The Rotator Cuff Says, “Don’t Do This Exercise!”


You can live a strong, fit, and happy life without doing pull-downs behind the neck. And since your rotator cuff doesn’t talk (there’s no mobile app for that yet), I’m telling you,

“Just Don’t Do It!”

I wouldn’t give you such a serious ultimatum without good reason, so let’s get to it.

By seeing exactly what the rotator cuff is, and what it does, you can better understand the danger inherent in various movements; especially when they involve excessive weight or speed.

Let’s get started…

Take another look at the bones of the shoulder pictured above. What’s your first impression?

It looks almost like some of the of the bones are virtually free-floating, doesn’t it? It’s this unique arrangement of the shoulder’s components that allows for the extended range of motion it affords us, from the butterfly stroke to the fast ball.


In the above picture showing the first layer of muscle, notice the natural forward orientation of the shoulders, along with the muscles connecting the shoulder blade to the top of the arm. You can see that these muscles are critical in keeping the arm in place. They are also involved in the rotating of the arm. These muscles attaching the shoulder blade to the top of the arm (forming the rotator cuff) are best worked by pulling motions in front of the torso–moving in towards the body center (ie close grip). Doing military presses or pull-downs behind the neck puts an awkward torque on these tendons (rotator cuff) attaching the muscles to the arm.

Your first indication of danger from ‘behind the neck’ pull-downs, or ‘behind the neck’ military presses is the uncomfortable feeling.

It’s your body warning you to be careful.

Besides, and more importantly, there is no reason to risk injury using behind the neck movements when close grip seated pull-downs to the chest will accomplish the same or better results without the unnatural torque to the shoulder tendons. Preferring the pull-down to the front, I like to change the angle of the exercise by leaning back as I begin the movement toward the chest (using the triangle close grip). The more you lean back, the more the focus shifts to mid-upper back. One of my favorites!


(A great close-up of the primary elements in the rotation and stability of the arm in the shoulder. The deltoid muscle covers this and also inserts in the upper end of the arm bone to produce rotation).

The photo below includes the final layer of muscle and, as you can well see, it’s these muscles (traps, lats, and delts) that account for the size and strength of the back. Focus your back training on the movements that utilize your body’s natural range of motion. When I see guys (especially Seniors) doing behind the neck pull-downs, jerking the weight down at the start, it makes me cringe.

The greater rotational range of the shoulder makes it a prime candidate for athletic injuries, so train accordingly.

Pardon the Back,


The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

I’ve Never Done CrossFit, But I Can Tell You Why It’s So Powerful!

Originally posted on The Senior Health and Fitness Blog:


It goes back to my experience as an officer candidate in the United States Marine Corps, Upshur Training Battalion in Quantico, Virginia.

When I first saw the CrossFit phenomenon, I got a smile on my face. A few of its unique features immediately brought back memories of my experiences in officer training. The similarities, though not many, are very significant.

Here’s why…

When you’re called upon to perform in a group setting, you respond in a way that is far beyond what you can accomplish in individual training. One of the deepest impressions taken from my experience in Quantico, was how I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could ever achieve.

The Beast of PT (physical training) was, no doubt, the O course. You could be eliminated quickly due to failure to complete any part its humbling tasks.

And the last drill of the obstacle course was the rope…

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Why Aren’t Seniors In Beauty Shots?

Yes, I do know the answer to that question, but it’s important that we talk about it.

Getting old, along with its accompanying dramatic physical changes, is not a pretty thing in our society. It’s an in-your-face incarnation of things that we generally don’t want to think about.

These thoughts overtook my brain as I dug for information on a future post just now, seeing nothing but the young and beautiful. You could say that this is a bit extemporaneous.

It’s the absence of Seniors in all the articles about fitness and health that prompted this. That’s assuming you’re not researching geriatric issues, of course, which is a likely place to find us… oh, and when people are upset that we need more medical attention than everyone else, there’s lots of photos, too.

Instead of bemoaning the fate of my generation, I will accept the challenge to get more of us Senior athletes
out in front of whoever happens to care.

“Stay Tuned” (The announcer on tv used to actually say that)

“Changing the look of Senior fitness one rep at a time”

Guess which one is me.

(with the white beard)

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Let’s Give The Knees A Break!

Originally posted on The Senior Health and Fitness Blog:


Well… I thought it was a catchy title.

Lots to cover, so let’s get to it.

There’s no fairy tale ending when it comes to abusing your knees. Given sufficient time, if you inflict damage to major components earlier in life, pain will be your constant companion later in life. It then becomes a pain management issue, juggling the use of pain meds, physical therapy, and various types of bracing contraptions.

For in an depth look at those options, read this article about osteoarthritis from NIH online library:

Time could be spent covering the anatomy and physiology of it, but it’s not necessary here, and it’s best to have that discussion with your orthopedic specialist.

Please understand the tradeoffs involved in the reckless treatment of your body (not just knees) now, and the pain you’re going to have later.

Living life involves taking hits to the knees from time…

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When It Comes to Your Good Health, There’s No Competition!

Originally posted on The Senior Health and Fitness Blog:


When I was asked by someone recently how many push-ups I could do, I tried to re-direct the question and the reason behind it. There’s no embarrassment or shyness on my part, just a different focus. It’s a perspective that time cultivates as values come into a sharper focus, given that there’s not as much time left anymore.

While I’ve always enjoyed fitness, there were always plenty around who were faster and stronger. That doesn’t mean I sat on the sidelines.

Competition is a crucible which reduces the issues to the basics. Exactly what am I capable of achieving? Is my will sufficient to push me farther?

The competition of sports has always been used as an analogy for our lives, and aptly so. But certainly, not all aspects of life are to be treated as though participating in a competitive event. “To everything there is a season…”

Fitness, for…

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“If I Could Do It Over Again, Things Would Be Different.”

Originally posted on The Senior Health and Fitness Blog:


If you’ve uttered those words before, or thought them to yourself, we need to talk.

Say it over again to yourself and then we’ll move forward.


What’s going to happen tomorrow? The reason I ask is that you will have the opportunity to do it differently.

Scary, huh?

That means you’re really going to have to make those difficult decisions and work on those unpleasant tasks that you didn’t do today, right? Right.

In retrospect, the sum of our years is the same as the sum of our minutes and days. So use the minutes wisely and the years will follow.

Turn off the TV (assuming your regret over the past is real, and you now have made a decision to change) and do right now what needs to be done.

Are you with me? For yourself, and for those who depend on you…

Say Goodbye to Regret.


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Teens, Exercise, Depression, And A Rather Obvious Scientific Conclusion…

If I brush my teeth religiously as a teen and then do nothing for a number of years, did all the previous brushing save me from having to do so in the future? Can we conclude, then, that proper dental hygiene is ineffective in the prevention of cavities and gum disease?

The Experiment:

The researchers had the teenage subjects participate in an exercise program and recorded psychological profiles. They evaluated their psychological profiles three years later.

They noted that the physical activity of earlier years had no effect on depression statistics in later years.


“The researchers didn’t find any connection between the levels of physical activity at age 14 and any depression experienced at age 17.”
(As quoted from US News and World Report online article cited below)

I know a lot of middle age men who tell me how great they were in younger years. Did all that exercise done years earlier keep them fit now? No. Are some of them depressed now? Yes.

If these scientists would have simply left a question for me in the comments section, I would have gladly told them that it’s a Lifestyle thing!

Still Knowing That Exercise Is Wellness,


The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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