The two primary behind the neck exercises I am discussing here are the barbell press and the pulldown.
I typically see more of the old-school crowd doing these, but it’s appeal crosses all age barriers. Whether you are a fan of these movements or not, I think you will find this article helpful.
This just means that when your shoulder is in this position, the two bones (scapula and humerus) are close together, and there is very little space in the joint. (maximum joint congruency)
Just because your client is in the closed-pack position doesn’t mean they are injuring themselves. If they have good posture and joint movement, they should be fine.
But most of our clients don’t come to us that way.
This is not something to overlook with our clients. Poor upper body posture and limited shoulder mobility are two primary causes of shoulder impingement.
Doing behind the neck exercises before correcting these two issues will greatly increase the chances of your client developing shoulder pain.
The behind the neck pull down will not cause pain in a healthy shoulder, but having a hypomobile shoulder can lead to pain in the neck, shoulder and low back. Especially while doing these types of movements.
If our clients do not have the proper shoulder range of motion to get into the behind the neck position, they will compensate from somewhere else. Typically people will stick out their neck or arch their lower back. Pushing weight overhead while in these compromised joint positions is harmful.
If your client has good posture, good thoracic extension, and ample shoulder mobility, these behind the neck exercises can be very beneficial.
The positioning of the shoulder into more horizontal abduction and external rotation can activate the muscle fibers in a new way. This can lead to increased muscle demand and more strength gains.
Still, no matter how “good” the exercises is, if your client cannot properly move in the required range of motion, it is a “bad” exercise choice for them.
Address their movement impairments first. Coach good posture throughout the day. Perform self myofascial release where needed, and work on gaining shoulder mobility.
If you are diligent in doing these things, then feel free to consider giving your clients some behind the neck exercises.
Doctor of Physical Therapy Candidate, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer
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