Top 5 Worst Shoulder Exercises

Andrew “Drew’ Heideman MPT, ATC, PES 

Ehren Allen, PT, COMTTop 5 Worst Shoulder ExercisesTop 5 Worst Shoulder Exercises


What are the Top 5 Worst Shoulder Exercises?



1.Lateral raises with palms down or thumbs down
This position may can increase the compression of the rotator cuff muscles against the bony surface in the shoulder.  Keeping a “thumbs up” position can decrease the risk of this compression.

2. Behind the head shoulder press
This exercise position can compress the rotator cuff muscles against bony surfaces in the shoulder.  If you perform overhead presses, keeping the bar in front of the body allows for a more natural movement and may limit compression of the rotator cuff muscles.  If there is pain in the shoulder at the top of the press movement, discontinue the exercise and consider alternate shoulder strength exercises.  

3. Upright rows
The position of an upright row can compress the rotator cuff against the bony arch (acromion) and cause excessive wear and tear.

4. Triceps bench dips
This exercise places the patient in a position of internal rotation at the shoulder and can apply abnormal amounts of stress to the biceps and rotator cuff muscles and tendons.  Consider alternative triceps exercises.  

5. Single arm rows
In general, this exercise is not a bad exercise, but it is easy to perform it incorrectly.  If you perform this exercise, initiate movement from the shoulder blade and use a weight that you can control through the entire movement.  


Is the Rowing Machine Bad for the Rotator Cuff?


Rowing exercises are typically good for the shoulder because they increase strength around the shoulder blade, which helps to stabilize the shoulder.  It is important to keep the elbows down near your side when performing rows to avoid pinching the rotator cuff.  Also, maintaining an erect posture while using the row machine to avoid irritating the back and shoulders.


Are Push Ups Bad for the Shoulder?


If the shoulders are healthy, then push ups are not bad for the shoulder, if they are performed correctly.  While performing push ups, keep the elbows near the body.  This can help to avoid pinching the rotator cuff muscles against the bones in the shoulder.  If there is pain, try changing the arm position or angle a little.  It the pain persists, it is probably best to discontinue and consult a physician or physical therapist about pain.


What are the Best Exercises to Avoid Injuring the Shoulder?


In general, exercises that strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade and do not pinch the rotator cuff are helpful to decrease the risk of injuring the shoulder.  Rows and front lat pull downs are helpful for the shoulder blade.  Shoulder exercises that keep the “thumbs up position” are helpful for strengthening and protecting the shoulder.  If there is pain with any exercise, stop immediately and consult a professional.


What if my Shoulder Will Not Stop Hurting?


If the shoulder is hurting, even after modifying the exercise position, it may be time to seek medical advice. The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has a team of experts to help.  JOI & JOI Rehab offers world class care from board certified orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine physicians, and physical therapists.  Come see us!  Whether you're a Jacksonville Jaguar or an Average Joe... We’ll treat you like a Pro!

For a JOI Rehab appointment, call 904 858-7045

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