5 Ways to mess up your shoulders

Posted on 27. Oct, 2008 by in Back to Health, Fitness

People continue to do “dumb things” in the name of getting big or strong…and continue to sacrifice their physical health. Here are 5 things that I see people do that help screw up the shoulder joints. (Don’t be one of these people…if you have questions, please comment or drop me an email. )

  1. Continue the long-standing tradition of having a “Bench” day. I don’t really get why someone that is not training for a power lifting meet needs to have a day totally committed to performing nothing but the bench press. I have watch guys bench for over an hour at a time and then go home.
  • Benching alone is a great way to mess up your shoulders. If you are not a power lifter or have an equally good reason to “bench” press all on one day, make sure you balance out your program with other exercises.
  1. Keep performing “bench dips.” I get really aggravated every time I see a ‘trainer’ prescribe bench dips to female (and sometimes male) clients. Bench dips are a great way to destroy your shoulders. I have watched it happen time and time again. I have even warned people NOT to do them and told them why…yet, they did them and paid the price. Stay away from bench dips. There are better ways to work your triceps. If you run into a trainer that blindly prescribes them to you…run.
  1. To go along with number 1, continue to bench the wrong way. I would venture to say that 99% (yes that is a big number) of the people out there benching, perform it the wrong way. Having your elbows out, not using your legs, and leaving your upper back just lying there without purpose, are all the wrong things to do when you bench press. Learn to bench the right way. There are many great sources on the internet about just how to do a proper bench press. This post is about shoulder health, so trust me when I say benching the wrong way is one of the best ways to hurt your shoulders. I am living proof of that.
  1. Not enough “pulling” exercises in your program. Push, push, push. Benching, pressing, dips, flys, and hardly any pulling exercises makes Johnny’s shoulder hurt really bad.
  • My recommendation has always been to have at least 3 pulling exercises for every 1 pushing exercise. That ratio is because we are so out of balance to begin with. We sit at a desk, behind a wheel, or at the table…hunched over, shoulders rounded, and then we get into the gym and we make things worse by doing all pushing exercises.You have to counter balance that with pulling movements.
  • Add rows, chins, pull-ups, and pull-down variations into your program.
  1. Continue to not work on the rotator cuff muscles. Too many people jump all over rotator cuff exercises when they are already injured. They pull on a band for a couple of weeks and that is it. Incorporate the proper mix of rotator cuff work into your normal routine. Your shoulders will thank you for it.
    • Internal and external rotation with dumbbells, and bands.
  1. BONUS – Don’t skip the soft-tissue work either. Make sure you are doing your foam rolling, massages, and other work on the upper back and shoulder areas.

13 Responses to “5 Ways to mess up your shoulders”

  1. Anonymous

    27. Oct, 2008

    What about dips without a bench. Possibly “real dips”, the kind done between a set of parallel bars? Are those shoulder destroyers too?

  2. Jim

    28. Oct, 2008

    Keith-Thanks for the post. Both push-ups and bench presses cause discomfort in my shoulders. I have dropped them both for the time being. Should i be concerned that i dont have any “push” exercises in my routine ?

  3. Keith Scott

    28. Oct, 2008

    Real dips are better than bench dips. If you have shoulder issues than I would not do any kind of dips, but I would choose regular dips over bench dips any day.


  4. Keith Scott

    28. Oct, 2008


    You want to have balance so I would have some kind of pushing exercises in your program. Pushups, when done the right way should be safe for your shoulder and better, they are good for your shoulder.

  5. Chris - the Rotater

    29. Oct, 2008


    You hit the nail right on the head.

    Bench days are all about ego – the first question people ask is how much do you bench?

    Blogs like yours go a long way toward educating the “average joe” on the whys as well hows.

    Keep telling it like it is and you’ll reach those who truly want to create a better body and life for themselves.

  6. Jim

    02. Nov, 2008

    Keith-I’ve substituted the military press for the bench presses and pushups that have been hurting my shoulders. Three workouts and no pain. Thanks for the shoulder tips…i love the
    “stickup” and sleeper

  7. Luke

    03. Nov, 2008


    11 months ago I learned the hard way that I hadn’t been taking care of my shoulders. I dislocated my left (non-dominant) shoulder while lifting. I’ve realized that a combination of too many pushing movements, pronated shoulders, and poor posture created the perfect storm for an injury. I’ve begun doing a lot more warm-up/cool-down, incorporate foam rolling, and have a number of shoulder/rotator cuff exercises I perform.

    Dips are one of my favorite movements and I have slowly worked back into weighted dips over the last several months. Given my shoulder, should I remove these entirely from my routine? What shoulder/chest/tri movement would you recommend? I avoid overhead stuff and have not really pushed myself with bench pressing movements.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  8. Keith Scott

    03. Nov, 2008


    Dips are risky if you already have issues. I would take them out and replace them with safer triceps exercises. You can keep benching, but I recommend using dumbbells and keeping your elbows in (much less stress on the shoulder joint) Add pushdowns, dumbbell triceps extensions, and close grip pushups for your triceps. Also, if you can do dumbbell floor presses, they are great for triceps and chest strength. Low stress on the joints too.


  9. Keith Scott

    03. Nov, 2008


    Thanks man. Just trying to help where I can. Too many bad things being taught out there


  10. Adam

    15. Feb, 2009

    Hi Keith
    I wanted to post this in your “fixing your shoulder” article but for some reason the page wont properly load. Not to worry though. My question was in regards to shoulder pain while doing plank exercises.

    When I get to 45 seconds on a plank hold my shoulders begin to hurt to the point where I need to stop. Ive been using your exercises given in your blogs aswell as dedicating my last month and the following month of training to fixing my shoulders (more pulling exercises etc) but was wondering if you had any advice in regards to this particular shoulder pain.

    Many thanks for the giving your time to post all this great information on your website. It is greatly appreciated


  11. Keith Scott

    15. Feb, 2009


    You are not the only one that I have known that has some shoulder pain when doing planks.

    It can happen when your shoulders start to lose some strength during that time. They begin to lose some of the stabilization that they need, and you will start to feel some pain.

    A couple of things I do with my clients are to try pinching your shoulder blades together when you start feeling some of the pain. You can also try pushup planks.

    They will still work your core, but may also take some of the stress off of your shoulders

  12. Adam

    27. Feb, 2009

    Hi Keith,
    Just wanted to say that Ive started experimenting with Pushup Plank variations and they are working extremly well (and way harder than I actually thought they would be)

    Thanks again for the helpful advice!

    Also what is a good time for a plank hold. For example if I hold the normal pushup plank position for say 90 seconds, should I move onto a harder version?

  13. Nathan Strength Fitness

    27. May, 2011

    Wow, this makes a lot of sense. I definitely benched too much when I first started working out and I’m seeing shoulder troubles because of it.

    I’m going to start doing more “pulling” exercises to help fix this…

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