Front and Lateral Raises: Good Exercises?
We just finished the third module of the Certified Neuromuscular Conditioning Specialist program. It was an awesome information packed weekend focused on shoulder rehabilitation, corrective exercise, and conditioning progressions.
Question: What is the best exercise you can give your client for general shoulder conditioning, what would you answer? Overhead press? Upright row? Front or lateral raise?
Many of you would not choose the front or lateral raise as the correct answer however a large majority of fitness professionals use this exercise as part of their client’s shoulder conditioning program. And just peek into any baby boomer boot camp, senior or group exercise class and you will see these as staples in most programs.
Unfortunately, the front and lateral raises drive greater shoulder dysfunction than virtually any other shoulder exercise. And if your client has neck pain or headaches, front and lateral raises should be the LAST exercises you do with them.
First, what makes this exercise so bad for the shoulders?
The long lever arm: The further the arm gets away from the body, the incrementally heavier a 5 pound DB weighs in your hand weighs. Many of our clients can’t even lift the weight of the their arm – let alone additional weight – with proper scapular control.
Using too much weight: Most clients can lift whatever weight you give them in the lateral or anterior raise. The problem is not lifting the weight rather the weight they lift is too heavy for their level of scapular stability.
Using the neck as an anchor: The neck is not designed to be an anchor for the upper arm. In the presence of poor scapular stability, compounded by the long lever arm, fatigue, and faulty mechanics, the neck becomes the anchor for the arm driving neck pain, trigger points in the levator scapula and rhomboids in addition to a host of neck and shoulder maladies.
So why do so many fitness professionals perform front and lateral raises?
Ease: They have a low learning curve and are relatively easy to perform especially with limited equipment. All you need is a pair of light dumbbells or elastic tubing.
Mirror muscle effect: Clients really feel the burn and can easily see the muscles working in the mirror.
Isolationism: Front and lateral raises make it is easy to isolate the anterior and middle fibers of the deltoid.
What’s the problem? The problem is simple – when the prime movers are stronger than the stabilizers, dysfunction occurs. That is the number one cause of tightness, pain, and movement dysfunction in our clients.
What does it look like in our clients when the prime movers are stronger than the stabilizers? Check out this video of a classic illustration of this point in a client demonstrating the front and lateral raise. And note: she is only using 5 pound dumbbells.
CONCLUSION: Front and lateral raises will definitely work the appropriate fibers of the deltoids. However, they can also create and/or contribute to scapular instability even at low weights. Overhead presses, push-ups, as well as most chest and back exercises are more than adequate for shoulder conditioning. If you do like to perform them or your client demonstrates a need for isolated function, ensure that they can first stabilize the scapula and move the arm independently before you add any weight.
Want to be known as the shoulder conditioning specialist? Are you ready to stand out from your peers and help more clients – even the challenging ones? Then check out and apply to be part of C.N.S. Team II – applications are being accepted now.
Coming next edition of FITNESS INSIDER: MYTH #6: SQUATS ARE THE BEST EXERCISE FOR THE LOWER BODY
Helping You Think Bigger About Your Role as a Fitness Professional,
Dr. Evan Osar
P.S. In thinking bigger about your role as a fitness professional have you ever thought about becoming an author, presenter or seminar leader? Jenice and I had the opportunity to attend Brenden Buchard’s, author of Life’s Golden Ticket, seminar last year, check out this free video where he shares with you some of the steps he used to become a million dollar author and presenter. You will to have to provide an email address to view the video but, don’t let that deter you, you can always unsubscribe. I don’t generally promote other people stuff but, I really like this guy and I can’t wait for his next seminars. He gave me perspective on my role as a fitness professional and great tools to use to promote my message, maybe he can help you get your message out too.