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The 5 Exercises You Should NEVER Do

Go to a big box gym these days and you’ll see certain exercises that seem to be used more regularly than others.  Granted, some of these we should always include in our training arsenal.  However, there are a few that should be taken out of our programming immediately to never be seen (or done) again.  They may appear beneficial right now, but the risk far outweighs the reward to our long-term health.

1. Shoulder to Hip Crunches

We’ve all done these at one time or another and are led to think they’ll deliver six-pack abs.  While this is untrue (stomach definition is all about diet and genetics), the biggest concern is the structural harm they create.  Constantly pulling on the neck can lead to issues of spinal flexion in the cervical spine.  We already have postural issues in our society that stem from rounded shoulders and necks protruding forward from too much sitting.  An exercise like this done repetitively will only make it worse.  Incorporate stabilization exercises such as the front bridge and its variations instead.  Maintaining a neutral spine is much better for your long-term health and performance.

2. Behind-the-Neck Lat Pull downs

This exercise compromises the most sensitive part of the spine and is considered down-right dangerous.  Pulling behind the neck has the potential to bring the spine out of alignment while lifting the weight. Some of the risks include: muscular strains and tears or even worse disk herniation.  Stick with pulling from in front of you for the same results and less chance of injury.  Keep your chin tucked, look straight ahead, brace the core and pull away.

3. Seated Leg Extensions

The function of this machine is to target the quadriceps.  The mechanics in performing the exercise puts a shearing force on the knees.  This can be structurally damaging, especially if the weight used is too heavy.  Performing these with a pre-existing knee injury make it an even worse choice.  Start to incorporate split squats instead.  Not only are they a multi-joint exercise, but they develop balance and dynamic flexibility of the hip flexor muscles. 

4. Upright Row

These target the front of our shoulders which already tend to be a tight, overactive area.  We need to look at the repetitive movements and pattern overload of people in daily activities and focus our exercise on the opposing muscle groups.  Our society tends to be very anterior dominant due to sitting behind desks, riding bikes and jogging.  Including upright rows will only further exacerbate these postural problems.  Implement any pull-in type rowing movements instead, such as TRX rows, seated cable rows, dumbbell rows, etc.  These exercises oppose the ‘overuse’ mirror muscles and are much better for overall posture and structural integrity.

5. Dumbbell Side Bends

These can be compared to regular crunches as they put a lot of pressure on the spine.  Lateral flexion like this creates force that compromises the spine itself along with the tissue of the spine.  No one wants to be at risk of rupturing a disk.  In place try the side bridge exercise.  Similar to the front bridge, it is a stabilization exercise whose function is anti-lateral flexion.