Most people believe that all exercises are good, safe and effective. After all, it's exercise—and that has to count for something, doesn't it?|
The truth is that some common exercises aren't safe at all (especially for people who have muscle, joint, and health problems). Certain exercises require a bit more know-how than the average person possesses. And other exercises are downright wastes of your time.
But before we examine some of the most controversial exercises, I want to make it clear that every exercise on this list isn't always unsafe or ineffective for everyone. What you should
So what makes an exercise risky? Here are a few red flags to look out for:
1. Behind-the-Head Lat Pull-Downs
In the old days, people were actually taught to pull the bar behind their heads when doing a
The problem? Pulling the bar behind the neck puts far too much stress on the shoulder joint, explains Michele Olson, PhD, an ACSM fellow and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist.
"The amount of outward rotation on the humerus combined with pulling it downward has a very un-stabilizing effect on the shoulder joint. The top of the humerus is actually pushing outward and away from the joint,
The Alternative: You can still work your
2. Hovering Leg LiftsBoot camps, yoga classes and sometimes even your old P.E.
The problem? Sure, this engages your
The Alternatives: Work your
3. Seated Knee Extensions
This is a very popular exercise machine for targeting the muscles on the front of your thighs (quadriceps).
The Problem? This exercise poses major risks to the knees when the weight is heavy and when the knees are fully extended. Lifting heavy weights in this position (with all the resistance focused at your ankles) is not what the knee was designed to do. If you have any kind of knee problem, or use a too much resistance during this exercise, you can easily run into big trouble. Here's why: Fully straightening the knees against this type of resistance "puts an extreme amount of shear stress on the knee joint, which can strain the tendons and overly compress the knee's cartilage," says Olson.
The Alternatives: Simple squats and lunges (known as closed-chain exercises) with or without added weight, will work your thigh muscles naturally, safely and effectively. If you want to expand on these exercises to develop explosive force for sports like soccer, basketball or volleyball, try sport-specific
Olson also suggests that you can modify this exercise to make it safer. Simply lift the weight (extend the knees) just halfway versus all the way up to straight legs. This also gives the quads some direct isolation work while minimizing knee stress. She also suggests lifting a weight that isn't too heavy—you should be able to do about 18 reps of this exercise. If you can't do that
4. Inner and Outer Thigh Machine Exercises
These machines are pretty popular in most gyms. Both involve sitting with your knees bent in front of you, with the adduction machine is designed to target the muscles of the inner thighs and the abduction machine helps target the outer thigh muscles.
The Problem? Using your inner and outer thighs to lift weight while in a seated position puts you at risk of straining these relatively small muscles and aggravating lower back and hip problems. In addition, your inner and outer thigh muscles are designed to support
The Alternatives: The best way to target these muscles safely is with body weight exercises, such as standing adduction, standing abduction, lying adduction and abduction exercises, Pilates exercises or similar movements that use resistance bands or the cable-cross machines. Always start with a weight you know you can handle, and add resistance gradually.
5. Upright Rows
In this exercise, you stand holding a barbell or two dumbbells, with hands close together and arms extended. From this position, the weight is brought up
The Problem? Upright rows are controversial because they cause the upper-arm bone (humerus) to bang up against the AC (
The Alternatives: The purpose of this exercise is to work the shoulders (deltoids) and upper traps. So instead of standing to perform an upright row, try