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7 Moves You Should Avoid in Your Shoulder Workouts

Nix problematic moves and try these alternatives to strengthen your delts.

Nix problematic moves and try these alternatives to strengthen your delts.


By Pete Williams, C.P.T, Muscle & Fitness

No part of the body takes a greater beating than the shoulders. There’s a reason it’s called shouldering a burden rather than “hipping” or kneeing a burden.

That’s always been the case, but even more so in recent years. We spend much of our time hunched over computers and smart phones, moving less and sitting more. As a result, our glutes are deactivated, our hips locked, and our shoulders hunched forward.

So the last thing we want to do is perform challenging, potentially dangerous moves with our shoulders misaligned. Instead, we want to move by pulling the shoulders back and down—as if trying to pull them into your back pockets—so we counteract the effects of sitting all day.

The next time you’re people watching, look at them from a side view. Notice how few of them have a straight line between ear and shoulder—most protrude forward. When you have properly functioning shoulders, you’ll stand taller and appear more powerful. Added muscle is just a nice byproduct from training for shoulder function.

Here are seven moves you should avoid in your shoulder workouts because of the potential harm and seven alternatives that will strengthen and stabilize the area so it can shoulder any burden.



1

Upright Row

Why You Should Avoid It: This move was popularized by bodybuilders in the 1980s because it hit the deltoids hard. There's nothing wrong with that, though it did little for the functional aspects of the shoulder. But people in the ‘80s didn’t spend their days sitting at computers and hunched over smartphones, rounding their shoulders. Thus, most anyone lifting in 2018 comes to the upright row with rounded shoulders and muscle dysfunction that’s only exacerbated by this exercise.

What You Should Do Instead: Physioball Ys and Ts. Lie face-down on a physioball and bring your shoulder blades together to raise your arms to a “Y” 10 times and then a set of “Ts” for 10 reps. You’ll strengthen and stabilize the shoulders, countering the effects of sitting, and reducing the risk of shoulder injury. Not challenging enough? Add a pair of light dumbbells.



2

Kipping Pullup

Why You Should Avoid It: Some believe these swinging pullups popularized by CrossFit are cheating. (They certainly wouldn’t have passed muster on the President’s Physical Fitness Test back in the ‘70s.) Even if you accept kipping as a legitimate pullup, it’s a recipe for shoulder injury. Most of us non-gymnasts lack the shoulder stability to pull these off without risking a rotator cuff tear. Unless you’re training for a CrossFit competition, leave these in the box.

What You Should Do Instead: A conventional pullup with an overhead grip or a chinup with an underhand grip. Draw your shoulder blades together to lift yourself up. Squeezing the shoulder blades back and down not only builds the shoulders, it counteracts the effects of sitting. Do 10 of these and accept the Presidential Physical Fitness Award you failed in the fourth grade.



3

Battling Ropes

Why You Should Avoid It: Sure, they look badass and break the monotony of pushing and pulling iron, and while they are a great conditioning workout, many people don’t have the strength and mobility in their shoulders to start attacking battling ropes right away. You’re flinging your shoulders around violently one at a time. At least a baseball pitcher inflicts damage to only one of his arms. This move is an equal opportunity offender.

What You Should Do Instead: Grab a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and walk around the room once or twice. Keep your shoulders back and down, your posture perfect, and you’ll strengthen your shoulders rather than damaging them.



4

Ring Dips

Why You Should Avoid It: Bart Conner, Mitch Gaylord, and the rest of the 1984 U.S. gold medal gymnastics team were the last American dudes to look great doing these with proper form. They’re now all about 60, so like the rest of us they should avoid risking some severe rotator cuff damage by dipping on the rings. You might want to leave this workout to the pro gymnasts instead of risking doing serious damage to your shoulders by doing them incorrectly.

What You Should Do Instead: Physioball pushups. The idea of building shoulder stability by training on an unstable surface makes sense. But the physioball pushup is a safer move than ring dips. Place your hands on the side of the ball and lower slowly before pushing up.



5

Behind-the-Neck Pulldown

Why You Should Avoid It: Whether it’s a barbell or bar attached to a cable, pulling or pressing anything behind the neck puts undue strain on the rotator cuff and neck while providing no additional value to the shoulders.

What You Should Do Instead: An alternating dumbbell press is a safer move for the shoulder and a more effective one since lowering one dumbbell at a time builds stability, especially if you push or “pulse” a little further at the top of each rep.



6

Kettlebell Swing

Why You Should Avoid It: It’s a terrific move powered by your lower body, specifically the glutes and hamstrings. Unfortunately, many people are so tight in these areas that they swing from the shoulders, making it a dangerous move.

What You Should Do Instead: The kettlebell swing isn’t meant to be a shoulder move, so we’re going to substitute something that will ensure you don’t try to make it one. The goblet squat encourages proper squatting form and glute activation. Master the goblet squat and you’ll perform a kettlebell swing with proper form, using the glutes and hammies.



7

Bench Dip

Why You Should Avoid It: Sure, dips are the all-purpose, no-equipment bodyweight move that can be done indoors or outside, even while waiting for a bus or watching your kids at the playground. Unfortunately, the bench or chair version of dips requires too much internal shoulder rotation and can pinch the rotator cuff.

What You Should Do Instead: Conventional bench dips on parallel bars place more of the load on the biceps. Not as convenient as benches and chairs, but less likely to damage the shoulders.


See more at: Muscle & Fitness

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Men's Lifestyle: 7 Moves You Should Avoid in Your Shoulder Workouts
7 Moves You Should Avoid in Your Shoulder Workouts
Nix problematic moves and try these alternatives to strengthen your delts.
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