One of the quickest ways to attain any goal is to train properly for it. But do you know the proper way to train? Or do you just think you know that proper way?
Perhaps you’re stuck in an “old-school football player” mentality about how to exercise. Do you wear a zip-up nylon suit to sweat? Do you stave off water so you can tough it out? Or maybe you’re one of those people who won’t listen to the latest advice from a “snot-nosed” trainer just because they are younger than you – even if they have trained world-class athletes, have more credentials than you even knew existed in the training world and could help you more than a medical doctor in some cases?
If this sounds like you, then you’ll be stuck where you are in life as well as your fitness routine with limitations and injuries to match. Now granted I might have been going a little over board here, but I hope you’ll see how an old-school mentality can keep you from moving forward in life.
What I’ve done in the article is give you some information that is neither new nor groundbreaking. In fact it’s close to 20 years old. Yet I still see people performing these same exercises that just won’t help them attain their goals without risking near-future injury. The exercises are certainly not in the best interest of their joints in any form or fashion.
I’ve picked four exercises that drive me nuts when I see someone using them. There are of course many more that are on the NO-NO list as well, but these are my favorite to hate. Won’t you hate them with me too?
Here we go…..
No-No #1 Behind-the-Head Lat Pulldowns
The goal with this exercise is often to work a different part of the back, when in fact all you’re doing is creating a bad “risk-reward” scenario…compromising the shoulders and minimizing the results. The only people who still perform this exercise are bodybuilders and people who have that “bodybuilder mentality” and are stuck in old habits. Now I will say people with extremely flexible shoulder joints are more able to do this behind-the-head pull down with less risk to the shoulder joint, but the bad news is this most likely doesn’t include you. The person reading this is most likely NOT a yoga master. However, no matter how flexible you are, the angle of the shoulder or elbows will not work the intended muscles of the back or move in the direction of the muscle fiber. When you don’t work a muscle in its path of motion, you don’t contract the muscle most effectively. Often the cause of this is poor biomechanics (proper form and knowledge of) during exercise.
The Alternative: Sit erect,and lean back at an 80-degree angle. Pull the bar down toward your chest. DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK as you pull. Keep your spine in the position it was in prior to pulling the bar toward your chest. This is more important than pulling the bar all of the way down to your chest. Stop pulling when your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle. Equally important: when raising the bar back toward the starting position do NOT allow your shoulders to raise. Keep them down (depressed) while straightening your arms only.
No-No #2 Seated Leg Extensions
This is another old-school popular bodybuilding exercise for the front of your legs (quadriceps). I’ve observed many surgeries due to this exercise and have discussed with orthopedic surgeons what happens when someone uses this exercise, especially with a full range of motion and heavy weight. Basically you’re just asking for problems. Let’s think logically for a moment. Whenever you take weight and place it away from the body you have less leverage and create more stress on the opposing joint. When you add the additional weight to the ankle area and perform the leg extension, the tendon attached to your knee called the patellar tendon is pulled on, which then pulls the knee cap (patella) down and wears away your cartilage. So why in the world would you not become injured doing this exercise? Men often believe they can’t achieve the teardrop muscle (vastus medialis), which is on the inside of the leg by your knee without this exercise. Well that’s false.
The Alternative: Simple squats and lunges, with or without added weight, will work your entire quad muscle, and yes, the teardrop as well. Most importantly it’s safer and more effective and will enhance your efforts in many sports as well. You can gain many good benefits ranging from fat loss to strength by using your own body weight when exercising – especially if you perform plyometric (explosive) exercises. If you can’t perform lunges and squats due to limitations (perhaps from performing the wrong exercises for years?) or if you have any other limitations, then you may have to seek out a physical therapist to set you on the right path.
No-No #3 Inner and Outer Thigh Machine Exercises
Guys, if your girlfriend or wife does these two exercises PLEASE show this article to her. These machines are dangerous, yet they sit in almost every gym in America. Why? Because they sell memberships, NOT because the gym owners care about your well-being. These machines will target the adductor muscles (inner thigh) and abductor muscles (outer thigh/glute). They DO NOT AND CANNOT in any way help you lose fat in those areas. Just because you feel a burn in a muscle doesn’t mean you will lose fat there.
These muscles are intended to support …to be stabilizers for the large muscles…not be a prime mover. This will cause imbalances, in turn causing lower back, knee and hip issues. The problem I see is that women tend to want to do the “fluffy” exercises, not the difficult ones that actually will get proven results. Women are also often afraid of the multiple joint exercises because they believe they will get “big”, which is the same mind-set that keeps them from using free weights. Well ladies, “big” ain’t gonna happen unless you’re genetics say so.
Only if you have a injury or a limitation that requires you to target these areas should you work them. With that being said, I would seek out a professional to find the limitation and show you how to work it and to what duration. These alternative suggestions should NOT be used on a continuous basis. They include standing and lying adduction 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. If you don’t understand what I wrote for suggestions, seek out a trainer who can help.
No-No #4 Upright Rows
This exercise is thought (by the bodybuilder community once again) to build the outer (medial head) of the shoulder. While it can help with that area, the risk outweighs the reward significantly and there’s literally no reason in the world to do this exercise. Some trainers will modify this exercise by raising the bar up to the high point of the chest and then lower again. Yes, a shorter range on motions is better, but still not an ideal exercise for this area. This movement can compress the nerves in the shoulder area, impinging the shoulder creating pain and loss of range of motion.
Believe it or not, push-ups, pull-ups , dead-lifts, and one-armed rows all work the side of the shoulder. If you want to be a bodybuilder with that bodybuilder mentality, go ahead and do upright rows. If you want to be fit and look like a bodybuilder with less injury, then perform my suggestions.
Since our body mechanics are not going to change, these exercise suggestions will not change either. So have fun and work smarter. The old bodybuilding mentality of “no pain no gain” doesn’t apply here. Try “no brain no gain” instead.