The Fitness Trail: Protect the Shoulder Joint and Lumbar Spine |

The Fitness Trail: Protect the Shoulder Joint and Lumbar Spine

Jackie Wright / The Fitness Trail
Grand Lake, CO Colorado

The dumbbell bench press, bent over row and biceps curl exercises are three excellent exercises for strengthening the upper body. However, while many clients are familiar with these three exercises, due to a misunderstanding of the proper range of motion and stability requirements to perform each correctly, they may be placing their shoulder joint/lumbar spine at risk. Consequently, this week we will highlight a few do’s and don’ts for each. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Dumbbell Bench Press – targets the pectoral, deltoid and triceps muscle groups


-Begin supine (i.e. face up on the bench)

-Choose an increment of weight that you are able to successfully lift and lower with meticulous form.

-Begin with the arms at a 90 degree angle at the elbow joint, at shoulder height/knuckles facing the ceiling.

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-Fully extend the arms at the elbow joint arcing over the sternum as you press up (think of touching the ends of the dumbbells together).

-Lower the arms back to the 90 degree angle, slowly and repeat.


-Use momentum to either press up or lower-fight gravity all of the way through.

-Lower the arms below the 90 degree position as this places tremendous pressure on the anterior aspect of the joint capsule at the shoulder joint and may lead to shoulder injury/instabilities. There is no benefit to lowering beneath 90 degrees. When performed properly, the pectoral muscles are 100 percent engaged!

-Hit the chest with your dumbbells (or barbell)!

Unilateral Bent Over Rows – targets the latissimus dorsi, deltoids and biceps muscle groups


-Choose a weight increment that will fatigue the latissimus dorsi within 8-12 repetitions. This is a large back muscle (i.e. wide part of the back) and will require heavier external resistance than say your deltoids as those are much smaller muscles. However, due to the bent over position, you must consider the lumbar spine and your ability to stabilize your core musculature, holding your position while executing the row.

-Hinge from the hip joint, shoulders/hips/knees/toes all facing the same direction with the arm pit closed, initiating engagement of the muscle from the scapulae moving it toward the midline of the spine.

-Row directly back until the upper arm is at a 90 degree angle at the elbow joint with the upper arm parallel to the floor and then lower the arm slowly to the beginning position.


-“Fall” out of your repetition and allow the weight of the dumbbell to drag the arm downward causing that side of the shoulder joint to drop beneath parallel with the other shoulder. This may lead to shoulder injury/instabilities.

-Use any momentum to lift or lower.

Standing Biceps Curls – targets the biceps muscle group


-Choose a weight increment that will enable you to hold your ground during the exercise (i.e. no rocking/swaying).

-Curl the forearm from approximately zero (extension) to 150 (flexion) degrees.


-Lean back as you curl the arms arching the lumbar spine-this places tremendous, unnecessary stress on the lumbar spine.

-Accelerate on the down phase of the exercise.

-Compensate by “bucking” the hips-that is just momentum, not strength.

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at, her email at, her blog at and her Facebook page at Never Summer Fitness.

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