No part of the body takes a greater beating than the shoulders. There’s a reason it’s called shouldering a burden rather than “hipping” or “kneeing” one. That’s always been the case, but even more so in recent years. We spend much of our time hunched over computers and smart phones, moving less and sitting more. As a result, our glutes are deactivated, our hips locked, and our shoulders hunched forward. So the last thing we want to do in the gym is perform challenging, potentially dangerous moves with our shoulders misaligned. Instead, we want to move by pulling the shoulders back and down—as if trying to pull them into your back pockets—so we counteract the effects of sitting all day.

The next time you’re people watching, look at them from a side view. Notice how few of them have a straight line between ear and shoulder—most protrude forward. When you have properly functioning shoulders, you’ll stand taller and appear more powerful. Added muscle is just a nice byproduct of training for shoulder function. Here are seven moves you should avoid in your shoulder workouts because of the potential harm, and seven alternatives that will strengthen and stabilize the area so you can shoulder any burden.

Pete Williams is a NASM certified personal trainer and the author of several books on performance and training.


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