Four Exercises No One Should Do

Jun 22, 2022

My friend Vince Gabrielle sent out a list of title suggestions for articles, blog posts etc and, I've jumped on the “Four Exercises” theme.

Last week I wrote about the Four Worst Exercises for People Over 40. The week before I wrote about the Top Four Exercises for People Over 40.

This weeks article is just about Four Exercises No One Should Do. It doesn't matter if you are old or young, these are just bad choices. 

PS- please spare me the no bad exercises BS. There certainly are bad exercises and here's my top 4.


Exercise 1- Burpees

A few years ago I dubbed this The Worlds Dumbest Exercise and, I stand by that distinction.

Why We Don't Like Them- throwing yourself on the floor with the objective to make yourself tired? Please.

Reason 1- they are pointless and are used as punishment or a form or flagellation. Just ask yourself, “why am doing this?”. The crazy answer is because it makes you tired.

Reason 2- burpees have a really high orthopedic cost. This basically means that the juice isn't worth the squeeze. Want sore wrists and shoulders, burpee away.

What to Do Instead- Anything! I'm half sarcastic but, if you want to beat the crap out of yourself and save your joints, invest in an Assault Bike. Another gadget I have to try is the Sand Dune? 

Exercise 2- Dips ( including bench dips) 

Why We Don't Like Them- dips and bench dips place the shoulder right where you don't want it. The extension of the shoulder joint under load is not a good prescription for shoulder health. The anterior capsule is thin and weak and, you don't need to try to force the humeral head forward into that capsule. Trust me, I was a big weighted dip guy as a kid and I literally have the scars to prove it.

What to Do Instead- it's been so long since we programmed dips, that I really don't have lots of alternative ideas. Any type of press that will work shoulders and triceps is a better idea than dips.

PS- bench dips are worse, not better.


Exercise 3- Behind the Neck Anything

Why We Don't Like This- placing a bar behind your neck is another “shoulder unfriendly” move. The impingement zone is one of abduction and external rotation. Cranking back there and then exercising is another bad idea. This applies to presses, pulldowns, and actually squats.

Side note. If you lack the shoulder external rotation to get the bar behind your head you will actually substitute lumbar spine extension to “fake” shoulder external rotation.  

What We Do Instead- alternating dumbbell presses are a great alternative to a behind the neck press. The humerus is less abducted and less externally rotated. Dumbbells eliminate the rigid bar path of the fixed bar.

Note: we don't use a fixed bar for much any more. Barbell bench press and Olympic lifts are about the only time we actually use a bar.

Substitute front pulldowns ( ideally on an independent handle functional trainer) for any behind the head lat work.


Exercise 4- Leg Press

Why We Don't Like Them- This ones a bit of trifecta. Leg press machines are hugely expensive and take up a massive chunk of space. That's two great reasons to not use them. Thirdly, I often half-jokingly say “ if you are lying on your back pushing up with your feet, you're not very good at your sport”. Also, leg press is one of the great ego inflation exercises in conventional gyms. I love the videos of gym clowns with stacks of plates on the leg press. If I still went to conventional gyms I think it would be great to make stickers that say “ no one cares”.

News flash. Your legs were meant to be stood on. Being able to move large amounts of weight while lying down just doesn't make sense? The leg press to me is the definition of a non-functional exercise.

What We Do Instead?- Start with bodyweight squats. Work to split squats and eventually to one leg squats.


Bonus Disliked Exercise

High Box Jumps- the soft plyo boxes have cut down on the skin donors (read The Idiot Box) but, the epic fails still keep coming. It appears now that a cervical spine injury is a greater threat than a gouged shin. Face it, you don't need a box that is any higher than your maximum vertical jump unless your goal is to train your hip flexors.