Monthly Archives: April 2012

Exercises That Cause Injury: Part 2 (pullups)

The one exercises that figure competitors desire to do most is pullups. To build a nice v-taper for competition you need to increase the number of pullups you can do… this is a great back building exercise, but you must do it safely.  In this post I’m going to talk about how to protect your elbow and shoulder joints when performing pullups.

RULE #1: Keep your arms bent at all times. Doing this insures that your bicep and back muscles are supporting your body weight and not the tendons and ligaments of your elbows and shoulders.

Doing pullups safely

Watch the video below. The first rep is done incorrectly from a straight-arm position. This is NOT good because the elbow and shoulder joints are supporting the entire weight of the body, while the bicep and back muscles are relaxed. The remaining repetitions are done correctly, with arms bent, which protects the elbow and shoulder joints because the biceps and back muscles are engaged at all times.

I’ve seen numerous injuries from sloppy pullup technique – take your time and be careful… bicep tendons take a very long time to heal!

Exercises That Cause Injury: Part 1

Shoulders are easily injured

Avoiding injuries is very important if you want to achieve your fitness goals. Whether you are a figure competitor or just want to get in great shape, it’s important to know which exercises can potentially cause an injury.

I see exercise mistakes all the time. It’s bound to happen with gyms being so popular now and filled with inexperienced exercisers. It’s one thing to do an exercise that’s ineffective, but it’s another thing when the exercise can cause injury. Unfortunately many people don’t realize it until it’s too late.

Below are the first in a series of exercises with the potential to cause injury. Remeber… there are always alternative ways to exercise a muscle… so there is never any need to jeopardize getting an injury by doing a suspect exercise. Some of these exercises you may have done for years with no problems but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you – everyone is built a little different and certain exercises may affect one person more than another – but in the end, if an exercise is not anatomically correct, it will eventually cause a problem if done too often, too long or with too much weight.

Today I talk about the shoulder joint. If you workout at a gym, Im sure you know a lot of people with a shoulder issue… whether it’s a rotator cuff or just general pain. Their workouts are the main reason why many of them are in pain!

Exercises done behind the neck:

Whether it’s behind the neck presses (as in the video) or behind the neck pulldowns for the back, there is never any need to do exercises where you have to pull or push a bar behind your neck.

Not only does this NOT have any beneficial effect on the muscles of the shoulders and back, but it also puts the shoulders in a vulnerable position (especially when doing shoulder presses), it causes undue strain on the neck when you move your head forward to clear the bar (especially in heavy pulldowns) and it also promotes poor posture.

This last point is often overlooked, many women have poor posture… so every exercise you performs should promote good posture.


Shoulder thingy’s:

This video shows a shoulder exercise you should never do.

Not sure what this exercise is called but I first saw this shoulder joint crusher in aerobics classes and then it slowly migrated onto the gym floor and personal trainers were using it to train clients.

First off… the shoulder is the most versatile joint in the body. This makes it more prone to injury. Your shoulders are their weakest when your arms are extended outwards to the sides of your body such as in lateral raises. Although lateral raises (and front raises) are  good exercises… you should never rotate, turn etc. your arms or shoulders when in an outstretched position such as in the video – doing so can expose the shoulder joint to injury.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a woman walk out of an aerobics class rubbing her shoulder after doing these types of exercise with weights as light as 3-5lbs. Holding your arms out and manipulating your shoulder/arms forward and back while holding weights, is an unnatural motion. Eventhough your shoulders may burn from fatigue it doesn’t mean there is any benefit from doing this exercise… and the risk definitely outweight any benefits from this exercise.


This is how you properly perform shoulder exercises with outstretched arms – only move through one plane of motion.

Side lateral raises done correctly:


Front raises done correctly:

If you ever experience shoulder pain, lateral raises and front raises are two exercises you should take out immediately. They are safe if done correctly and with control …but they still place unnatural stress on the shoulder (when in life do you ever take an object and lift it out to the side with a straight arm?). Do these exercises under control with lighter weights and go for the ‘burn’ …going too heavy with these exercises (especially lateral raises) is asking for trouble.