T Nation

Controversial Shoulder Exercises



I just read a great archive with a multi-year debate on the potential hazards of the bench press to the shoulder joint. I don't want to rehash as basically it was done to death and I think both sides of the point were very correct in many ways. My question is actually regarding other exercises also often discussed in terms of potential shoulder joint/rotator cuff injury ( but not discussed nearly as often in that context as the bench press is )

Assume for this discussion that on a scale of 1-10 the bench press represents a "5" on the "shoulder hazard scale". What would you rate the following exercises on that same "shoulder hazard scale" ( 1 being no hazard at all, 10 being very hazardous )

Incline barbell press __
Military barbell press __
Dips __
Behind the neck barbell press __
Power Snatch __
Overhead Jerk __

Hope this question isn't too weird but I really am interested in other's thoughts/experiences rating how tough dips, military presses, etc are on the shoulder joint relative to the bench press and that just seems a good way to rate it.



Based solely on the way my often problematic shoulders feel during and after these exercises I would go as follows.

Incline barbell press 5
Military barbell press 4
Dips 7(these really bother me)
Behind the neck barbell press 2
Power Snatch 5(Worse if I let my form evaporate)
Overhead Jerk 1(Never even bothers them ironically enough)


I've found that most people hurt their rotator cuffs playing sports. I hurt mine in football (it is slightly torn), my old man hurt his in softball, as did another guy I know.

I've aggravated my rotator again and again doing certain exercises, but ironically never with the bench press. For me, very heavy military presses used to hurt, until I started doing them in front instead of in back of the neck. Of course, if I do overhead squats and my arm is too far back, I can feel it twinge. Dips, bench, pushups, pullups, etc. never hurt at all. When doing back squats, I can feel it though. Upright rows were murderous on it, and I never do them anymore.

I don't think that everyone is the same as far as what exercises cause injury. There are shitloads of articles on rotator cuff "prehab" though, so if you are worried, look it up. I think Mike Robertson did one.


Wow!! Really nice question. I'd like to take a shot at it and then see what others have to say as well!!

Assuming that the bench (flat) is a 5.

Incline - I'll give that one a 5 too(assuming that you are retracting the scapula and depressing the shoulders on the lift)

Military- I think if it is seated and in front I might give this a 6...really think it depends on flexability.

Dips- I'll give this a 6 as well

Behind the neck- Here is where I think it gets a bit ugly...no matter what your flexability, my belief is that this movement still puts an tremendous amount of pressure on the joint capsule.

Power Snatch- Just starting to work w/ these, but I think it you are using bumpers (not attempting to put the weight down gently) and have proper coaching, then I'd go with less than the bench...a 4.

Overhead Snatch- Again, just beginning to work with these. I was under the assumption that it was a bit less of a press than some of the other moverments? I'll have to abstain on this one due to a total lack of knowledge about subject matter.

Just my opinion on things. I can't wait to see what others will have to add to this discussion. I think I will learn more than a thing or two on this thread.


Behind the neck press - 7
Narrow grip upright rows - 9
inc,dec,flat bench - 3
front,rear,side laterals(stopping at parallel) - 3
dumbell press/military/seated press in front of face(bar never below chin) - 3
Dips(slightly below parallel) - 3

Had pretty good luck all around. Screwed myself up by lifting/carrying trays in restaurants for years and years, construction/landscaping like a drunken demon for years and years, fighting and wrestling took their toll. I look at my bachelor's and master's diplomas and see it as an even trade-off. I'm 38 and my shoulders have been perfect for 4 years and I get to keep my degrees.


Good Question ok from my personal perspective here it goes.

Power Snatch
Over Heah Jerk

Anything Balistic in my opinion is not only potentially hazardous but Potentially disasterous as well. Anytime massive acceleration and deceleration against joints is involved even the best warm ups and proper execution can't overcome, over use injuries and all the variables that could happen with this type of move so I say use them infrequently if you use them at all. 8-10

Behind the Neck Presses

This is a mechanically unsound movement to begin with. While I never have been injured while training period. I can tell that after training for some 20 odd yrs that this move feels differant with age, and requires more warm up sets I for the most part do not use this move at all if I do on the rare occasion it is at the end of the workout with a barbell weight that I could pick up and get into place without using racks and I could get back down with out the use of racks. 7-9


I like this move but I have made adjustments over the years as follows. I now use a dip mach instead of dip bars I do not do tricep dips off a bench anymore period. On the Dip Mach I raise the seat all the way up so that it is not a severe angle for my shoulders my hands are at about lower pec line to begin with. I can use very heavy weight comfortably with this method without feeling anything in my shoulders ever. I think probably even with standard dip bars as opposed to the mach the depth of the dip and pull on the shoulder is the factor most likely to cause injury. Deep Dips 8-10 mid depth 5-6

Military Press

This is my main shoulder move never had any type of problem as long as the joint is warmed up. Never been injured but definately could tell the days I didn't warm up thouroughly. I only Military press seated which feels much better to me personaly, I say 4-6

Incline Barbell Press

lately these are more comfortable at a low angle maybe 30% for me I can do Higher incline but the warm up has to be more thourough so I say 5-6 maybe 7


The power snatch always leaves my right shoulder (dislocated playing hockey) sore for a few days. I finally had to cut them out of my workouts and just do power cleans. None of the other exercises bother my shoulders.