Business? Weight Training ExercisesYou
May Want To Think Twice About
by Michael J. Merlino, ACE, BSMI (CPFT, RES), Cooper Institute
Owner, Merlino Fitness, MerlinoFitness.com
Risk versus benefit. Making choices.
There are things we juggle every day with every decision we make. Whether
it is investing our money in the stock market, deciding on the best career
opportunity or choosing what to eat for lunch. But weighing the expected
benefits with the amount of risk involved is something I don't see practiced
as much in the gym everyday. What most people don't understand is that
adding higher risk exercises to your work out plan and performing them
over many repetitions, many workouts and many years can actually damage
your joints, do more harm than good and put some of your hard-earned cash
in your local surgeon's pocket. Sure, some people that have great genetics
may perform risky exercises their entire life and not have a problem just
like a smoker may smoke his entire life and not get lung cancer. But why
take the risk? I hate to think about how many rotator cuffs, knee joints
and back injuries are a result of poor lifting form and technique or simply
picking the wrong exercises and putting the body in a position it was never
designed to be in.
What to Avoid & Safer Alternatives
Let's face it, most of us that lift weights are just duplicating what
we learned in high school, picked up from friends or workout partners
over the years or read about in Shape magazine or one of many hyped-up
muscle mags. Reality says that most of us will not be body builders
and super models anyway. Saying that, vanity is the driving force that
keeps us all showing up at the gym in record numbers. As more fitness
research emerges some of the old tried and true exercises may now be
health hazards. Manufacturers like Cybex are continually changing the
design of their machines to address these issues but it is up to the
human being using the machine to get the form right. So what do you
do about it? Very simple. Avoid those movements that are high risk
for just about anyone and use some safer alternatives that accomplish
the same result. The following is a list of a few exercises I have
decided to outlaw as a certified professional personal fitness trainer
and avoid performing with my clients. I have also included a brief
explanation justifying why these exercises may not be the best choice.
I don't pretend to know everything but the physics of the human body
is a real science and God designed our bodies to move a certain way.
Using these risky exercises forces your body into some uncompromising
positions that it was never meant to be in. Below is a brief history
of my top 10 most hated exercises and why they are not the best alternative.
I've picked four of the worst ones to highlight in this article, so
|Michael's Top Ten Most Hated Exercises
||Why It Is High Risk
|Leg extensions locking knees
|Lat pull behind the head
||shoulder & neck stress
||major stress on the knee joint
||lower than 90 degrees, knee/hip stress
|Butt blaster machine
||stress on lower spine
|Hip abductor machine (outer)
||tension on hip joint
|Ab rotator machine
||stress on spine
|Chest press with elbows below shoulders
||rotator cuff stress
|Overhead DB military presses
||stress on anterior deltoid/rotator
- Muscle: Latissimus Dorsi (Lat or Back)
Bad Choice: Behind the Neck Lat Cable Pulldowns Why it's Risky?
This movement not only stresses out the rotator cuff by putting the
shoulder in a closed impact position but it also puts the upper spine
in a very awkward and vulnerable position that you would never put
yourself in during the course of your everyday life anyway. Recently
the American College of Sports Medicine ranked this as one of the
most common way to injury yourself in the gym. If your goal is to
efficiently work the back or Lat muscles you just defeated the purpose
by not aligning the line of resistance (cable) with the direction
of the muscle fiber in the back or Latissimus Dorsi (Lat) muscle.
Safer Alternative - Front Lat Cable Pulldowns
Unlike it's evil cousin, the behind the head pull down, front lat
pull downs do not stress the shoulder joint and properly align
the line of resistance with the direction of the muscle fiber.
In other words this movement puts your body in a natural and
efficient position to get some quality back work in and avoid
Form & Technique
First find your proper grip width on the bar by griping it where
your forearm and upper arm are at 90 degrees . Before you start,
tilt your body back at about a 30 degree angle and maintain your
back stability by keeping the shoulders down, squeezing the shoulder
blades together, tightening the abs and maintaining the natural
arch of the low back. Pull the bar down in front of the head aiming
towards your collar bone until the bar is just below your chin
while squeezing or flexing the lat muscles and holding the flex
for about a second. Return to the top until the arm is almost straight
but still has a slight bend at the elbow joint. Go with a 2-4 count
with a 2 count pulling down and twice as slow on the way up with
a 4 count. Exhale as you pull down and inhale on the way up.
- Muscle: Anterior Deltoid (Front part of shoulder)
Bad Choice: Upright Barbell Rows
Why it's risky?
This movement puts undue stress on the shoulder and wrist joints
while attempting to work the anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder).
Safer Alternative - Seated Front Duo Dumbbell Raises
Seated front dumbbell raises performed with a back supported bench,
do a great job of working the anterior (front) shoulder while
eleviating stress on the wrist, elbow and shoulder joint.
Form & Technique
Sit on a bench with a high back for lower back support. Bring the
legs in narrow and grip the dumbbells in a hammer position with
the face of the dumbells facing the floor and the ceiling. Your
starting point is where you arms are to our side with the elbows
bositioned under the shoulder . Keep a little bend to your elbow,
tighen your stomach and raise the dumbbells until the wrist is
level with the shoulder. Hesitate slightly on the top and return
the the starting position. Remember to go with a 2 count on the
way up and a slower four count on the way down.
Muscle: Gluteus Maximus (Buttocks)
Bad Choice: Traveling Dumbbell or Barbell Lunges
Why it's risky?
Ah yes...the favorite exercise of many women because of their magic
ability to melt fat off the butt. Not so fast little Missy! First
off, spot reducing fat using weights doesn't work. Cardiovascular
fitness using aerobic exercise burns the fat. But beyond that if
you really think about it traveling lunges are really no more than
a one legged squat in motion. How many times in the course of your
everyday life do you squat on one leg while traveling across the
room with a weight bearing force on your back? May sound like a
stupid question but I'm a big believer that if a movement in the
gym doesn't mimic one that you will encounter in your everyday
life then why even bother with it anyway? This concept is called
functional exercise. You may feel these in the gluts but along
with a nice "butt burn" comes the added bonus of about 5 times
your body weight plus the weight of the bar or dumbbell on each
knee joint as you lunge forward with momentum. Not too cool.
Safer Alternatives - Stationery Lunges
There are many other ways to get some good butt or glute work in
without risking the integrity of one of the most important joints
in the body, the knee. A statonery modified lunge is a gret way
to work the glutes without using momentum.
Form & Technique - Whether you use a barbell in a Smith
machine or free standing with good old fashioned dumbbells, these
are much safer than any walking lunge. Stand with your legs about
shoulder width apart and bring on leg forward and one leg backward.
Position your legs so as you bend your knees and lower your body
to the floor, both legs are at 90 degree angles. Start in a standing
position with good posture by keeping the abs tight and spine perpendicular
to the floor. Gently lower your body weight while holding a dumbbell
in each hand until the knee on your back leg almost touches the
floor. Push through the floor on the front foot as you return to
the starting position and flex your front thigh muscle. When you
are almost stanind upright again, flex the glute muscle on the
- Muscle: Medial & Anterior (middle & front shoulder)
Bad Choice: Behind the head military barbell press
Why it's risky?
Behind the head military press using dumbbells, barbell or machines
has almost the same negative affects as the behind the head lat
pulldown by stressing the rotator cuff and upper spine. How many
times in your everyday life do you decide to left heavy things
behind your back and over your head while in a seated or standing
position? I don't know about you but I can think of about a million
more things I would much rather do with my time. Just isn't functional.
Safer Alternative - Side Lateral Dumbbell Raises
Side lateral raises are a much more effective exercise for
working the medial (middle) deltoid or shoulder without putting
stress on the shoulder joint or rotator cuff. The key here is limiting
the range of motion so the elbows are not lifted above the shoulders
at the top of the movement or too far inside the body at the bottom
of the movement.
Form & Technique
When in doubt check the spine!
The simplest way to make good exercise choices is checking your spinal
alignment out. If an exercise does not allow you to maintain the natural
s-curves or positioning of your spine then it is probably not the wisest
choice regardless of what your fitness level is. Try this theory out
by just watching others performing exercises in the gym while you are
resting between sets and zoom in on their back alignment. If the natural
arch or curves in the upper and lower back are being compromised while
performing the exercise, then there is probably a better choice available
that is much safer and much more functional. If performing the exercise
looks painful it probably is.
Use your head, listen to your body!
Ok, so now that you know my take on what I don't recommend it is up to
you to make the choice. It's your body but I would really like to see
you be able to weight train way beyond your retirement years. Weight
training will benefit you as long as you can do it so don't cut your
strength training career short by risking injuries to your joints while
trying to do yourself some good. The no pain no gain cliché is nothing
more than that. If you experience joint pain from a movement or find
that an exercise or machine just doesn't feel right then you should
be asking yourself why it is still in your workout routine. It may
be the best excuse to add some variety to your workouts anyway. Ask
a qualified trainer at your gym for safe alternatives that accomplish
the same thing. There is more than one way to work a muscle and more
importantly protect your joints at the same time. Once the joint breaks
down you can't work much muscle anyway. Maximize your results by minimizing
risk every time you show up at the gym.
Always consult your physician before starting any exercise program including
cardiovascular or resistance training.
Good health to you. Exercise often...eat well...fuel your
body...train smart...build momentum...stay focused...train for life
Michael Merlino is a Certified Professional
Fitness Trainer and owner of Merlino Fitness and MerlinoFitness.com.
He trains his clients at the Houston Downtown YMCA and his private
fitness studio. Michael can be reached at 713.523.2577 or e-mail
him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click on one of the links below for more information
on Michael and his fitness services.
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