Like so many of you, I go to the gym regularly…and I especially hike and do Yoga. Over time, I’ve learned to listen to my body, not over-do certain exercises, and to keep in shape without getting injured. So, when I see people doing certain high-risk exercises in the gym, I warn them that they might be doing more harm than good. Here are four common exercises that might leave you with more pain than gain:
#1: Upright Row
The Upright Row has the potential to really damage your shoulders. In order to do “The Row” your arms must be in "internal rotation." This is done by holding a barbell or dumbells in front and pulling the weight up to your chest, leading with your elbows. The result is that every time you raise the weight, a small tendon in your shoulder gets pinched by the bones in the shoulder. Over time the tendon wears down and gets damaged. You might not feel pain right away, but as the tendon gets weaker, the potential grows that it might snap. You don’t want that!
#2: Behind-The-Neck Press
Doing this requires maximum external rotation of the shoulders. Simply put, your shoulders aren’t designed for this. Even light weights used in this movement can cause damage to the Rotator Cuff muscles. Making it worse, most people also tilt their heads forward while doing this exercise, which often strains or even misaligns upper spinal vertebrae and connective tissue.
#3: Floor Sit-Up
The old fashioned all-the-way-up from full recline sit up. Don’t do it, because about half way through the move there’s an unbelievable amount of torque being placed on your lower back. Your spine gets yanked directly by your hip-flexors to pull the weight of your torso through the arc. Anyway, this style of sit-up only works your abs “isometrically” so your stomach muscles aren’t even doing most of the work. Do crunches, ball-crunches or cable crunches as alternatives.
#4: Stiff-Legged Dead Lift
If you do this traditionally, standing with both feet on the floor and not using excessive weight, no problem. This lift will strengthen your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. What you should not do is stand on a block or bench when doing the lift. This will make it much harder to hold an arch in your back while lifting. This then places excessive stress on your spine and connective tissue.
If you often walk out of the gym in pain, something isn’t being done correctly. A work out should leave you energized, not agonized. Come in to see me for an exam and we’ll work out an exercise routine that will really get you on the path to greater strength without injury! Happy summer.