You've been hitting the gym for awhile now, getting to know the equipment and learning some key moves and you might even consider yourself an expert. But unless you’re a trained professional, there's a chance you still might be doing exercises that are either dangerous, ineffective or both.
A major part of any exercise is body mechanics—fitness professionals know that better than anyone—and that’s the reason there are some exercises they avoid. From injury-provoking moves to ineffective exercises, fitness trainers outlined 11 exercises that just aren’t worth it.
“I stay clear of the seated leg extension and seated hamstring curl machines,” said US Track and Field Star and ACE Certified Personal Trainer Monica Hargrove. “When the leg is fully extended, that puts a lot of stress on the knee joints, ultimately risking injury. Squats and lunges are a safer and more effective way to work the quads.” She recommends trying front squats, back squats, split squats, walking lunges, stationary lunges, and reverse lunges.
“When it comes to working my hamstrings, I'm more concerned with functional performance and the hamstring curl strengthens a motion not designed for running or sprinting. Straight leg dead lifts and good mornings are two exercises that train my hamstrings in better positions for running.”
“For some odd reason, people take it personally when I say that I don’t think straight bar bench press should be part of your workout. The problem is that unless you keep your shoulders down and back, and maintain the precise groove for every rep, free-weight bench presses place too much pressure on shoulders,” said Dr. Robert Pomahac, a fitness expert and chiropractor who has worked with athletes in the NFL, NBA, UFC and U.S. Water Polo Team, and founder of MaxHealth LA. “There's also the possibility that you'll suffer a pec tear, or bicep tendon tear by doing bench presses. I would rather focus on effectiveness and efficiency than answering the question ‘whatta you bench’. There are many other safer chest exercises superior to straight bar bench press.”
“Anything behind the neck puts your shoulder muscles in a vulnerable position. So don’t do presses, chins and pull-downs behind your head,” Pomahac said. “It's an unnatural and unsafe position and puts your shoulder joint into an extension, external rotation position which places a large and unnatural strain on your rotator cuff muscles. I recommend military (front) presses or dumbbell presses, both of which work front delts much more safely. I never lower the weight below chin level. You'll notice this is about as far as you can go without your shoulders dropping. I usually perform military presses on a Smith machine, or dumbbells which lets me roll my palms back and find a more natural position.”
“When done properly, deadlifts are a great part of your workout. Unfortunately, too many people end up gaining little muscle for all the straining they do and the injury risks they take,” Pomahac said. “The focus of the deadlift is to improve the strength of your lower back, and since the deadlift is a complex motion most people place unwanted strain on their neck, shoulders, mid-back, glutes and hamstrings. Instead of traditional deadlifts, I prefer using a Smith machine. Set the safety catch or support bar so the bar can't go below knee-level. That way you focus mostly on your back, and you reduce the risk of injury.”
“Walking is a great way to get your body moving and accustomed to physical activity, however, studies have shown that walking can be unsuccessful for continued weight loss or progressive gains in fitness,” said Dr. Sean Wells, fitness expert at bistroMD. “A few suggestions I would recommend for working out (for weight loss or purely for physical activity) are interval walking/jogging, elliptical training or fast cycling which are ideal methods for pushing your fitness and continued weight loss.”
“Another workout I don’t recommend is isolated, specific muscular weight training,” said Wells. “It is important for body builders and for certain rehabilitation situations, however, these isolated movements provide very little carryover to daily function and sports performance. They also don’t improve muscle development and lack the efficiency to build multiple muscle groups for higher calorie burning, which is needed for weight loss and general health. I suggest trying exercises that involve multiple joints and functional movements, such as squatting, rowing, lunging, and pushing. You don’t have to completely eliminate specific isolated strengthening but isolated exercises are not ideal for everyday training.”
“Two workouts I would never do are Insanity and P90X, or whatever ‘new’ (re-branded) version of this ‘Beach Body’ mainstay that's out,” said Shane Allen, a certified weight loss specialist, personal trainer and sports nutritionist at Personal Trainer Food. “I can't tell you how many times I've heard of people who injured themselves trying to do these workouts at home. Beyond that, people who work out too hard tend to over-reward themselves with food later—negating the insane workout they just did.”
“I would never do anything that is really boring—for example, running on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike. Even as a man who loves to lift weights, I would easily take a Zumba class over a mind-numbingly boring workout,” said Henry Halse, a certified personal trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist. “Humans are actually really good at moving, and it's very healthy to move in a bunch of different ways. Our brain is active when we move because movement can be very challenging and very stimulating. When you restrict movement so much that you are doing one small motion over and over it really takes the fun out of a workout. Running or cycling outside is great because there are so many things to see and different obstacles in the road or in the woods that you need to move around.”
“This exercise places extreme stress on the acromioclavicular joint as well as the labrum,” said Chief Clinical Officer of Orthology Dr. Josh Sandell. “[Which] can lead to all kinds of shoulder problems and perpetuates the problems on anyone who has forward head posture.”