A lot of exercises are good for you- like squats and dead lifts. Some use a lot of weight. Some use a little. But some are not as good as they seem. Here I will list exercises that I see done oh so commonly in gyms that I have used in the past and ones that I use now. They may be ones that you have done in the past and are suffering the consequences of or they may be ones that you do now. But do not fret I will show you what you can replace the suspect lifts with and how to fix the damage caused by them.
1. The Upright Row
A very common exercise to use on shoulder day, it consists of taking a fixed bar, barbell or easy-bar and moving it up your body till around your nipples and then back down again. However, despite the fire it may give your anterior delts and traps, a dark secret lies hidden. Especially if you do this with a straight bar, you are potentially putting your wrists or elbows in a very damaging position. Why? I hear you ask. Well a common test for shoulder impingement is to get into the finishing position of an upright row and then push down on the top of the wrist. Of course during the lift the force will not come from above, but rather below, despite nevertheless the concept remains and this pressure on the wrist will cause your elbows to flare upwards and your shoulder joint to internally rotate. Creating impingement. But there is another option- if you want to target just the anterior delts then a front raise or dumbbell high pull (about 3:20 minutes in). In order to fix this if you think, or you have a shoulder impingement injury then listen up. Chances are it has affected your entire scapula and even moving your shoulder, if the impingement is great enough, can be painful. So try doing both local and larger scale work- look to train the rotator cuffs by doing some sort of L raise with a dumbbell or cable machine. To make sure the areas around the shoulder sure not affected, incorporate some scapula retraction work into your training like a chest supported row or one arm dumbbell row. You can also do some light dumbbell shoulder press to ensure that you strengthen the various muscles and ligaments around the shoulder and stop the issue from exacerbating into a shoulder dislocation.
2. Chest Flys
This is one popular in many chest training days and an exercise I saw being utilised just two days ago. But much like the upright row the shoulder will be the joint to bare the brunt of the force. Because the eccentric ending of the movement is with the arms outstretched clasping a dumbbell you put a considerable amount of stress on the elbow and the insertion of the pectoralis major and minor. This coupled with potential heavy weights, as the example two days ago showed, could lead to a pectoral tear or hyper extension of the elbow. A pectoral tear, as a best scenario, can take up to four months to heal with a bad tear and poor treatment taking up to a year to heal. Is it worth this just for the great stretch and squeeze you get on the muscle. I think not. Instead replace it with a strict standing landmine press or 3D cable cross over. If you have suffered from a pectoral tear or elbow injury then there are things you can do to help yourself. What you need to do is to gently increase the shoulders range of motion as the weeks go by- leave the pectoralis muscle alone to avoid strain on the tendon. As for elbow injuries various stretches can be used to slowly strengthen the joint and the tendons around it. If either the pectoral tear or elbow hyper extension is serious then you may well need surgery and professional help.
3. Leg Extensions
These are very common and this machine can be found in most gym across the country but are they that good for you. Because force is being constantly applied to your ACL ligament when under heavy duress this ligamnet can be damaged and will stop you doing sports or any kind of activity where the knee is used for many weeks. It also puts pressure on the patella or knee cap with particular risk of lateral patella deviation- where the patella slides out of the groove it sits in. Once gain this will cause multiple weeks worth of injury. From a functionality perspective in a real world scenario you will use the hamstrings to help the knee move; but because the weight is above you the hamstring group is not utilised. I would scrap this completely and use knee friendly exercises like the split squat, squat or leg press.