying this exercise make sure you at the very least have the strength and stability to do regular pullups without momentum.
Next, we have lateral raises with the thumbs down. This was actually a big mistake that I used to make because I got caught up in the hype that doing lateral raises this way could target the middle head of your shoulder better.
The truth is that internally rotating your shoulders doesn’t increase the activation of that middle head,
and it’ll probably only cause you to lift less weight, resulting in less shoulder muscle motor unit recruitment.
Regular lateral raises with the thumbs up higher than the pinkies are a great exercise for your shoulders.
However, when you rotate your thumbs down, you once again put the rotator cuff in a compromised position.
When you add weight into the equation you can easily compress and injure your rotator cuff.
A simple fix is to do lateral raises with your thumbs at least slightly higher up than your pinkies.
Let’s move on to dips which primarily target your triceps, but also will hit your chest, shoulders, and even parts of your back.
Now I’m not generalizing and saying that all dips are bad. Regular dips on parallel bars where your hands are direct to your sides can be performed correctly with a lot lower of a risk of injury to your shoulders.
Bench dips with your hands behind your back are a totally different story. Bench Dips cause maximal internal rotation of the shoulder joint which pinches the rotator cuff and the tendon that connects your bicep.
At the same time, as you lower yourself to the floor the shoulder moves into a position of maximal extension.
On top of all of that, your shoulder is very weak in this position, to begin with further increasing the chance of tearing a tendon or a ligament.
Now it doesn’t just end there, you see a lot of people put their feet up on another bench and they stack weights on top of their legs.
I wish I could say I was smart enough to never try this exercise, but what I can say is every time that I have tried it I had pain during the exercise and after.
To avoid an injury, whenever you do dips make sure your arms don’t travel too much behind your back.
Speaking of going behind the back let’s talk about behind the neck military presses. I’ve mentioned this one before,
but some people still somehow think that this is a great shoulder exercise. When you lift weight behind your head you externally rotate your shoulders past the point that they’re supposed to be loaded with weight.
Close-up of a Muscular Shirtless Man Lifting Heavy Barbell and Doing Military Press Bodybuilding Exercise in the Industrial Gym Building.
This alone can lead to a shoulder injury. Now due to the fact that most people have poor shoulder mobility because they have rounded shoulders or shoulder protraction from sitting all day problems with this exercise begin to multiply.
Many people wind up curving their back out in an attempt to get the weight behind their head.
They also push their head forward to help get the bar behind their neck. Doing this increases the chances of a lower back injury and an injury to the neck as well.
So you would assume that the people that choose to do this exercise are risking a shoulder injury for a very good reason.
Like military presses behind the head should build twice as much muscle as in front. Well, it turns out, that’s not the case at all.
By going behind your head you’re taking a mechanically disadvantageous position. Meaning you won’t have the same power that you would have if you just kept your arms in front of your head, to begin with.
The same can be said for lat pulldowns behind the head. This translates to you using significantly less weight then what you’d be able to do in front of your head.
Meaning you’re going be building less strength, and less muscle over time. So just keep the bar in front of your head and you’ll avoid an injury while getting better results.
Now I’ve had some people get confused and think that you can’t do barbell squats behind the head due to this advice.
However, barbell squats are absolutely fine because you’re resting the weight on your upper back rather than supporting it with your shoulders.
The last exercise I want to go over before giving you guys literally the best exercise to help rehab and prevent shoulder injuries is the upright row.
The problem with the upright row is that as you come up higher and higher your arm rotates internally more and more.
Usually, people will try to also use heavy weight for this exercise, and whenever you combine heavyweight with the excessive internal or external rotation you increase the chances of a shoulder injury.
In this instance, you’re increasing the chances of shoulder impingement. This actually another movement pattern that very closely mimics a mobility test that Physical therapists will put you through to look for impingement.
So you don’t want to be doing an exercise designed to test for impingement especially not for multiple sets and reps with a heavy weight load.
Over time it can and will lead to an overuse injury. If you want to target the same muscles as you would with this exercise I want you to know that there are far more effective exercises with far fewer risks involved.
If you want to work on the lateral head a regular lateral raise with the thumbs up as we talked about, will usually give you more stimulation than an upright row, without all that risk.
If you want to strictly work the front of your shoulder then you can lean back in a bench and do inclined frontal raises for an extremely effective workout for your anterior deltoid.
For the traps, you can isolate them by doing shrugs, and shrugs will allow you to lift a lot more weight helping you build more muscle.
All of these exercises can provide more benefits without the risks involved with upright rows.
So now as promised I want to go over how to strengthen and repair your rotator cuff. Unfortunately, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve had a couple of injuries to my shoulders over the years.
But fortunately, I used cables to rehab and strengthen my clients as well as my own rotator cuff many many times.
Now you can do this exercise with a dumbbell and you can also do it with a resistance band,
but based on my experience I’ve seen the best results using the cables on a cable crossover machine.
There are two positions that you’ll have to get into. For the first one hold the cable across your body in one hand, keep your elbow tight to your ribs, and bend it at a 90-degree angle.
Maintain this 90-degree angle while externally rotating your arm out for 10 reps with a lightweight.
Then turn around and rotate your arm internally for 10 reps while maintaining that same 90-degree angle in the elbow.
I find that opening up the hand really helps me take other muscles out of the movement and helps me focus on the rotator cuff.
One at your elbow and one at your shoulder joint. The same idea applies here you can do both internal and external rotation,
and again 10 reps of each for 3 sets. You don’t want to feel pain, but be aware that you may feel some discomfort during this exercise especially if you’ve had a shoulder injury before.
I can honestly say that these two exercises have been a lifesaver for myself as well as the clients that I’ve shown it to.
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