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Top 5 Exercises to Avoid and Why

Exercises to Avoid

Many of us have several go-to exercises, those tried and true ones that we have long ago mastered and now rely on as part of an essentially simple workout. New activities can be challenging to learn, and getting the proper technique down solid may seem like too much work.

However, some of those tried and true exercises may be doing more harm than good. 

Exercise science continues to advance our understanding of how our bodies respond and adapt to exercise. While more certainly needs to be discovered, body experts have pinpointed where we have gone off track.

Read on to learn about five exercises that you should consider removing from your routine. 


1. Bent Over Twist

Many perform this exercise in the hopes of tightening their waistline and defining their abdomen.

  • This exercise involves holding a light bar behind the neck with hands reaching out toward the bar’s ends.
  • Then, the exerciser bends forward and twists. The involvement of the abdomen is actually minimal. 

Where this exercise becomes dangerous is the strain it places on the soft tissues of the back; during this exercise, the spinal erector muscles are working overtime to maintain the body’s flexed position.

To avoid back pain and injury and better target your abdomen, try mastering the plank and its variations.


2. Upright Row

Full disclosure, I loved the upright row. I could really feel the work in the anterior and medial portions of my deltoids.

  • This exercise is a familiar one; the exerciser holds dumbbells, kettlebells, or a weight bar in both hands.
  • With elbows high, the weight is pulled up to the chest, right under the chin. 

The problem with this move, and why I have abandoned it, is the stress it puts the rotator cuff under, risking injury.

Simply put, our shoulders don’t like to move this way. There are so many effective and less risky shoulder exercises to do. There is no need to take your chances with the upright row.


3. Full Squat/Duck Walk

While the full squat has many sports applications and many exercisers enjoy without problems, it carries a higher risk for those with knee issues.

  • When in the deepest position (think of your bottom just hovering over the ground with your knees in line with your chest), the cartilage and ligaments of your knees are in a precarious position.
  • Your legs and buttocks will get a fantastic workout by performing a partial squat;
    • when performing the squat, lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then return to standing.

If your knees are healthy and pain-free, and you feel ready to take on the full squat, ensure that your technique is absolutely flawless. 


4. Behind the Neck Moves

Two classic moves which involve placing or pulling weights behind the head/neck are the lat pull down and the neck press. Explanation of these moves is not provided here; they are that bad.

  • These moves risk injury to the rotator cuff (shoulder muscles), muscles that act on the neck, and a blow to the skull or neck. 
  • These moves also require excessive flexion at the neck, which increases the load on your cervical spine.
  • Again, if you are keen to work your upper back, try one of the many other safe and effective exercises such as the basic shoulder press or a lat pull down with the bar at the front of your body. 


5. Lower Back

The focus when training the lower back should always be on functionality and proper technique. There is no need to heavily load the back with a high weight / low repetition approach.

Any lower back exercise that involves ballistic, twisting, or high weight should be considered high risk. 

  • Alternatively, try activities that emphasize endurance and flexibility. If you, like so many, suffer from lower back pain, there are several exercises that you should avoid until your back issue is fully resolved.
  • These exercises include crunches or classic sit-ups, running, any activity with high impact, and heavy weights.


See a sports therapist or physiotherapist fix any sources of pain and discomfort. 


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