When starting a workout program, often times people simply copy what they see others doing in the gym, or attend a group exercise class. Unfortunately, many of the common exercises you see are not appropriate for beginners and could even cause an injury. Knowing what exercises you should avoid can help you stay on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Here are a few of the ones I would not recommend, particularly for beginners.
The Prone Double Leg Lower
Lying on your back and lowering your legs is promoted as an exercise to tone the abdominals. The main muscle working while doing this movement is not one of the abdominals however, it is the iliopsoas (one of the hip flexors). This muscle attaches on one end to the top of the femur and the other end to the lumbar spine vertabrae. When the legs are lowered toward the ground the muscle is lengthened, pulling on the lumbar spine, hyper-extendeding it and squeezing the lumbar discs. This leads to lower back pain which is a problem for many people already. Glute bridges are a much better choice for toning the core and also help to safely lengthen the hip flexors in people who spend a lot of time seated.
The lunge isn’t a bad exercise when executed properly, but it takes a lot of attention to form and it isn’t appropriate for anyone who has a previous injury to their knees, ankles, hips or back. While lunging, it is important to make sure you maintain an upright posture and don’t allow your knees to shoot out over your toes. Jumping into a lunge makes it difficult to keep good alignment, because momentum carries you forward and puts the knees in a very dangerous position. It is also easy to twist your ankle or lose your balance. Alternatives to jumping lunges include slow backward lunges, pulsing lunges (with your feet in a fixed position), and step ups.
I know I am going to make a lot of people very happy when I say I don’t like the burpee. In case you aren’t familiar with this exercise, you start out in a standing position and then jump downwards into a high plank (possibly incorporating a pushup), then immediately jump back into a standing position. This is a fairly advanced exercise and not suitable for beginners. When you jump down into the plank you put a lot of stress on your wrists and shoulders, and unless you have good core stability there is a good chance you will drop your hips, placing a lot of stress on your lower back. Usually burpees are done at a high rate of speed and multiple repetitions, which when combined with poor form can easily lead to disaster. Although burpees may be an appropriate choice for someone in good physical condition, most beginners would be better served by another exercise.
Any Ab Machine at the Gym
Mostly my question on these machines is just WHY? There are tons of good ab exercises you can do that don’t involve a machine. It is almost impossible to spot train an area, to get 6 pack abs you have to embark on a total body exercise program complete with cardio and dietary changes. The core was meant to be attacked from the front, sides and back with several different exercises because it isn’t just one muscle but a whole bunch of different ones. The one ab machine that you should definitely avoid is the seated torso rotation. This machine puts an excessive twist on the lumbar spine and is really dangerous. If anything, when training the lumbar area you should be working on stabilization, because the spine takes a lot of stress every day and needs to avoid excessive twisting.
Behind-the-Neck Lat Pulldowns
This is one of the most common exercises you see being done in the gym that most trainers would tell you to avoid. Pulling a lat bar down behind your head puts a lot of strain on your rotator cuff, reinforces forward head posture, and risks banging into the cervical vertebrae and injuring them. The Lat Pulldown bar is designed to be pulled down in front of your face to your chest while engaging your back muscles. Please never, ever pull it down behind your head!
This is an exercise I sometimes incorporate into my programs, but only if I know the client has no shoulder issues. When you put your hands behind you and dip down you force the head of the upper arm bone forward, which puts a lot of stress on the rotator cuff. This puts a lot of wear and tear on a joint. A better choice would be a cable tricep pushdown or even an overhead tricep extension.
This is another exercise that puts a lot of strain on the shoulder. An upright row causes the arms to be internally rotated. Adding weight in this position can cause inflammation and stress in the shoulders. It also compresses the nerves in the shoulder area, leading to shoulder problems. Safer alternatives to this exercise that work the same muscle group include lateral and front raises.
These are 6 of the exercises would be best avoided in beginners. As you can see, there are alternatives to all of them that are less dangerous. When starting a new exercise program it is important to chose exercises that are safe and won’t lead to injury. Keep in mind that doing difficult exercises with improper form will not help you get fit any faster and can lead to injury. If you want to know how to work out safely while challenging your body and getting results please give me a call!