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Ask the Physical Therapist

Q: I hear that there are certain shoulder exercises to avoid at the gym; are there any exercises that I should be avoiding?

A: While physical exercise is great for your body, it’s always smart when starting a new workout program and also to proceed incrementally. Never do too much, too fast. With the shoulders, be more careful when it comes to lateral arm raises. The lateral arm raise is a typical, traditional American gym exercise that bodybuilders use a lot. The exercise is typically performed with the elbows straight, although it can be done with them bent. The arms are raised from your sides to the level of the shoulders. This is a great exercise to make deltoid muscles shapelier, but it also changes how the shoulder mechanically moves. The risk is that this exercise will cause impingement problems with the shoulders and could lead to rotator cuff tendon pain. This is not to say you should never do this particular exercise, but when you aren’t sure and especially if you’ve had shoulder injuries, it’s best to consult your doctor or physical therapist.

Chris Dollar, DPT, PT, FAAOMPT is a clinical specialist physical therapist and Coordinator of Clinical Education for OrthoCarolina. His area of practice focus is in the evaluation and treatment of spinal conditions.

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