Bad form on shoulder day is a fairly common occurrence. With improper form comes the risk of a rotator-cuff injury. We all make mistakes, but we should learn from them. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make during shoulder day and the ways to correct them.
Never assume all overhead presses are equal
The overhead press may be your go-to multijoint movement for shoulders, but that doesn't mean all its variations work your deltoid musculature the same. Not even close! That's why you should understand how each variation works a bit differently so you can pick the right tool for the job.
Dumbbell and barbell presses in which you take the bar behind your head will better target the middle delt region. Machine overhead presses differ by manufacturer, but if you keep an eye on the direction of your upper arm, you can easily pick out whether you're getting much contribution from the front delt.
If you want more tension on your front delts when doing overhead presses, by all means choose the front barbell version, or consider Arnold presses.
Never overarch your back doing overhead presses
All kinds of things can go wrong with too much weight on the bar, especially when you press that weight over your head. In the all-too-common scenario where you bend backwards to press more weight, your body searches for a way to gain better leverage. This can quickly turn an overhead press into a steep incline press, which recruits the chest musculature to a greater degree puts your lower back at risk.
To press safely, you want your spine in a neutral or slightly arched position with your core muscles—both on the front (abs) and back (low back)—braced and contracted.
Never go super heavy with behind-neck barbell presses
While some lifters slip into a 3-sets-of-10 mentality for the bulk of their training career, many others cycle heavy and lighter training periods. While doing low-rep training with heavy weights can help build stronger delts, it might be a mistake when you're loading extra plates on the bar and repping it behind your head. When doing a behind-the-neck barbell presses, the shoulder muscles are in their weakest anatomical position at the bottom of the move. Using too much weight on this movement can increase the risk of a tear.
Never use a close grip on upright rows
To work your middle delts maximally, you want your upper arms moving directly out to your sides. That happens by taking a moderate grip on a bar when doing upright rows, not an extremely close grip.
If you take a close grip on the bar, watch where your elbows go. They move forward and out to your sides, not directly out. Using a close grip causes internal shoulder rotation, which isn't always healthy for your joints. This not only put less emphasis on the middle delts, but also increases the likelihood that you could have long-term shoulder damage.