7 Exercises to Avoid

Not All Workouts are Created Equal

At Best Fit Life, we’re all about what works for YOU. And… your favorite kind of fitness may be different than mine. We tend to think that variety keeps exercise interesting, so it’s good to try the latest and greatest in between keeping up with our favorites.

One thing I’m sure we all have in common: we want our workouts to work! We want them to be effective and to deliver results safely. Not all exercises do that.



WebMD identifies 7 exercises, that don’t deliver results and might even lead to injuries. We’ve added solutions to each problem:

1. Lat Pull-down Behind the Head

The problem: Only people with very mobile shoulder joints can keep their spines straight enough to do this exercise properly. So the move — done wrong — can lead to shoulder impingement or worse, a tear in the rotator cuff. There’s also the tendency to bend the head forward in this move, making the neck more vulnerable to being hit by the bar, which could injure cervical vertebrae.

SOLUTION: Lat pulldown in front, to between neck and upper chest.



2. Military Press Behind the Head

This shoulder move, in which you lift a barbell up and down behind the head, can cause the same problems as the lat pull–down behind the head.or Squat Rack

SOLUTION: Use a Smith Machine or Squat Rack, to help moderate weight more safely. Also, you can do front squats, and dumbbell squats, holding dumbbells by your sides or at your shoulders.



3. Upright Row

The problem: Pulling heavier weights, a barbell, or a weighted cabled bar up under your chin can compress the nerves in the shoulder area, impinging the shoulder.

SOLUTION: In this photo below, a female fitness instructor demonstrates a correct kettlebell upright row position. Be careful to not go heavier than you can manage while still maintaining proper form. This applies to all exercises. A common mistake in upright rows is to “do the chicken” with the elbows, and to hike and hunch the shoulders. If you’re doing that, the weight is too heavy.



4. Leg Press with Cramped Knees

The Problem: From a reclining position, you push the plate up and bring it down in this common exercise to work the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. The problem comes when you bend your legs too far — past a 90-degree angle — which can hurt your back and knees.

In this photo below notice how the knees appear to be slightly over extended beyond the toes. That’s the danger zone to watch out for to prevent injury.

SOLUTION: Place your toes near the top of the foot pad and do not go down lower than a 90 degree angle, thighs-to-pad.



5. Squats on the Smith Machine

The problem: The bar on the machine doesn’t give, which can force the body into risky positions. Plus, people tend to put their feet farther in front of their bodies when doing squats on the machine.

SOLUTION: This can allow for more work to occur in the glutes and hams, but caution is needed to keep the body mechanics in line. Ask a gym staff member to check your form on the squats. Or, you can do a barbell squat and observe your form, then apply that same form to the Smith Machine or Squat Rack squat.

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6. Bad Form on Cardio Machines

The problem: Hunching over or using a death-grip on the handrail cheats your body and can throw off your alignment, jarring your spine, shoulders, and elbows.

SOLUTION: If you need to hold on for stability, especially if you’re older or recovering from an injury, start out slowly and lightly touch the bars on either side straight out from your shoulders for stability, while keep your back straight. As you progress, you will be able to just lightly touch the rail at your sides with just a few fingers, then a finger tip to anchor your balance, until soon you won’t need to hold on at all.



7. Exercises for Spot Reduction

The Problem: People who do strengthening and toning exercises in an effort to trim fat from a certain area — thighs, hips, stomach, or arms — have the wrong idea. Although these exercises can help firm muscles, if the targeted area still carries an extra layer of fat, it won’t look much different. You can’t isolate fat loss to one part of the body.

SOLUTION: Keep in mind an integrated full body workout plan. Increase your intake of healthy foods while decreasing your intake of unhealthy foods and you will lose fat, while toning your entire body. That’s it!

Corrective Measures

Most of these moves have safer alternatives that focus on maintaining correct form while performing the exercises at the correct pace. You can see additional substitutions on WebMD. So if you’re doing any of these, just look at whether it’s working for you, and if you have any recurring pain or injuries, these could be the culprit, so substitute with options that are easier on your joints.

If you’re using a weightlifting belt, it’s best to leave it off on medium to light days (unless it’s doctor prescribed), because belts can let your core muscles slack off and get lazy. A strong core is essential everyday life as well as toward injury prevention, better mobility, agility and even organ health.



7 Risky Exercises and Better Bets, WebMD

Becoming a Supple Leopard 2nd Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance, by Kelly Starrett

My Trainer Fitness Workout Plans for Gym, at Home and at Work, plus Kids Workouts and Outdoor Workouts