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Wright: Three exercise don’ts

While I am not a proponent of the “good exercise, bad exercise” training approach because there are exercises that might be contraindicated for one client and not for another, there are a few exceptions in terms of the method of performance or execution of certain exercises that I would strongly advise against performing. This usually is a result of a thorough risk-benefits analysis on each of these exercises following the ten observational essentials which enables fitness professionals to determine what the best method of performance and execution is for each exercise we prescribe to our clientele.

There are three exercise technique/form “don’ts” featured below that I would strongly advise you to avoid. The modifications are easy to implement and do not diminish the effectiveness of the exercise yet may prevent serious injury from occurring. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Exercise #1 Lat Pull Downs – this exercise is specifically designed to train the latissimus dorsi (wide part of the back) as a primary mover and the deltoids and biceps as secondary/tertiary movers. Many exercisers bring the bar down behind the neck during the down phase of the lat pull. This places unnecessary strain on the posterior cervical spine, rotator cuff and prevents adequate range of motion for the muscle group. Instead, bring the bar down to mid-chest anteriorly which provides a full range of motion for the lats, training this muscle group safely and effectively.

Exercise #2 Barbell Bench Press – this exercise is specifically designed to train the pectorals (chest) as a primary mover and the deltoids and triceps as secondary/tertiary movers. The optimal range of motion which has been tested via EMG studies determining muscle engagement for the pectorals, is at 90 degrees of elbow flexion with the upper arm parallel to the floor and the forearm perpendicular to the floor. Dropping the barbell below parallel places unnecessary load into the rotator cuff tendon/muscles and anterior shoulder joint. Therefore, since there is no benefit to dropping beneath parallel, please avoid this position. Lastly, when the barbell is allowed to hit the chest, momentum is used to “bounce” the barbell upward off the chest, rather than authentically lifting the barbell. And, hitting the chest, is unnecessary and unsafe for the sternum and other important soft tissue and viscera such as the heart!

Exercise #3 Lateral Raises (shoulder abduction) – this exercise is designed to train the medial deltoids (center of the shoulders). Many exercisers use momentum by throwing the arms above shoulder height, to such an extent that the medial deltoids, which are the primary movers, do not stand much of a chance of authentically abducting the arm from the shoulder joint. The arm should abduct to shoulder height or parallel to the floor with the palms facing the floor, during the lifting phase and to perpendicular to the floor on the down phase palms facing the lateral aspect of the thighs. Abducting the arm above shoulder height may create impingement syndrome at the shoulder joint, leading to rotator cuff tendon injury. Often, the best remedy to correct this issue is to utilize a lighter load and use the medial deltoid muscle to abduct the arm to shoulder height safely and effectively.

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at http://www.mtnlifefitness.com, her email at jackie@mtnlifefitness.com and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.