The gym is a pretty unique environment. It is hard to find another place on Earth that brings together such a combination of positivity, energy, creativity, and solid exercise technique. Unfortunately though, with all this good stuff also comes a healthy dose of bad advice, fiction, and dangerous diet and exercise pseudo-science.
My latest article focuses on the bad stuff. I’ve put together a list of my top five worst exercises that have the biggest potential to hurt you. As a person who teaches others to be competent personal trainers for a living, it really kills me to see these exercises being done day-in and day-out. Some of them can cause acute injury and instantly ruin your day, while others may lead to a slower-developing overuse injury.
Undoubtedly, there are more items for this list. Enjoy these, and I would love to hear about your worst exercises. Feel free to comment below.
Bad deadlift form
Just looking at this picture should make you cringe! Do yourself a favor: next time you deadlift, ask someone to watch your back to make sure it stays straight during the lift. Performing this exercise with a rounded back can magnify stress on the lumbar vertebrae as much as 10 times the weight loaded on the bar. This can lead to immediate and serious low back injury. If unsure whether you are doing the exercise correctly, consult a qualified trainer.
Behind the neck presses
Behind the neck presses have been around forever, but their risk for shoulder injury far outweighs their reward. Most exercisers do not possess the shoulder flexibility to get the bar behind their neck without flexing it forward. This puts undue stress on the cervical vertebrae. Also, the extreme externally-rotated position of the shoulder makes it very unstable and compresses the delicate structures of the joint.
Switch to a military press to the front of the head, instead. Bring the bar slowly below the chin and repeat. Your shoulders will thank you.
Straight leg throws
This "ab" exercise is another one that can cause serious injury to the lower back. The truth is, this exercise doesn't even work your abdominals, it works a different set of muscles called the hip flexors. Read more about why I hate this exercise so much in another article of mine here.
Behind the neck pull-downs
In case you haven't noticed, behind the neck exercises are not good at all for the shoulder joint. This exercise is contraindicated (not advised) for the same reasons as behind the neck presses.
Instead, lean back slightly and pull the bar to the chin. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down at the bottom of each rep. This will give you the maximum contraction of your back muscles.
Open grip bench press
You may be surprised that this one made my list because so many people do it. However, the open-grip (thumb placed behind the barbell instead of around it) bench press has the potential for catastrophic injury or even DEATH. I have seen several serious injuries happen when the bar slipped out of an exercisers hand during a heavy bench press. This accident can happen to anyone, even experienced lifters. Eliminate the risk and switch to a closed grip for all exercises that involve pushing.