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Weightlifting in Uncomfortable Positions

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I want to start lifting weights, especially for me arms, but I used to have shoulder problems and the weight machines are incredibly uncomfortable for me. Is there a way for me to do them, possibly on a lower weight? Or are there any comparable exercises that wouldn't hurt my shoulders?


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Ashley

 

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use free weights if you can. machines sometimes force you into wrong positions.

 

Exactly my feeling too, but for some reason people don't always like to hear that. I have always told the guys in the gym at work that I only workout with dumbbells. They seem to find this insulting, I don't know why.


Jack Berkery, Latham, NY, Sexagenarian Extraordinaire

visit my artwork web site at www.MohawkView.com

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You can absolutely use lighter weights - IF you go with the dumbbells, like the guys say. Shoulders are a very complicated joint. In fact, they are the only joint in your body that is made up completely of muscles. That's why you can move your shoulders in so many directions. The muscles that cradle your shoulder are also relatively small in size, and they support your relatively long arms. Therefore, holding even light weights in your hands, with arms straight out, develops tremendous force at the shoulder joint. (It's that old principle of the lever arm, from Physics...)

 

Anyway, all of this is to say that, if you have shoulder problems, it would be a REALLY good idea to talk to your physician about exatly WHICH movements you need to avoid. With some shoulder injuries (like torn rotator cuffs, or shoulder impingements) there are some movements you should NEVER try to perform, as it will only aggravate your problem.

 

You could start with some very lightweight dumbbells - like 2 or 3lb pairs, and if you experience ANY pain in the movement, stop IMMEDIATELY.

 

Here are some basic shoulder movements:

1) Military press: Start by holding the dumbbells, palms forward, at shoulder height, elbows bent. (Your elbows are down by your sides, the dumbbells up by your shoulder joint) Press up and in until your arms are straight up, but the dumbbells are barely not-touching. Lower to start and Repeat for reps.

 

2) Front raise: Hold dumbbells straight out, shoulder height, palms down. Lower about 45 degrees, then raise them to starting position. Many people lower all the way down, until your arms are hanging straight by your sides, but this gives your muscles a "rest," which you don't want to do within the set. Repeat for reps (12-15)

 

3) Upright row: Hold dumbbells with your arms straight down by your sides, palms facing backward. "Row" upward, leading with your elbows, until you reach your armpits. Lower to start and repeat for reps.

 

4) Rear-Delt row: Hold the dumbbells, palms facing back, arms hanging straight down. Now bend your knees slightly, lean forward from your hips at about a 45 degree angle, keeping your back straight, even slightly arched. Let your arms hang down and row upward, leading with your elbows, palms facing back. Row as high as you can, then lower and repeat for reps.

 

5) Outer Rotations: This exercise is good for your rotator cuff muscles. If you have exercise bands, you can do these standing up. If not, lie on the floor on your right side, cradling your left elbow against your ribcage. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and bend your elbow at 90 degrees, resting your hand against the floor. Now, keeping your elbow against your ribs, raise the dumbbell up, using your shoulder muscles. You have to rotate your shoulder to accomplish this movement. Only use light dumbbells for this - 1, 2, maybe 3 lbs. Repeat for reps then switch sides.

 

6) Inner Rotations: Starting position is the same as for outer rotations, except that you'll use the shoulder on the "bottom," starting from the floor and rotating up.

 

* If you have exercise bands, tie one end around a vertical support, stand sideways to it, and hold the other end in the hand on the side you want to work. Let's say you want to do inner right-hand rotations. Hold the free end of the band in your right hand and stand sideways with the band support to your right. Bend your elbow at 90 degrees, with your hand that's holding the band pointing toward the support. Now rotate in toward your chest. For outer rotations, take a step sideways toward the support, and grasp the free end of the band in your left hand, so that you can rotate OUT. Adjust the tension by shuffling either closer or farther from the band support.

 

 

 

Try these and let us know how it goes. Like I said, in your case, I would start with 1lb dumbbells, just to be conservative. With shoulders, some exercises may be OK, and some may not. Don't give up if the first one you try bothers your shoulder. Just try another one. Or talk to your doctor to avoid this trial and error :-)

 

- Jennifer


ACE-certified Personal Trainer

& WW Lifetime Member

 

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use free weights if you can. machines sometimes force you into wrong positions.

 

This is especially true for women who use machines designed for men.....or for people (the majority, I think), who do not know how to properly set up the machines for their body-build.....

 

I see many people, for example, who use our bench-press machine and don't adjust the seat properly. The movement should be at armpit level, but if you don't move the seat, it's off-kilter. Or, they allow the bar to travel back too far, hyper-retracting their shoulders - a classic way to tear the rotator-cuffs....

 

In other words, just because a machine ALLOWS a certain range of motion doesn't mean it's anatomically PROPER/SAFE to use that whole range when lifting.... you still have to know what you're doing.

 

- Jennifer

 

PS. Be careful when pulling suitcases this way...one of my clients actually managed to tear her rotator cuff because she was pulling a heavy suitcase, on wheels, through the airport, with her shoulder hyper-retracted.


ACE-certified Personal Trainer

& WW Lifetime Member

 

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This is especially true for women who use machines designed for men.....or for people (the majority, I think), who do not know how to properly set up the machines for their body-build.....

 

PS. Be careful when pulling suitcases this way...one of my clients actually managed to tear her rotator cuff because she was pulling a heavy suitcase, on wheels, through the airport, with her shoulder hyper-retracted.

 

I have seen people use good form and bad form with machines and free weights. IMO you can get good results either way, and you can hurt yourself either way.

 

I think the bottom line is if the machine (or any exercise) is uncomfortable for you and you think you might hurt yourself, then you should listen to your body. Something is not right and you should ask a staff member or a trainer to help you adjust the machine or correct your form, or suggest a different exercise to work the same muscle group.

 

I have gone to gyms that had machines just like the men's machines but proportioned for women (smaller, narrower shoulders) and they are MUCH more comfortable. It is also critical to adjust them properly, not just use the adjustments from the person before you, and to be most careful when you are starting and ending the exercise, when you pick up or put down the weight stack. In the weight room where I went most recently (at dd's school), there are machines I don't use. There are 2-3 machines per muscle group, so I just use the other ones.

 

And .... I am much more prone to injure myself doing everyday things than exercising, just because if I'm working with weight machines or dumbbells I pay attention to my form and the best weight for me. But I also need to watch my form handling jugs of milk (they weigh 8-9 pounds!) or bags of cat food. I tore my biceps because of the way I threw my purse on the seat of the car next to me (probably not a problem for Jack ;) ). I used this twisty "fling" motion. Even though my purse isn't all that big or heavy, I injured myself in such a way the no weight training could fix it. I was about to go into PT when I started swimming, and the breast stroke pull was perfect. Yeah, you can hurt your shoulders swimming too (especially that teeny one across the front that you use to hunch your shoulders forward), but again I do better if I really pay attention to technique.


Nancy

 

Original SW 175 (1996)

2008 stats: SW 153.6 12/31/07 ~ HW 156.0 09/15/08 ~ CW 153.2 09/22/08 ~ GW 137 ~ PGW 130

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"Good food brings good health and longevity." - Chinese fortune cookie

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