On an easy way to injure your rotator cuff

Okay, I have a lot of pet peeves that come into play whilst going to the gym. Curling in the squat rack, screaming or grunting loudly and continuously, and unwarranted advice are a few of them, but there’s one major one that really pisses me off… mostly just because people don’t even know about it: behind the neck shoulder exercises. So many “fit” people swear by these. I’ve even seen personal trainers teach their clients a behind the head military press, even though it’s known to be an extremely easy way to injure your shoulder.

Your rotator cuff plays an integral part in stabilizing and mobilizing your shoulder, one of the most flexible joints in the human body. And even though the shoulder is extremely flexible, it’s not exactly stable. That’s where these four muscles come into play. These


Fig 1. A diagram of the rotator cuff’s four muscles: teres minor, infraspinatus, subscapularis, supraspinatus

muscles share an origin (the scapula, aka the “shoulder-blade”) and an insertion (the humerus, aka the upper part of your arm). That’s where the name “cuff,” comes into play (see Fig. 1). It pretty much forms a cuff or a circle around your humerus. These little guys are essential in helping your arm rotate in a bunch of directions, including abduction and adduction, or the action of bringing your arm to and away from your body, and, like I said before, are intricately involved in stabilizing your upper arm and shoulder.

The reason why pressing behind the neck and doing these movements with weight is so terrible for your rotator cuff and your shoulder as a whole is because the movement occurs at the very end of your shoulder’s natural range of movement. That being said, lifting weight in this motion forces your shoulder to perform against a load, and while you may be stimulating these few muscles, doing so is dangerous: even though the shoulder is extremely flexible, it’s also naturally unstable.

Furthermore, since when is this a legitimate movement? When has anyone ever done any behind the neck movement for like, anything in real life? This exercise provides little to no functional strength at all. Yeah, I get the body-building argument that this exercise might target the lateral head of the deltoid (aka, the side of your shoulder), but you can stimulate those muscles in a much safer way with other exercises that don’t threaten injury to a delicate group of muscles. Not to mention these injuries can be irreversible.

Let’s get one thing straight: in no way am I saying people who do this exercise always get injured! I used to be one of these morons myself. But I was brought into the light. And now you know better, too. So, don’t be an idiot. There’s no reason to risk injury. Just do the military presses in front of your fucking head so you don’t injure yourself.



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