When it comes to your workout routine, sadly, all moves are not created equal. In fact, some exercises tend to do more harm than good, especially if they’re executed using improper form.
So don’t be that guy who tries to show off with a 400-pound deadlift in front of the mirror at the gym (unless you’ve been trained to do so, of course). Play it safe before you seriously injure yourself and run your body out of commission for a while.
To help prevent painful injuries—and a jaw-dropping physical therapy bill—we asked a few of our favorite trainers to give us their do-not-hit lists, and here’s what they came up with.
1. Leg Press
“The leg press machine is very bad mechanically for your body, because it does not allow your muscles/joints to perform in a functional manner and puts a tremendous amount of stress on your knees and lower back,” says Josh Stolz, a Tier 4 trainer at Equinox in New York City. “I’ve talked to numerous spine specialists, and they say the number one reason gym goers come to them are for lumbar herniations caused by the leg press.” Instead of the leg press, you can work some of these six moves for larger legs into your routine.
2. Triceps Dips on a Bench
“This exercise automatically puts your shoulders in a compromised position, plus having your hands fixated behind you puts a strain on your elbows. As you dip, it is only natural for your head to jut forward, causing pain and discomfort, as well,” says celebrity trainer Patrick Murphy, who has worked with Jason Segel and Mario Lopez. If you really want bigger triceps, these four moves will help you do it in just 30 minutes.
3. Knee Extension
“The sheer force put on your knees during this exercise is really unsafe and could lead to injury,” notes Los Angeles-based trainer Keli Roberts, who is the star of multiple fitness DVDs. You can actually strengthen and improve your quad fleibility with yoga.
4. Behind-the-head Lat Pulldown
“Pulling down behind the head can involve excessive shoulder external rotation and horizontal abduction. It can also place inappropriate stress on the anterior ligaments of the shoulder joint. All of which can contribute to shoulder joint hypermobility, instability and impingement,” says Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and creator of the 7-Minute Workout. Check out these tips for maximizing your lat exercises.
5. Smith Machine
“Stay off of the fixed angle (and especially the vertical) Smith machine for squats,” recommends celebrity trainer Mark Harari, owner of Pulse Fitness Studio in Sherman Oaks, Cali. “When your body is locked into a specific range of motion, you become unable to move naturally and compromises will be made. In this case, your mid- and lower back will literally carry the burden.”
6. Upright Rows
“Upright rows force the shoulders to move away from the body and externally rotate from an excessive internally rotated position, which causes extreme forces on the shoulder joint. There is also a high risk of tendon and muscular impingement,” notes Murphy. “Your wrists are also compromised with high stress. The risk-to-benefit ratio is 95/5.” Try the bent-over row instead. Working this move into your routine could actually also help you to improve your bench press.