Added On October 21, 2011
Vince Gironda Neck Press - Shoulder Killer or The Greatest Chest Builder
The famous Gironda Neck Press is an extremely strict bench press with a wide to medium grip. Usually the trainee will lift his/her legs on the bench in order to reduce all power coming from his lower body and to avoid excessive bridging. Then the trainee will flare his elbows out and wide while lowering the bar to his throat and then will push the bar back up while keeping the angle between his upper arms and torso 90 degrees or very close to it.
The goal of the exercise is to place as much stress on the chest as possible. This is why you should keep your elbows flared. The more you flare your elbows the more chest involvement there is. This is great but not everyone's shoulder can take it.
The Gironda neck press places the rotator cuff muscles stabilizing the shoulder and the AC joint in extremely stressful position. Many shoulders have been hurt on the bench press due to excessive elbow flaring. If you think of it for a second in real life you would never push any kind of object with your elbows flared out to the maximum. Usually you will naturally keep your elbows to the sides because that's where you are at the strongest pushing position. When you are under stress your body finds its own ways to optimize its force production and this situation is a perfect example of this. Of course many of you will argue that the goal of the exercise is to make the pectorals work like the end of the word is coming but what's good for one of your muscle groups might be a murder for the weak surrounding structures - in this case the shoulder.
The shoulder joint is the weakest one in the human body. This is especially true when it comes to pressing movements because of the strain at the bottom position of exercises such as the neck press. At the same time you will rarely experience shoulder pain from wide grip back work - rows, pull-ups and so on. Of course it's still possible but the joint is not placed in a position where ligaments, tendons and bursa are in such extreme degree coupled with a high downward force.
Ok. But is The Gironda Neck Press a useless exercise?
For me yes. I would never do it but I have a fucked up shoulder to begin with so this is one of the factors. However I would also not recommended it to anybody with a history of AC joint pain or rotator cuff issues. At the same time I would not argue that it will hit your chest pretty hard and you can give it a try but remember to use super strict form, spotter and light weight at the beginning. Also don't get sad if your shoulders start complaining.
I warned you.
Shoulder Friendly Pushing Exercises
Dumbbell Bench Presses
Inline Dumbbell Bench Press
Decline Bench press
Flat Bench Press ( try to avoid excessive elbow flaring)
Close Grip Bench Press
Exercise That Can Be Very Stressful To Your Shoulder Joints
Korean Dips, Bulgarian Dips, Gironda Neck Press, Gironda Dips, Straight Bar Dips, Chest Machines, Flies, Behind The Neck Shoulder Presses, Behind The Neck Pull-ups...etc
Of course there are other exercises to both lists but those are the most popular. Usually when you have a bad shoulder you should stay away from pushing exercises with extremely flared elbows and deep dips variations. Also you may have to give dumbbells and rings a try because they allow the joints to find an angle that is less stressful unlike the straight bar and the machines which have already chosen a path for you.
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