Stop Doing These 5 Shoulder Exercises. Do This Instead.

Stop Doing These 5 Shoulder Exercises. Do This Instead.

BUILDING STRONG, HEROIC shoulders is probably on your checklist of training goals. To do that, you’ll want to arm yourself with the best tools—which means sorting through the vast array of shoulder exercises that you’ve seen other people doing in the gym or online.

The problem is, the shoulders can be a difficult muscle group to train. The shoulder joints are particularly finicky—and since the muscles are so involved in the heavy pressing movements that target other spots on your upper body, you likely give the shoulders nearly enough attention through compound exercises as it is. Picking the right moves, then, becomes essential to avoid injury and overwork.

Here, MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. shares five shoulder exercises that are never worth your time—regardless of what people on TikTok or the old bodybuilders in your gym say. Take these out of your rotation, and swap them in with some of our alternatives to bulletproof your shoulder routine from injury, and maximize your gains.

5 Shoulder Exercises to Avoid

Behind-the-Neck Presses

rear press

Men’s Health

Behind-the-neck presses are just overhead presses that go (you guessed it) behind the neck. The move takes your elbows out of the scapular plane, which allows for fuller, healthier movement of our scapula.

You might feel okay doing behind-the-neck presses now. But the movement takes your shoulders out of proper positioning, which may have some bad effects long-term. “It’s just not worth it,” says Samuel.

Do This Instead: Barbell Overhead Press

barbell press

Men’s Health

Try normal barbell overhead presses instead. You’ll be able to move more weight, and will feel way more comfortable.

Barbell Upright Row

upright row

Men’s Health

Using a barbell for upright rows require a ton of internal rotation of the shoulder, which can quite uncomfortable. That being said, there’s a time and place for the upright row—just maybe not with a barbell. Barbells don’t allow the freedom of movement we need to move through the pattern appropriately.

Do This Instead: Dumbbell Upright Row

a man lifting weights

Men’s Health

Instead, grab a pair of dumbbells. This way, you’ll get the freedom of motion you need. You’ll also be able to pull the elbow back a bit to incorporate some back muscles.

Heavy Lateral Raises

lateral raise

Men’s Health

“Lateral raises themselves are really great for building the medial head of our shoulders,” Samuel says. “But very often in the gym you’ll see guys picking up 40, 50, 60 pound dumbbells.”

This causes a bunch of form mistakes that take out the emphasis on the shoulders. They’ll start to swing at the hips which doesn’t do much for the building the muscle of the shoulder. They’ll also bend more at the elbow to compensate for the heavy weight, which pops into internal rotation—a vulnerable position to be in.

Do This Instead: Form-First/Incline Lateral Raises

a man lifting weights

Men’s Health

Instead, find a weight you can control with good form. Fully straighten out the arm, and pause at the top of each rep. You can even incorporate doing them on an incline bench.

Standing Dumbbell External Rotation

external rotation

Men’s Health

Plain and simple: this exercise makes no sense. The force of gravity in this position doesn’t even come down onto your shoulders. If anything, this is a biceps hold.

Do This Instead: Cable External Rotation

cable external

Men’s Health

Instead, use a cable machine or a resistance band. The angle of the load will be placed in the correct position, and you’ll actually get something out of it.

Front Raise

front raise

Men’s Health

Yes, the front raise is going to work the front of your shoulders (a.k.a. your front delts). But if you’re looking to build noticeable size, you want to mainly be working on your medial and side portions of your deltoids. Your front delts get enough attention as it is with overhead pressing.

Do This Instead: Medial and Rear Delt Exercises

Stick with the other movements on this list, and you’ll have all the front deltoid work you need. Then add others to balance yourself out.

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