How to Avoid Bad Exercises

Bad exercises are widespread, working the muscles while weak and harming the joints.

They have the following qualities:


  • They do not represent resistance possible while standing.

These show movements we appear meant to perform. Good exercises like bench presses may occur lying down yet still use a motion possible while upright. This helps to explain why you should ignore choices like leg curls and crunches as these could not take place with a load while on your feet

  • They work stabilizing muscles through movement.

Large muscles with few attachments create force. Smaller muscles with many attachments stabilize. The low back holds positions. Any movement can harm you. This means no sit-ups, twists, hyperextensions, etc. They allow full flexion, which would create unusual forces the spine cannot handle well.

Many include external rotation for the shoulder. The rotator cuff muscles do help maintain a stable shoulder. Any free weight push or pull movement addresses this role though. No functional movements place the rotator cuff muscles under a load. Shoulder injuries happen by using bad exercises and poor form.

  • They load muscles designed for speed.

This includes the hip flexors, such as when worked a bent-knee leg raise. These muscles work naturally unloaded. Run or walk instead. Knee flexion, such as during a leg curl, gives another example. The main function of the hamstrings, hip extension, can handle heavy loads. Knee flexion exists only to re-position the leg. Squat instead to work the hamstrings.

  • They feel safe only with high repetitions.

Authorities often recommend this strategy. This compensates for a poor exercise. If going heavy hurts the joints, the lighter version carries a similar risk.

  • They fail to allow stability.

Otherwise good exercises may fail to allow stability. Push-ups are an example. Using a heavy enough backpack or weighted vest eventually does not work. This also involves exercises that focus on balance, flexibility, or coordination. Single-limb exercises may fit this category. This reduces the load possible.

Stabilization occurs naturally for athletic activities. These include walking and running. This more sensibly trains these muscles.

  • They invite redundancy.

Do not include an exercise already covered. An example is a flat bench press. Trainees may use this motion with both a barbell and dumbbells. The muscle attachments remain fixed. The idea of different recruitment patterns making both worthwhile remains uncertain. Any difference is negligible.

  • They compress the working muscles.

This only seems possible with a machine. Shrugs with the calf raise machine give an example.

  • They place the joints in unusual, awkward positions.

Exercises should challenge muscles. They should not stress the joints. Avoid behind-the-neck movements. Working overhead may cause rotator cuff impingement. Do not use wide or narrow positions. This emphasizes joints and muscles. Reduce excessive ranges of motion.

The upright row has internal rotation of the arm. This occurs in an upright position. Pulling the weight from here impinges. This exercise actually serves as a test used by physical therapists. It tests for injury.

Leg press models may fail to stretch the hips. This stops posterior chain involvement. It places anterior stress on the knees. The pelvis also may rotate away from the back rest. This creates harms the spine. The leg extension creates great forces on the knee, especially near the lockout. These machines hamper normal motion.

This may work the active muscles safely, but place other parts oddly. The lunge places shearing stress on the rear knee.

They may place the muscles in active or passive insufficiency. This means the muscle fibers overlap or stretch too much. Pull-aparts and face pulls are used modernly. These are recommended to strengthen the upper back and rear shoulders. They aim to balance for dominant pushing muscles. They should help with posture and balance out the forces acting on the shoulder. Instead, the flared elbows impinge the shoulders. Some muscles enter active insufficiency. Performing a regular pulling movement consistently will strengthen these muscles safely.

Avoid Bad Exercises

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. 

– Leonardo Da Vinci

Many bad exercises have a classic reputation. They remain popular. Any exercise that generates tension can still strengthen and build muscle. They may have rare uses for rehabilitation.

Nonetheless, better options exist. The first two tips summarize nearly every other suggestion. Avoiding machines and isolation exercises solve most of the problems.

Some variety can come about by combining safe motions. This works well when focusing on conditioning options. Proper training still relies on simplicity. Use basic choices. Push, pull, squat, and run.

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