Pressing Movements Made Dangerous

A review study published in 2010 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research dug up reports showing that as many as 60 percent of lifters experience shoulder pain in any given year.”  (The New Rules of Lifting for Life, 2012)

I can assure you that the majority of these injuries are a result of pressing, or pushing movements.

Pushing is a very primal, natural movement pattern, so why do so many people get injured while carrying out pushing movements in the gym?

1.  We don’t balance pushing with pulling.  A review by Morey Kolber and colleagues at Nova and Southeastern University showed there is no data to link the amount of weight lifted to shoulder injuries.  Lifting heavy weights doesn’t seem to be directly related to injuries.  The problem lies in neglecting certain muscle groups.  Loads of young lifters, mainly males, overwork their chest and arm muscles.  While they think they look good when staring at themselves in the mirror, these individuals are considered noobs and lack respect from the rest of the lifting community.

Build a complete, strong body, not just your ‘mirror muscles’.  Fill your workouts with lots of rows and pulling variations. Hammer your glutes and hamstrings, not just your quads.

2.  We do exercises in the “high-five” position”.  Our shoulders are extremely vulnerable and susceptible to injury when our uppers arms are pulled back and externally rotated.  Examples of lifters who put their arms in this position include:

-doing shoulder presses behind the neck

-lat pull-down behind the neck

These are the two most common instances in which lifters put their  shoulders in a vulnerable position; there are definitely plenty more.

Not only is our shoulder in a dangerous position, but there is unnecessary force on the cervical vertebrae when the neck is forced forward to avoid getting smacked in the head by the bar.

3.  We extend the range of motion too far.  Many people do dips incorrectly, going too far down and at an angle that puts undue stress on the shoulder joint.  Chest flies is another problem exercise where most people bring their upper arms beneath their torso while lying on a bench.  Bench press can also be problematic if the lifter has longer limbs and a smaller torso (like many thin, young males).  The proportions of their body forces them to bring their upper arms beneath their torso to bring the bar anywhere near their chest.  For these individuals, it may be a good idea to not bring the bar right down to their chest. Alternatively, they can substitute other exercises for bench press.  This problem with the bench press is tough because younger lifters may take after bigger, more experienced guys and go ‘chest to bar’, only resulting in injury.

So not only do we press too much, but we also press in an unsafe manner.

Balance your presses and pulls (well actually, include more pulling than pressing), watch out for putting your shoulder in that vulnerable “high five” position, and be careful of extending your range of motion too far.

Safe lifting,



The New Rules of Lifting for Life‘ – by Lou Schuler & Alwyn Cosgrove


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