World’s Most Dangerous Exercises! (BTN PRESS)

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Years back I threw the behind the neck shoulder press into my 5 worst exercises of all time, and buried it in my iron graveyard. Today, I’m revisiting this overhead press exercise variation to see if it needs to be dug up or buried even deeper as I cover my “World’s Most Dangerous Exercises”, starting right here at the shoulder joint.

When I included this originally, I gave my reasons for doing so. Remember, there is no personal axe to grind for me against any particular exercise or movement. I start out with a blank slate with them all and unless given a reason to dislike them…love them all! As a physical therapist, I am trained to look at an exercise on its own merit and determine whether it is something that is safe first and foremost and capable of producing results.

In the case of the behind the neck shoulder press, this shoulder exercise is one that needs to remain six feet under. Here’s why.

The anatomy of the shoulder joint is such that the ball and socket need to remain in maximum congruency if it is to operate properly without causing injury to the many surrounding structures and muscles of the joint. The socket (glenoid) is actually angled forward at 30 to 40 degrees from the midline of your torso. In other words, if you were to put your arm straight out to your sides to start, you would move them forward 30 to 40 degree in front of your body to get the correct angle.

When performing this shoulder exercise however, you are forcing your elbows behind your body and your arms many degrees away from this anatomically favorable position. This is a fight you will not win in the long term. If you want to avoid shoulder rotator cuff injuries and joint injury you need to fix the way you press by getting those elbows out in front of the body ever so slightly.

Those that object will say that they have been doing the exercise for a long time and never gotten injured. That may be true but realize that most all shoulder injuries are a result of a slow chronic breakdown not a single bad rep. They may also say that lightening the weight and sticking to higher reps is better. That doesn’t even make sense. This has nothing to do with a question of load but rather mechanics. Doing this with even no weight at all would be worse if you were to increase the number of times that you did it.

Mobility doesn’t solve the issue either. Increasing shoulder mobility at the expense of stability in a different part of the shoulder is not solving the problem. The bottom line is, this exercise is a bad exercise that deserves to stay buried in the iron graveyard. Press overhead all you want. Press heavy. Press hard. But get those elbows in front of your body 30 to 40 degrees to press for a long tie to come.

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