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Behind-the-Neck Danger?


Q. In reading some of your articles online, I noticed that you never seem to include behind-the-neck presses for delts or behind-the-neck pulldowns for lats. Are you against those movements? Do you feel they are bad for the shoulder joints?

A. To be honest, I have nothing against the two exercises and occasionally use them myself. I do, however, have a few basic rules regarding each of them, as they have potential to damage the shoulder joint if done carelessly.

1) Do not perform either of these exercises first in your shoulder or back routine.

2) Keep your reps above 10 on work sets.

3) Always control the eccentric portion of the lift—the negative—and do not be “explosive” on the concentric, or positive, stroke. A tempo of 3/1/2 is about right.

4) Use a Smith machine on behind-the-neck presses to keep the bar moving in a straight line and maintain greater control. In addition, set the bench in a position that allows the bar to go behind your head without causing you to have to tilt your neck forward.

5) Perform behind-the-neck pull-downs while sitting facing away from the weight stack and near the end of the seat, so you can pull straight down without leaning your head forward (just as with presses).

6) On both of these movements, do not lower the bar past the bottom of your ears.

7) Perform only one behind-the-neck exercise per week.

8) Do not perform behind-the-neck movements if you have shoulder flexibility issues and/or if the exercise causes any shoulder pain.

Follow the above guidelines, and you can use these valuable exercises without the risk of injury.

—Eric Broser

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