Making Seated Shoulder Presses and Rear PullDowns Safe


Question: I recently read an article online about exercises that you shouldn’t do or that are useless. Two in particular were Seated Shoulder Presses and Rear Pulldowns. I have used them and still do shoulder presses regularly. Should I stop?

Answer: Do those exercises irritate your joints or have they caused you injury? If not then keep using them.

The explanation for not using the Seated Shoulder Press was the pressure placed on the lower lumbar region from body position and the load being carried down the spine. Several years ago we recognized that and another problem with the exercise and eliminated both of those problems. We have been using Seated Shoulder Presses safely and effectively for years since. The exercise he referred to used a standard 90 degree angle for the bench. This does indeed load the spine and particularly the lumbar as you perform the exercise. Adjusting the angle from 90 degrees to 85 degrees and using an 18 inch support for your feet instead of leaving them on the floor eliminated the load problem. The slight tilt also allowed a shift in the manner the rotator cuff was loaded giving relief to that the second problem with the original version of the Shoulder Press. Yes it does load the Anterior head a fraction more but the Medial head of the deltoid still carries the dominant work load .

Pulldowns Behind the Neck are different. Those are only taught to advanced individuals with a solid understanding of training methods and how to load a muscle instead of move a weight. The rear version of pulldowns loads the lower center of the lats, Rhomboids and Teres Major which are muscles of the back. The problem with the exercise occurs when too much weight is used and poor form results. Typically this morphs the exercise into a slouch position with a rocking forward motion which stresses the rotator cuffs and injury follows. So, unless you can use moderate weight, keep a nice framed body position and resist the temptation to utilize momentum during the exercise, leave this one alone.

Always use the exercise to work a muscle or muscle groups, not to move a weight.

Be safe in the gym. God bless and keep training,