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15 Exercises to Remove from Your Routine

Sub out these 15 moves to be more efficient and effective in your training.
15 Exercises to Remove from Your Routine
James Michelfelder & Therese Sommerseth

Ditch these 15 exercises to train smarter and get stronger. Forever. 

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Replace with: Side Plank, Pallof Press, Anti-Rotational Cable Chop

WHY: The combination of spinal rotation and the fixed position of your hips leads to a position where you’re applying too much rotational force to the spine, which can create a disk injury. Oblique exercises that keep the spine stable and allow for the opening/rotation of the hips will help get rid of love handles safely.

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Replace with: Floor Press, Goblet Squat, Hip Thrust

WHY: The Smith Machine eliminates the need for balance and stabilization since the bar is stuck in a machine. This translates into less strength and muscle activation, according to a 2011 Journal of Strength and Conditioning study. 

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Replace with: Standing Dumbbell/Barbell Overhead Press, Push Press, Pike Pushup

WHY: An overhead press involves a quick forward hip drive and subsequent vertical bar path in addition to great core stabilization. Sitting down and pressing a machine allows for zero hip drive and requires minimal scapular control, which could lead to muscular imbalances and shoulder injury.

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Replace with: Front Squat, Bulgarian Split Squat, Forward Lunge

WHY: The seated leg extension is an open chain kinetic exercise that puts targeted stress on the ACL, especially during the last 30 degrees of knee flexion. Plus, this exercise barely activates the hamstrings, creating a muscular imbalance that may lead to a strain or pull. 

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Replace with: Lateral Squat, Single-leg Romanian Deadlift, Single-Leg Squat

WHY: Aside from the fact that the seated abductor/adductor machine does not improve athleticism, it also doesn’t strengthen the hip joint’s capsule because of the lack of stabilization required. Too much weight on this machine can create serious lower-back issues since you’re spine is compressed and you’re using your legs to move the weight.

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Replace with: Bentover Row, Deadlift

WHY: Repeated lumbar flexion is not a spinal stabilization exercise and does not enforce proper posture. Proper posture requires a neutral spine, not one that is bent forward. The deadlift and bentover row (with chest up) keep the spinal erectors stabilized while strengthening them.

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Replace with: Plank with Arms on Stability Ball, Ab Rollout

WHY: Rounding your spine will be a contraindication to any lumbar disk injury but even if you’re not injured, this motion may be one that pinches your lower back. To avoid tweaking your lower back, simply don’t put it in an awkward positions (like upside in on a bench) and certainly don't slam it against anything. 

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Replace with: Close-grip Pushups, Parallel Bar Dips, Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

WHY: Internally rotating your shoulders, then applying a load can lead to impingement syndrome since the tendons and muscles around the shoulder can “pinch” underneath the acromion process in this position. 

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Replace with: Jumping on Mats

WHY: Landing on concrete places maximal force on the knees and heel, which can lead to strains, sprains, and increased stress on the tibia. Do all plyometrics training on foam mats or a softer surface that will absorb the impact upon landing.

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Replace with: High Pull, Overhead Press with Barbells or Dumbbells

WHY: Adding the hip drive and widened grip in the high pull results in an anatomically safer shoulder exercise that produces power.

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Replace with: Incline Pushup, Dumbbell Flye

WHY: During the machine chest flye, stress is added to the anterior capsule of the shoulder joint. Also, the rotator cuff is at risk on the eccentric phase since the weight could push the shoulders too far back.

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Replace with: Warren Press, Lying Triceps Extension

WHY: The triceps kickback, although a free weight exercise, does not involve a full range of motion. Therefore, proper activation of all three heads of the triceps muscle is impossible. The warren press incorporates more muscle and the skull crusher allows for heavier loads.

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Replace with: Turkish Getup, Hanging Leg Raise

WHY: It’s true that you have to load your abs to properly train them, but a seated ab crunch is not the way to do so. Hanging leg raises provide body- weight resistance and Turkish Getups burn fat while working against a dumbbell or kettlebell. 

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Replace with: Front of Face Lat Pulldown, Pullup, Chinup

WHY: Pulling behind your head creates anterior shoulder joint stress and makes the shoulder more susceptible to impingement. Performing the lat pulldown in front of your face must be done with proper technique to avoid rotator cuff damage.

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Replace with: Box jump followed by stepping down one foot at a time.

WHY: Even if you’re not training on concrete, doing a box jump then jumping back down places unnecessary force on your knees and feet. Jump on the box, landing softly, then step with one foot, followed by the other.

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