The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

August 14, 2014

You do an exercise, feel a twinge in your shoulder and power through the remaining reps because, well, you think you’re weak if you don’t. However, your shoulders simply are not designed to perform many common exercises. And grinding through a set in pain does more harm than good; it can eventually lead to an injury that takes you off the field.

We spoke with several elite experts on shoulder health to learn what exercises you should avoid to stay injury-free.

Behind-the-Neck Military Press

If you care about your shoulders, you should avoid this old-school bodybuilding lift. “It’s a really vulnerable position for the shoulder girdle, because the rotator cuff is at a mechanical disadvantage,” says Eric Cressey, co-founder of Cressey Performance (Hudson, Massachusetts). “Plus, it doesn’t afford any benefit over pressing from the front.” If you see this move in a workout program or a fellow gym-goer suggests it, always say "no."

Behind-the-Neck Lat Pulldowns or Pull-Ups

You don’t hold heavy weight overhead when performing these moves, but according to Dr. Ricardo Colberg of the renowned Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center, behind-the-neck variations are still dangerous. He says, “The exercises take your shoulders into full external rotation, which pushes the head of your humerus forward. This is the weakest point of the shoulder and has a high risk of dislocation, which may cause tears of the tendons, cartilage or ligaments, as well as a fracture of the bone.”

Again, traditional Lat Pulldown and Pull-Up variations provide more than enough challenge to effectively build back strength.

Anything Behind the Neck

Mike Boyle, one of the nation’s most respected strength coaches, reiterates that athletes should avoid any exercise that’s performed behind the neck. He says, “Extremes of abduction and external rotation can be really stressful on the shoulder joint.”

To make matters worse, many people have difficulty getting their arms overhead in the first place. As you raise your arms overhead, does your back arch and ribs flare out? If so, you fall into this group.

“Most people have difficulty getting their hands overhead without compensating,” says Boyle. “Combine this with a lack of external rotation and you have a recipe for disaster.”

RELATED: How to Determine if You Can Safely Perform Overhead Exercises

Kipping Pull-Ups

OK, CrossFit fans—don’t get upset. But according to Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10, the man who helped rehab Drew Brees after his shoulder injury, the Kipping Pull-Up can cause serious shoulder damage.

“Even though kipping seems easier because you use your momentum, it’s actually a more dangerous movement on the shoulder joint,” he explains. “Many people don’t have the shoulder stability or strength to do this ballistic action. Therefore, they end up getting injured.”

Ideally, stay away from Kipping Pull-Ups altogether. But if you’re determined to perform the exercise, make sure to start slow. Durkin recommends mastering strict eccentric Pull-Ups and regular Pull-Ups before attempting the kipping variation. Also, try these Pull-Up variations if you need some variety in your workouts.

Bench and Weighted Dips

Dips are a popular exercise for increasing triceps strength. Conventional Dips are great. But things get a bit dicey when you start looking at the variations.

Tony Gentilcore, who along with Cressey trains many elite baseball players, says, “Bench Dips cause maximal internal rotation and glenohumeral extension, which is a recipe for disaster.” This is particularly problematic for athletes who have a history of shoulder problems or who play an overhead sport such as tennis or baseball.

Dr. Colberg adds that Weighted Dips present similar problems, because your arms ultimately travel behind your body. “This puts an incredible force through the ligaments in the anterior shoulder, and it pinches the rotator cuff and long head of the biceps tendon,” he says. “Doing this motion repetitively may lead to tears of the tendons or ligaments."

Olympic Lifts

Olympic lifts are not inherently dangerous if you use proper form. But if you’ve ever performed them without dropping the weights to the floor, you know that lowering the weight can be jarring. “The shoulders can take a beating from decelerating a heavy load as it’s brought down,” says Mark Roozen, owner of Coach Rozy Performance.

If you’re using heavy weight, Roozen suggests using bumper plates so you can simply drop the bar to the floor. If bumper plates are not available, bend your hips and knees as you lower the weight to absorb the impact—similar to what you do when you land from a jump.

RELATED: Increase Shoulder Strength with These 5 Bodyweight Exercises

 

 

 

Topics: SHOULDERS
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Must See
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,759
RGIII Talks About His Legacy
Views: 25,475,477
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 20,481,851

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 69,070
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 9,456
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 133,452
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,880
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,300
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,676
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,782
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,561,942

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Megan Rapinoe

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

How to Train With Running Blisters

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries