Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lateral dumbbell raises

Two nights ago during my weight lifting I decided to bump up the weight employed during my bench presses. I've been pressing 100 pounds for the last month (usually two sets of 15 reps), and I felt it was time to add additional weight. But not too much weight of course, as I am always worried that I'll hurt myself. So, I added 5 pounds and lifted 105 pounds. It is surprising how much heavier that 5 pounds feels! I did 14 presses in the first set and 9 in the second. It won't take too long to get back to the two sets of 15 reps I usually do, and then maybe I'll add some more weight.

My workout included more than bench presses. I also did bicep curls (three sets of 15 @ 22.5 pounds), 2 pull ups, 51 abdominal crunches, and lateral dumbbell raises (two sets of 20 @ 10 pounds). This was a fairly mild workout because I felt tired and unmotivated, but that's another story. At least I did a workout!

Well, yesterday and today I've had a pain in my left posterior deltoid that persists despite a dose of Tylenol. I also had a pain on the front of my shoulder, either in the anterior deltoid or maybe one of the rotator cuff ligaments. I initially attributed the pain to a small injury I must have sustained as the result of increasing the bench press weight by 5 pounds. This would make sense except that the rotatory cuff pain has subsided and the pain in my posterior deltoid remains. The bench press--no matter how poorly executed--would not lead to an injury on the back of the shoulder. So the culprit must be the lateral dumbbell raises.

I use Delavier (2006) as a guide for doing lateral raises. Briefly, the exercise requires one to stand up straight with small dumbbells in both hands. Arms are straight at the sides and then lifted up until horizontal with the ground. Hands grip the dumbbells from the top so that palms are facing down.  Delavier says the exercise "should not be performed with heavy weights, but instead in sets of 10 to 25 reps, while varying the working angle without much recuperation time until you feel a burn." The reasoning behind using small weights is that if larger weights are used, you will recruit additional and larger muscles, and your smaller muscles (such as the supraspinatus) will not be pushed to their limits. He gives several other instructions that I used to follow but have since forgotten until now. For instance, the arms should alternate between positions slightly forward of the body and slightly behind the body so that all the muscle fibers of the deltoid are equally exercised. The deltoid muscle is a multipennate muscle, meaning it has fibers that run in different directions. If I simply lifted my arms at the same angle each time, I would exercise one part of the deltoid but not necessarily the other two segments. I have forgotten to do this with regularity, and perhaps that is why I am now a bit injured in the posterior deltoid.

The other reason might be the way I was holding the weights. You see, I used to lift 8-pound dumbbells. But then I increased it to 10 pounds. I do not actually own 10-pound dumbbells, so I have been lifting 10-pound plates instead. I have some plates that are solid (no hand grips!) and some that have spaces inside that allow me to grip them easily. I was lazy two nights ago, and instead of using the ones with hand grips, I elected to use the ones close by that had no hand-holds. The result was a very awkward feeling and a heavier lift, as I clutched the weights using my fingertips. This meant the weights were being held farther away from my central axis, which requires more work. The moral of my story is two-fold:
  1. Remember to maintain proper form when lifting, and review the instructions for each exercise regularly to ensure you haven't forgotten how to do it right.
  2. Don't be lazy. Use the proper equipment. 

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