Two exercises that are common in workout regimes are also quite often done incorrectly, unfortunately. These exercises are the bench press and the lat pulldown. They are excellent exercises but can be detrimental if done wrong.

The bench press or push-up is a fantastic exercise that develops the chest (pectoral) muscles as well as the shoulder (deltoid) and triceps muscles. It is one of the best overall upper body strengthening exercises.

Incorrect technique: The most common mistake that one can make with the bench press is to bring the barbell down to the chest, and by doing so, allowing the elbows to pass below the level of the shoulders. Now, you probably have seen it done that way in the gyms or even have been instructed to do it that way by a personal trainer but that technique can be detrimental to the health of your shoulders. By doing it this way, you are putting excessive stress on the anterior (front portion) capsule of the shoulder along with the rotator cuff and biceps tendons. Repetitive lifts using this technique can lead to tendonitis or even worse, tears in the cartilage rim, or labrum, of the shoulder.

Correct technique: Do not allow the elbows to pass below or behind the shoulders. Technically it’s called the scapular plane and in this way, you are still getting the development of the pectorals, deltoids and triceps without the added stress to the above named tissues. This technique also can be applied to push-ups. Whether it is a table-edge push-up or a full floor push-up, it is a great, and safe, exercise if the elbows stay at shoulder level or within the scapular plane. For most people that means not touching one’s chest to the table or the floor.

The second exercise is the lat (latissimus) pulldown. It is a common exercise for the development of the large back muscles that cause the “V” shape in one’s back.

Incorrect technique: The common mistake made with this exercise is to pull the bar behind the neck and having the bar touch the base of the neck. By doing it this way, not only are you placing a significant stress on the shoulders again but you are also placing a lot of stress upon the cervical spine (neck). Once again, this may be the way it is taught in the gyms, but it is incorrect and unnecessary. Not only can this lead to tears in the rotator cuff but also injuries to the joints of the cervical spine or worse yet, the discs.

Correct technique: We like to call this exercise the “chest pulldown” instead of the lat pulldown because the correct technique is to pull the bar down to the top of the chest and thus in front of one’s head. The bar should never pass behind the head. By pulling the bar in front of the head, you still get the development of the “latissimus” muscles without the added stress to the shoulders and the neck (cervical spine). So, as you can see, technique is very important in avoiding any detrimental effects even from excellent and common exercises. If you have any questions regarding weight training or perhaps a question of whether you are performing a exercise correctly, please feel free to contact us at C.O.A.S.T. Rehab at 831-462-1212 and one of our highly trained physical therapists or personal trainers would be glad to answer any of your questions.