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Shoulder Problems? Be Careful With These 5 Exercises

Have you suffered a shoulder injury in the past or are you experiencing shoulder pain with certain movements? If so, there are some shoulder exercises that are best avoided.

Let's start with some basic shoulder anatomy:

Did you know that the shoulder complex is made up of three joints?

Glenohumeral (GH) joint: This is the ball and socket joint that we usually think of when we talk about the shoulder joint. The GH joint connects the humerus and the scapula.

Acromioclavicular (AC) joint: This nearly immobile joint connects the scapula at the acromion and the clavicle. It can usually be seen as a bump at the top of the shoulder.

Sternoclavicular (SC) joint: This joint connects the clavicle to the sternum. Almost all movements of the shoulder girdle will cause movement of this joint.

A third articulation in the shoulder complex is the scapulothoracic articulation which is not a joint in the traditional sense, but still plays an important role in shoulder movements.

Shoulder joints

The glenohumeral joint is the most flexible joint in the human body, but the great range of motion comes at a cost. Like the hip joint, the GH joint is a ball and socket joint. However, unlike the hip joint that has a deep socket in which the head of the femur fits perfectly, the socket of the shoulder joint is shallow, allowing great mobility but also resulting in increased vulnerability to injury due to greater reliance on muscles and ligaments, rather than anatomical congruency, for stability.

Overuse injuries in the shoulder region are common, especially from repetitive movements in positions where the stability of one or more of the shoulder joints is compromised.

Some shoulder exercises can cause trouble, even when performed correctly. The following exercises involve adding resistance to muscles surrounding the shoulder while placing the shoulder in a position close to the end range of motion. This can put strain on joints and eventually compromise their integrity.

Upright row

Illustration from Everkinetic

Internal rotation with flexion and abduction of the GH joint may provoke impingement symptoms which can range from annoying to painful and are notoriously hard to treat with lasting relief. When left untreated the irritation may progress to practically irreversible calcification of the supraspinatus or other rotator cuff tendons.

(Weighted) dip

Illustration from Everkinetic

At the lowest point of the dip the maximal extension of the shoulder puts high stress on the ligaments of the AC joint. Adding extra weight to this exercise increases the risk of acquiring an AC injury which is not only painful, but also hard to treat.

Behind-the-neck triceps extension

Illustration from Everkinetic

This exercise consists of flexion and extension of the elbows with the shoulders held in maximal flexion. For someone known to have shoulder instability or shoulder pain it is best to avoid this exercise.

Rear (behind the neck) pulldown and rear (behind the neck) barbell shoulder press

Behind the neck pulldowns - Don't do it

Best Avoided: Rear lat pulldown.

Behind the beck shoulder press - Avoid it

Don't do it: Rear barbell shoulder press.

These exercises require the shoulder to be in a position of maximum external rotation while pulling a weight down, as is the case with the pulldown, or pushing a weight up, as is the case with the barbell overhead press. This is extremely demanding for the shoulder's active stabilizers, mainly the rotator cuff.

The risks outweigh the benefits for these behind-the-neck exercises. Those who experience shoulder pain or shoulder instability should stay away from these exercises to minimize their risk of injury. The traditional pulldown and military press are safer and just as efficient in training the same muscle groups.

Provided that your shoulders are healthy, doing these exercises once in a while is not likely to cause harm. But think twice before making them a staple in your regular workout routine. Adding resistance while keeping the shoulder joint near its end range of motion may prove more risky than beneficial over time.

Avoid exercises that cause pain. There are plenty of exercises to choose from, find some that you can do comfortably without risking injury.

#weightlifting #strengthtraining #health #training #jointhealth

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