Hey, Mitko aka Fitness Consistency Coach here. In my opinion, one should view training as a lifelong pursuit, and as a way to enhance one’s life, not make it miserable.
I, for one, intend to stay physically active well into old age, in one form or another.
And that’s why I avoid exercises that hide a significant downside, even if some of them are good muscle-builders in the short term.
Below I’m going to share with you 5 such exercises that simply aren’t worth it as they carry an inherent risk of injury.
1. The upright row
It’s sad for me to start this list with the barbell upright row, because it really is a great muscle-builder.
It develops the shoulders well and you can really feel the muscles involved during sets BUT upright rows are simply not worth it in the long run because of the inherent risk of injury they carry.
See, upright rows are performed with internal rotation of the shoulders. When you lift the bar up in that position, the tendons in your shoulders get pinched. Over time, this may lead to inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons (tendinitis) and bursa (bursitis), and it might even lead to degeneration of those tendons (tendinosis).
These issues are slow to develop, so you might not even realize that there’s a problem until it’s too late because there’s no pain in the beginning. I’ve dealt with tendinosis in my elbows for the last 2 years so I can tell you from personal experience: it sucks.
So spare yourself the pain and frustration and substitute the upright row for an overhead press variation. If you still insist on doing upright rows, at the very least use dumbbells.
While the barbell upright row keeps your hands close to each other as you lift the bar up, with dumbbells you can let your hands drift apart as you raise the dumbbells up (resembling a V-shaped motion). This removes at least some of the nasty tension off of your shoulders.
2. Behind the neck exercise variations
Behind the neck exercise variations are another group of exercises that do a great job developing the muscles involved yet are not worth the risk in the long run.
Similarly to the upright row, behind the neck exercise variations carry an inherent risk of injury because of the position they put your shoulders in.
During this type of exercise, your shoulders are externally rotated which puts a lot of strain on the above-mentioned rotator cuff – a group of tendons and muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint. Again, this might lead to tendonitis and tendinosis.
The fact that most people lack the shoulder flexibility needed for proper execution of behind the neck exercise variations only adds to the risk of injury.
If you want to sustain your shoulder health, you’re better off substituting behind the neck variations of the overhead press, the lat pulldown and the pull-up with the standard versions of these exercises.
Your shoulders will thank you later.
3. Bench dip
The bench dip is yet another exercise that threatens shoulder health.
That’s because it puts your shoulders in a compromised position in the bottom of the movement. Once again, your rotator cuffs are put under a lot of stress while trying to stabilize your shoulder joints, which might lead to shoulder impingement and other complications we already discussed.
So although the bench dip might be a good triceps developer, you’re better of substituting it with other tricep exercises like dips done with straight legs or the narrow grip bench press.
4. Seated leg extension
The seated leg extension is another exercise I don’t do as often as I used to, even though I like it.
The reason is, it simply puts too much tension on your knees and associated tendons. Since it’s an isolation movement, that tension doesn’t get distributed between several joints (like with squats).
Your quads (i.e. your front thigh muscles) are very strong and recover quickly, so they’re able to take a beating. But that isn’t the case with joints, tendons and ligaments which recover much slower and tend to wear out with time, if abused.
So with the seated leg extensions you have 2 options:
a)Substitute them completely for Bulgarian split squats
b)Cycle them in and out of your training so that you don’t do them for more than 3-4 weeks (substitute them for Bulgarian split squats for equal periods of time), use a slow controlled tempo with lighter weight for higher reps and, of course, if at any point they start bugging your knees – go back to option a).
5. The sit-up
This one’s easy.
Sit ups are detrimental to lower back health because your hip flexors are pulling directly on your spine resulting in lower back strain. They do a poor job at developing your abs, too, as your rectus abdominis only works isometrically to keep your torso tight while your hip flexors do all he work.
Drop them immediately and do reverse ab crunches and planks instead.
If you want to train for a long time to come, make sure to avoid these 5 exercises and substitute them for their healthier alternatives. That way you’ll be able to develop a leaner, more muscular physique while keeping your health and mobility in check.
As always, if all of this training and nutrition stuff is making your head hurt and you want someone to take out all of the guesswork and tell you exactly what to do to get the body you want, I’d be glad to lend a helping hand.