Injuries are the scourge of bodybuilders everywhere. Aches and twinges make gaining muscle that much more difficult because you have to train around them, but that's not the worst part. A serious injury can force you to sit on the sidelines for weeks or months at a time, and as
you wait for the healing processes to take place, you helplessly watch your hard-earned muscle melt away like so much butter on a steaming baked potato.
Home trainees are especially vulnerable to injury because they usually have no one observing their technique and also because they can't ask other bodybuilders what their experiences have been with certain movements. When a home trainee reads about an exercise or routine, it's
often with a throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude. He or she puts it in the training mix and waits for either gain or pain. The main areas where pain occurs are the lower back, hips, knees and shoulders, and there are several exercises that you should never do if you want to avoid
injuring one of those vulnerable spots. Here are seven at the top of the don't-do list:
Bench presses to the Neck
Some people can perform these with no problems, but most trainees get a sharp twinge in the shoulder joint at the bottom position because touching the bar to the neck forces the upper arms to jut back and away from the torso. This opens the shoulder joint to strain and tears of the
surrounding tendons. Touching the bar to your lower chest, on the other hand, keeps the upper arms in a more natural position-angled out from the torso but not more than 90 degrees-which puts less pressure on your rotator cuff, or shoulder joint.
Wide-grip Upright Rows
This exercise puts your upper arms in almost the same position as the bench presses to the neck, which once again spells danger for your rotator cuffs. Although I list wide-grip upright rows in some of the routines in my books, "wide grip" means only slightly wider than shoulder
width, and I always suggest using dumbbells instead of a Steve Holman bar so that your hands aren't restricted, which lessens the stress on the shoulder joint. Nevertheless, even these variations can be dangerous for some people. If you feel pain, stop immediately and scratch the
exercise from your routine forever.
Some people call these duck squats, but perhaps a better name is hip-pointer squats because that's what you may end up with if you continue to do them. When you place your feet too wide and you point your toes out at an angle greater than 45 degrees, your hip joints-fragile ball-
and-socket structures are forced into an awkward, stressed position. Your knees are also at a disadvantage, so if you start piling on the weight, you may end up with cartilage damage. Stick with a stance that's only slightly wider than shoulder width or narrower and angle your feet
out no more than 45 degrees.
Stiff-legged Deadlifts on a Bench
Research reveals that it's not necessary to touch the bar to your instep during stiff-legged deadlifts to get the best hamstring and/or lower-back stimulation. In fact, when the bar moves past mid-shin level, your lower back is extremely vulnerable. Also, while rounding your back
may help you involve your lower-back muscles to a greater degree, if you have lower- back problems it's best to keep your back flat and reverse the movement when the bar is halfway down your shin. If you're using an Olympic bar, the perfect stopping point is when you touch the
floor with a 45-pound plate-or a few, depending on your strength--at each end.
When you put a loaded bar on your shoulders and lunge forward so far that your calf meets your hamstring, you put pressure on your knee joint and you expose the tendons and cartilage to trauma. Here's a safer way to perform this exercise: Step forward just enough so that your knee
joint forms an angle that's only slightly less than 90 degrees as you bend your nonworking leg and touch that knee to the floor. Also, keep the movement strict and slow-no bouncing.
When you raise your torso above parallel to the floor on a standard hyperextension bench, where your legs are parallel to the floor, you compress your Spine, which can torque and damage vertebrae in your lower back. It's much safer to come up to the parallel position, hold for a
two count and then slowly lower back to the bottom. Coming up higher than parallel does not contract your spinal erectors to a greater degree.
The pullover, performed with a barbell or a dumbbell, is a fine exercise for stretching the lats, but you don't want to let your arms go too far back. If you're lying on a bench, "too far back" is when your elbows go past your forehead. Moving beyond this point doesn't give you
more stretch in your lats, but it does put your shoulder joints in a highly vulnerable position for rotator cuff injury. To get the most from tins exercise and avoid shoulder impingement, reverse the movement as soon as your elbows get to forehead level. This applies to machine
pullovers as well.