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10 Exercises to STOP Doing

Sunday, February 27, 2011 | Category: Fitness
In past posts I've written about certain exercises to avoid doing.
Instead of me telling you, I decided this time to let world renown strength and conditioning specialist Craig Ballantyne fill you in.
I found this on Men's Health and thought it would be a great post to start the week.

Here are the top 10 exercises to remove from your program right now.

#1 – The Bodybuilder Bench PressThe truth is you never, ever have to do another set of bench presses if you simply want to lose fat or build chest muscle. There are plenty of other “shoulder-safe” exercises like dumbbell chest presses that work just fine.


That said, I know there are a few irrational TT Meatheads, like myself, reading this email. And we still want to bench press, and maybe even enter a Powerlifting competition.

But the Bodybuilder Bench Press – where you have a wide grip on the bar and your elbows pointed out to the sides – is the most damaging to your shoulders.

To make the exercise safer for your shoulder joint and rotator cuff muscles, simply tuck your elbows to your body – so they point more towards your feet – and bring in your grip by 1-2 inches. That will save your shoulders.

#2 – Anything done with a rounded back (even picking up dumbbells)

It doesn’t matter if you’re squatting, deadlifting, straight-leg deadlifting, rowing, or even doing triceps kickbacks, you must STOP doing these exercises with a rounded lower back.

That’s a one-way ticket to a herniated disc. And you do not want to go there, girl.

So make sure that you brace your abs, and keep your back in the neutral position – and even with a slight arch in your low back – as you do dumbbell rows, deadlifts, squats, and Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs).

If you don’t know what I mean, or you still aren’t comfortable with those exercises, by all means DROP them and just ask for a substitute exercise. There are plenty of other movements I can recommend.

And one more thing…I see a lot of people (including my clients) who use great form in all exercises and then pick up dumbbells off the floor with a rounded back.

That’s another no-no.

You can just as easily hurt your back doing that as you can in an “official” exercise. So always, always, ALWAYS pick stuff up by bending at the knees and keeping the object close to your body – but NEVER by rounding your back (even when tying your shoes!).

#3 – Bench dips (where your hands are placed on the bench behind you)

Personally, I’ve never been one to use this exercise, as I thought it was lame-o. And then 2 years ago I attended a Bill Hartman lecture, and he was very unkind to this exercise. (Who’s Bill Hartman? He’s a guy that has been crowned “the smartest man in fitness” by Brian Grasso, Alwyn Cosgrove, and myself.)

Here’s what Bill says about those bench dips…

“To achieve that much range of motion the scapula must tilt forward which is a pretty unstable position. This also means that the shoulder joint is unstable and increases demands on the rotator cuff especially the subscapularis.

“Over time this is a lot of undesireable stress leading to impingement of the cuff. This doesn’t even consider the stress on the AC joint. It’s also a crap exercise for overload.”

Cut those out of your program immediately.

#4 – “Clean and Presses” done with a fixed bar

Clean and presses are a great exercise when done with proper form, but almost every time I go to a big box gym I see people using those fixed “body bars” and doing some mangled “reverse-curl/external rotation/body contortion” movement.

Worse, I’ve watched groups of women do this in aerobics classes.

Listen, it’s nice that people see the value in the total body movements, but if you can’t do the exercise properly, it shouldn’t be done at all.

When I see a person trying to clean and press a 2-inch diameter, 24 pound body bar, it ALWAYS looks bad…because it is. Again, there are plenty of other ways to train the body. You could do a front squat combined with a push press. That would be safer and would still work all the muscles you want (and even more).

#5 – Behind the Neck pulldowns or presses

I’m a real conservative guy. To me, dressing up means a clean white t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. I hold the door open for lil’ old ladies. I don’t gamble or smoke. And I don’t curse around my mom.

And because of my conservative nature, that’s why I’m putting all “behind the neck” exercises on the no-fly list for your workout.

Some coaches say they are fine, and other coaches say it depends on the individual. And while I agree that some folks can do these without a problem, I look at it this way:

There’s NO good reason to risk your shoulder with these exercises when you get equal results from modified, safer versions of these exercises or simply by using other movements.

So be conservative and do your shoulders a favor by dropping all behind the neck movements.

#6 – Crunches

I know some people are getting real upset with me every time I tell you to stop doing crunches, but if you won’t believe me, then at  least believe Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove, whose new book, “The New Rules of Lifting for Abs” just hit #2 on Amazon’s best sellers.

They recommend dropping crunches, and so does Mike Robertson, Men’s Health fitness expert, who recently wrote this about the crunch debate:

“I can’t believe we’re still arguing this stuff. I would’ve hoped by now that we’ve all thrown crunches and sit-ups by the wayside…think about the body-wide effects of crunching – a crunch trains the rectus abdominus by pulling the rib cage down.

“When we pull the rib cage down, we increase the thoracic kyphosis. This sets off a cascade of events – we increase the kyphosis, thus losing t-spine extension. This consistently puts our scapulae in a poor position, not to mention putting our gleno-humeral joint at an increased risk for impingement as well.”

Let me translate Mike’s science…

Basically he said, STOP doing crunches!

#7 – Side bends

Unless you’re a powerlifter or strongman competitor, you can stay away from side bends.

You don’t want to repeatedly bend your spine sideways any more than you want to flex your spine forward with crunches and sit-ups.

And besides, who has ever gotten sexy abs with side bends?

They sure didn’t help me or Bally the Dog with our six pack abs.

#8 – Plyometrics to Failure

Hey, I appreciate the fact that people are putting more athletic movements into their fat loss programs. After all, you will get more results with athletic training than slow cardio.

But…you must be smart with your training. Doing “explosive” exercises to the point of muscle failure – and therefore, to the point of improper form – is simply wrong.

That’s what causes injury. And that causes people to drop out of their fat loss program.

So listen…be conservative. YES, you can use jump training in your fat loss program…after all, some of the advanced TT programs do.

But you can’t be doing plyometrics to failure. You can’t be doing plyometrics with sloppy form. And you can’t be getting hurt.

Train hard, but train safe.

#9 – Russian twists

Listen, I have nothing against Russians. Sometimes when I go on holiday I like to relax at the bar with a Black Russian, and I also think Russian women are some of the most beautiful in the world…

…but this exercise they’ve given us gets a big fat NYET!

Don’t do this. It combines spinal flexion and rotation, and is unsafe for your low back. Sorry, it belongs in Siberia!

#10 – Sit-upsSit-ups are far worse for your low-back than crunches. As Mike Robertson wrote in his ab training article:


“You may not like Stuart McGill, but the guy has done his home workon the spine. If you want to get your lower back healthy, there are safer and more effective ways to train the core than performing sit-ups until you enjoy the unique pleasure of a herniated disc.”

I agree 100%.

Leave a comment below if we missed any or if you have a problem with cutting any of these exercises out of your program.

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