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Never lift weights over your head!

GiddyupTimGiddyupTim Member Posts: 2,818 Member Member Posts: 2,818 Member
I play tennis with a guy who says that his doctor, and his sister who is a physical therapist, tell him that one should never do weight training where you lift the weight above your head. They say the shoulder isn't built for that and it is a recipe for disaster!
I am a bit skeptical.
I am of the belief that medical professionals get somewhat skewed ideas about the safety of certain activities because they only see people who are injured. That is, they see two violinists with carpal tunnel (or TMJ or whatever) they come to the conclusion that violin is extremely dangerous, since they have never seen a tuba player with it and they have never had a violinist make an appointment to come in because their wrist is fine.
Anyway, point is, does anyone know of any objective evidence that supports this shoulder advice?
Do weight lifters injure their shoulders at a high rate when they do push presses? Or handstand push-ups? Or snatches?
Is there any evidence that the kind of shoulder injuries you get lifting are likely to create chronic shoulder problems?
The only true objective information that I can find on this says:
1) Weight lifters do get injured; it is a physical activity, after all. But the rate of injury in weight lifting -- both Olympic lifting and powerlifting -- is less than track and field, less than any contact sport. A violent activity, such as throwing is more likely to cause serious, permanent damage to a shoulder, knee, whatever, than pushing a heavy object.
2) A few retrospective studies -- studies where they ask participants to recall their injury history -- suggest that weight lifters most frequently hurt their shoulders, lower back and knees when they get hurt. One study found that powerlifters more frequently hurt their shoulders than their lower back or knees, but that was not the case with Olympic lifters, which seems counter-intuitive if lifting overhead is a problem, since Olympic lifters do nothing but lift over their head. (https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/4/211)
3) Only one study I can find compared shoulders in lifters and non-lifters. This study found that recreational weight lifters did indeed have more shoulder injury and pain than non-lifters, but that is a little bit unimpressive because, of course, if you use your shoulder a lot in a demanding activity you are more likely to get a shoulder injury than someone who does not. Of note, this study found that there were two particular lifts that appeared to be associated with shoulder pain and shoulder impingement: upright rows and lateral deltoid raises. Without those, the rate of injury/pain wasn't much different. In addition, one type of exercise was associated with less injury, external rotator strengthening. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24077379)
Can anyone tell me, am I missing something here? Is there a huge database that says that Olympic lifters end up trashing their shoulders after 5-10 years? Or something like that?
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Replies

  • FireOpalCOFireOpalCO Member, Premium Posts: 641 Member Member, Premium Posts: 641 Member
    I wonder if they are mixing up weight training and OSHA?

    In OSHA training it's drilled into people to never lift things above their heads (and never store heavy items above eye level). Instead get a step-stool and pull the item into your chest. The risk is the movement of trying to pull a heavy item down from a shelf or push it up onto a shelf (losing control of the lift and injuring your shoulder/back, or foot if you drop it). Heaviest items on the lowest shelves also improves the stability of shelving units.
  • GiddyupTimGiddyupTim Member Posts: 2,818 Member Member Posts: 2,818 Member
    I don't think so. I have heard this from three different people -- this being: My doctor told me to stop doing shoulder exercises where you lift above your head, like shoulder presses. The shoulder is not built for that kind of activity and you will run into "trouble," though trouble isn't really defined. Impingement? That's most likely what they mean. Rotator cuff tears? Impingement can make a person susceptible to a rotator cuff tear, but most rotator cuff tears happen from throwing and swinging activities, or falling on it, as far as I understand.

    It just reminds me of the old "never let your knees go past your toes when you squat" advice, and how often I have heard someone say: "My orthopedist says people who are over 50/60 shouldn't run anymore because it is too hard on the knees."
    Evidence suggests neither of those things appear to be true. On the contrary, squatting makes your knees strong. Running -- okay, maybe some people cannot -- but in general being active keeps joints more healthy.

    There must be a source for this idea. I am wondering what it is. Then we could debate.
  • kimny72kimny72 Member Posts: 15,887 Member Member Posts: 15,887 Member
    Honestly, I've never heard that. I'd discount the generic doctor, unless he's an orthopedist or something similar, as medical doctors who don't specialize in this specific area probably don't have much training in it at all. The physical therapist though is a different story. I'd be interested in other folks responses!
  • aokoyeaokoye Member Posts: 3,494 Member Member Posts: 3,494 Member
    GiddyupTim wrote: »
    I don't think so. I have heard this from three different people -- this being: My doctor told me to stop doing shoulder exercises where you lift above your head, like shoulder presses. The shoulder is not built for that kind of activity and you will run into "trouble," though trouble isn't really defined. Impingement? That's most likely what they mean. Rotator cuff tears? Impingement can make a person susceptible to a rotator cuff tear, but most rotator cuff tears happen from throwing and swinging activities, or falling on it, as far as I understand.

    It just reminds me of the old "never let your knees go past your toes when you squat" advice, and how often I have heard someone say: "My orthopedist says people who are over 50/60 shouldn't run anymore because it is too hard on the knees."
    Evidence suggests neither of those things appear to be true. On the contrary, squatting makes your knees strong. Running -- okay, maybe some people cannot -- but in general being active keeps joints more healthy.

    There must be a source for this idea. I am wondering what it is. Then we could debate.

    It sounds like you need to find people who specialize in sports medicine/working with athletes.
  • CSARdiverCSARdiver Member Posts: 6,256 Member Member Posts: 6,256 Member
    GiddyupTim wrote: »
    I don't think so. I have heard this from three different people -- this being: My doctor told me to stop doing shoulder exercises where you lift above your head, like shoulder presses. The shoulder is not built for that kind of activity and you will run into "trouble," though trouble isn't really defined. Impingement? That's most likely what they mean. Rotator cuff tears? Impingement can make a person susceptible to a rotator cuff tear, but most rotator cuff tears happen from throwing and swinging activities, or falling on it, as far as I understand.

    It just reminds me of the old "never let your knees go past your toes when you squat" advice, and how often I have heard someone say: "My orthopedist says people who are over 50/60 shouldn't run anymore because it is too hard on the knees."
    Evidence suggests neither of those things appear to be true. On the contrary, squatting makes your knees strong. Running -- okay, maybe some people cannot -- but in general being active keeps joints more healthy.

    There must be a source for this idea. I am wondering what it is. Then we could debate.

    I doubt there is a source. Medicine is not science and finds its roots within engineering. So much of medicine tribal knowledge with little to no evidence to base the process upon.
  • lorrpblorrpb Member Posts: 11,464 Member Member Posts: 11,464 Member
    A friend who is a trainer has mentioned this to me. I didn't quiz her on the source.
  • mackfoomackfoo Member Posts: 28 Member Member Posts: 28 Member
    Don't tell Crossfitters. Clean and Jerks are pretty standard.

    Just spent lunch doing Turkish Getups
    edited December 2018
  • GiddyupTimGiddyupTim Member Posts: 2,818 Member Member Posts: 2,818 Member
    lorrpb: You gotta quiz her!
  • BrianKMcFallsBrianKMcFalls Member Posts: 190 Member Member Posts: 190 Member
    Oh, it's a thing, not an idea based on any evidence, but it's something lots of educated people believe.

    Here's a quick video of how pressing (properly) is actually good for the shoulder.
  • MikePTYMikePTY Member, Premium Posts: 3,820 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,820 Member
    I find that with both fitness and weight loss in general, there are a lot of "things people say" that don't really have any basis in fact or reality.
  • rileyesrileyes Member Posts: 1,385 Member Member Posts: 1,385 Member
    mackfoo wrote: »
    Don't tell Crossfitters. Clean and Jerks are pretty standard.

    Just spent lunch doing Turkish Getups

    TGUs are single-arm lifts. Your alignment can adjust for the lift unlike the OHP. Learning proper alignment for a tennis serve prevented impingement for me.

    I lift as heavy as I can overhead with proper form. It doesn’t hurt at all. I wonder if there is wear over time like McGill pointed out with the sit-up. Maybe the doctors over at BarbellMedicine.com can offer insight into the overhead press.
  • JAYxMSxPESJAYxMSxPES Member Posts: 193 Member Member Posts: 193 Member
    18-months of Exercise Science program, never heard this. The closest that I've ever heard something like this are from Strength & Condition coaches (e.g. Eric Cressey) who prefer to not prescribe overhead pressing for pitchers or throwing athletes because for some it affect their overall shoulder health when combined with their sport. Honestly, things like a close-grip upright row and certain types of dips are worse for your shoulders than overhead pressing. I would prescribe a military press long before a close-grip upright row.
    edited December 2018
  • lorrpblorrpb Member Posts: 11,464 Member Member Posts: 11,464 Member
  • maverick4x4maverick4x4 Member, Premium Posts: 80 Member Member, Premium Posts: 80 Member
    My surgeon says as long as you can see your hands, it's ok. I have a left side SLAP tear (since '09), no more overhead squats for me. I didn't tear it lifting weights. (for the record, I did overhead presses and squats for 24 years with no injuries before I tore it in an unrelated activity...and actually, I believe the injury occured because my shoulders were weaker at the time due to time off for tendonitis in the other shoulder due to another non-weight training activity)
    edited December 2018
  • youcantflexcardioyoucantflexcardio Member, Premium Posts: 550 Member Member, Premium Posts: 550 Member
    Zydrunas Savickas says otherwise.

    I'm listening to the guy who can put more weight over his head than I can deadlift currently, and my deadlift isn't exactly weak.
    edited December 2018
  • AzdakAzdak Member Posts: 8,281 Member Member Posts: 8,281 Member
    I think a lot of these caveats come from overgeneralizing and overstating some common concerns.

    A large number of people—perhaps even a majority—have pretty crappy mechanics when it comes to shoulder movements, scapular stabilization, etc. If they cannot learn to move properly, then, yeah, I would say that those people should not be doing overhead lifts.

    But if you can control your scapula and not arch the back when pressing overhead, then you should be fine.

    While I wouldn’t put overhead lifts into the “never” category, I wouldn’t say there is a compelling reason to do them either.
  • SCoil123SCoil123 Member Posts: 2,108 Member Member Posts: 2,108 Member
    I have chronic tendinitis and joint stability issues with my right shoulder. PT never told me I can’t overhead press. I have been told to focus on form over adding weight - but that should be the case with any lift. Honestly upright row and bench irritate my shoulder more so my weight progression is slower with those lifts
  • youcantflexcardioyoucantflexcardio Member, Premium Posts: 550 Member Member, Premium Posts: 550 Member
    SCoil123 wrote: »
    I have chronic tendinitis and joint stability issues with my right shoulder. PT never told me I can’t overhead press. I have been told to focus on form over adding weight - but that should be the case with any lift. Honestly upright row and bench irritate my shoulder more so my weight progression is slower with those lifts
    @SCoil123 the arching the back thing is something I'm having an issue with - I'm teaching a friend how to lift, and this is something he does on standing barbell OHP - he's not using much weight right now, about 65lbs, but I have been trying to correct his form on this and he keeps *kitten* doing it. Any tips on how to teach this? I know he can learn, his deadlift and squat form are actually really good now and I've only been teaching him a couple of weeks.
  • comptonelizabethcomptonelizabeth Member Posts: 1,688 Member Member Posts: 1,688 Member
    Azdak wrote: »
    I think a lot of these caveats come from overgeneralizing and overstating some common concerns.

    A large number of people—perhaps even a majority—have pretty crappy mechanics when it comes to shoulder movements, scapular stabilization, etc. If they cannot learn to move properly, then, yeah, I would say that those people should not be doing overhead lifts.

    But if you can control your scapula and not arch the back when pressing overhead, then you should be fine.

    While I wouldn’t put overhead lifts into the “never” category, I wouldn’t say there is a compelling reason to do them either.

    This! I'm currently seeing a physiotherapist because of lower back issues and have had to stop my lifting program. I'd assumed it was things like deadlifts were the cause but, having looked at my form, she told me I arch my back when doing ohps. Apparently a common thing in people whose shoulders are not stable - the back arches to compensate. However, she didnt tell me I should stop doing them forever, just that I need to work on strengthening my shoulders

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