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The 1 Exercise You Should NEVER Do, And 5 You Should Do All The Time!

There are, like, a billion exercises out there. So learn my top-five must-have lifts—and the one exercise you should never do again.

Picking the exercises you need for big results is no small task. Simply entering the gym is a great first step, but the exercises you choose can make or break your results.

Exercise selection influences how productive each minute in the gym will be, the hormonal response to your workout, your metabolic rate, your anabolism, and ultimately how fast you reach your goals.

Simply put, if there's one thing you need to get right with your workouts, exercise selection is it. Luckily for you, there's only one exercise you need to steer clear of, but five that you should absolutely have in your program, hands down.

Shhh—The Exercise That Must Not Be Named

Okay, I'll tell you only once. Beware of one exercise: Smith machine squats. It's the Voldemort of weight training. Don't do it, don't say it, and don't think it. Why?

The biggest problem with Smith machine squat is that the machine locks your body into a path of motion—which could be entirely wrong for your body. So if you're taller or shorter than the ideal fit for the machine, you could wind up with a knee, back, or hip injury due to excess strain.

Sure, the Smith Machine has a self-spotting mechanism to make it "safe"—but there's more to lifting safely than just making sure you don't crumple to the floor with a huge load on your back. You can also injure yourself when the apparatus doesn't fit your body and your form sucks.

Smith Machine Squat

Free barbell squats are a much better option; the range of motion allows you to squat according to your body's structure. But if you aren't comfortable with free squats yet, build up with leg presses; perform your free squats using just the bar to get the hang of the movement. Then slowly add weight to your free squat until you're matching your leg press amounts while still squatting with confidence and proper form.

The VIEs (Very Important Exercises)

#1: The Lunge

The first exercise on your must-do exercise list is the lunge. These are perfect for hitting the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, and will also call your abs into play as you struggle to maintain balance. There are many variations of lunges, including walking lunges, stationary lunges, and reverse lunges, so switching it up is a great way to avoid hitting a plateau. They are also especially nice because they can be performed at home or the gym and with or without weights.

Dumbbell Lunges

#2: The Pull-Up

Pull-ups are often ignored because they don't look as cool as lifting a barbell with a bunch of weight on it, but they are one of the best picks for any upper-body workout.

Pull-ups really work your lats overtime, and since you pull your entire body weight, it'll be plenty challenging. And if you want a quick variation on this exercise, you can reverse the hand position to an underhand grip and blast your biceps with some chin-ups.

Pull-Ups

#3: The Plank

We're not talking about walking the plank on the high seas, you scurvy dog. The plank is the perfect exercise for total core-strength development, and can be performed with many different variations. You can balance your legs or arms on an exercise ball, lift a leg or arm off the floor, or move across the floor with small side steps while staying in the plank position! Regardless of the variation, the plank will always let your body know it trained that day.

Plank

#4: The Burpee

This move is excellent for not only strengthening almost every major muscle in the body, but also for upping your overall metabolic rate to burn calories quickly. Since burpees are so intense, performing 10-20 consecutively can keep your metabolism going long after your workout, and you'll get the added benefit of cardiovascular endurance! Burpees are an awesome fit for any circuit training workout, helping to keep your heart rate up and your intensity high.

Burpee

#5: The Squat

The last exercise your workout routine should not be without is the squat. It's one of the single best exercises for initiating a strong muscle growth response in the body, and it stimulates every single muscle fiber in the lower body while working your core to the bone.

When you perform the squat, make sure to do a full range of movement, squatting all the way down to ensure strong glute activation from the lift. Remember to do both front and back squats in your overall workout routine over time to mix it up and promote constant muscle stimulus.

Barbell Squats

Bottom line: Remember to keep these five foundational exercises on your radar and Smith machine squats OFF the docket!


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About The Author

I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.

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hackarman

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hackarman

I totally agree, smith machine squats are bad as hell

Apr 5, 2012 3:31pm | report
 
DamianBlaze1386

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DamianBlaze1386

I've never used a Smith Machine but they don't look too great. And no Bench Press and for VIEs? I love that exercise lol.

Apr 5, 2012 6:57pm | report
 
jdhubbert

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jdhubbert

I totally disagree. If anything the smith machine will keep you in a path that will correct sloppy form. The only way to hurt yourself doing smith machine squats is either using to much weight or improper feet placement which would lead to stress on knees and back. I know your article is an opinion but you need to do some research before you give out terrible info with no scientific data to back it up.

Apr 6, 2012 4:28am | report
 
bananacho

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bananacho

How exactly does a smith machine correct sloppy form? You can lift in a smith machine using a plethora of ineffective back/leg angles because a construction of steel and bolts is keeping the bar moving in a straight line. Simple english: The smith machine allows a trainee use TERRIBLE form and still lift the weight. Try doing squats in a smith machine with a variety of foot positions and back angles and then try to do the same thing with a free squat. Hint: you can't! You can't move the bar in a vertical line in the free squat WITHOUT using proper technique, but you could easily be using dangerous form in the smith machine without even knowing because the weight is artificially constrained to moving in only one direction: up.

Apr 6, 2012 6:05pm | report
Joshydr

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Joshydr

so then if that is the case^ its not the smith machine but the person using incorrect form

Apr 10, 2012 8:28pm | report
nvmyrx

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nvmyrx

sounds like your a bit of a light weight, smith machine squats and dumbell lunges - get under 220kg (485lbs) with a machine that doesnt allow your body to move in a natural manner and tell me that they are better for you. On the flip side if you are a lighter trainer or newer gym goer then just about any movement is ok.
The one thing I dont agree with on here is Burpees - if you are training for muscle gains and on a 4,5 or 6 day split why do a high impact total body movement when you are separating muscles into their own days

Apr 11, 2012 2:46am | report
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inemtsev

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inemtsev

Highly disagree with ya bud. Smith machine locks your movement and will not allow you to train your support/stabilizer muscles. Have you ever seen rookies do bench-press (not on a smith machine)? You will notice their arms shake, bar moving out of proper form, well you will never ever fix that by doing smith machine bench-press for example. Only by using free weights will you be able to train your stabilizer muscles; which in the long-run prevent injury.

Apr 15, 2012 5:09pm | report
philipmeehan

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philipmeehan

Im with JD on this one. I just think this author does not like machines in general. Just about every machine takes away the work of stabilizer muscles ( most, not all machines). Of course you might get a better workout with a free weights or a barbell because of this, but someone who has proper form ( and actually contracts their core while doing the squat, which alot of people ignore) you will be fine on a smith machine. If she wants to try to get her point across then show me medical journals explaining these facts to back up her article.....without these its just another article on a .com site

Apr 23, 2012 11:57am | report
tammyfoster

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tammyfoster

agreed.

May 28, 2014 7:57pm | report
jdhubbert

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jdhubbert

Also barbell lunges are a lot more dangerous than smith machine squats. dumbell lunges are just as effective and a lot safer.

Apr 6, 2012 4:29am | report
 
tammyfoster

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tammyfoster

agreed

May 28, 2014 7:57pm | report
tammyfoster

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tammyfoster

spice is the key to life.. I switch up time after time, but I don't do barbell lunges.. we have a lunge smith machine i'm learning to use also. I have to use the smith machine for lunges and squats w/heavy weight b/c of an injured ankle. I'm working on **** db lunges. I do what I can. Never had a problem with smith machine squats... been lifting for 30yrs.

May 28, 2014 7:59pm | report
Masica999

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Masica999

Thank you. I was interested in the smith machine in order to safely load more weight onto my shoulders for heavier squats and lunges. I will search for the leg press machine for heavier weight.

Apr 8, 2012 2:27am | report
 
Metazero

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Metazero

Smith machine squats....who does that?

Apr 9, 2012 12:50pm | report
 
Deltoideus

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Deltoideus

Rob Van Dam was. He was a world champion.

Fail on Shannon Clark for promoting the underhand=chin overhand=pull semantics.

Apr 18, 2012 7:53am | report
drsmaster95

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drsmaster95

i completely disagree. it perfectly safe if done with proper form. its is extremely rare to see someone do a barbell squat with proper form and it can be very dangerous if done improperly. so for beginners i'd say the smith is a safer choice because its more stable and easier to learn the proper form. from their you should then graduate to a barbell squat.

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Apr 9, 2012 8:01pm | report
 
ayeshperera

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ayeshperera

good article..thanks.>!

Apr 10, 2012 12:23am | report
 
teehee18

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teehee18

I've tried working with the smith machine and it sucks compared to barbell squats. It's so uncomfortable to do squats with that thing.

Apr 11, 2012 7:55am | report
 
Jersey732D

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Jersey732D

Smith Machine can be great for Lunges though. And Forward Squats when you have exhausted all the heavy leg work

Apr 11, 2012 5:34pm | report
 
mawilli

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mawilli

Smith machine squats. are ok if you know proper form. sad part is most dont. but i still prefer barbell anything to smith machines.

Apr 13, 2012 3:33pm | report
 
jdhubbert

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jdhubbert

banacho, It's very simple. Place your feet in the proper position on the smith machine and you will be on a correct line to do squats correctly without balancing the weight and without having to bend over and lift with you back like most people do with the barbell squats. Barbell squat are FAR SUPERIOR to smith machine squats but for people who cant or will not learn proper form the smith machine does help with form as long as you keep your feet beneath you. Its an alternative not a replacement to barbell squats. My original post was just pointing out that the author of the article was misleading the public by absurdly saying the smith machine squat was the worst exercise to do yet Ive seen videos of Jay Cutler Phil Heath and other pro bodybuilders doing them as an altervative to barbell squats.

Apr 13, 2012 7:20pm | report
 
MsHeidi

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MsHeidi

I agree with the straight up and down smith machine squats, you should never use this machine.

My current gym however has something similar but it allows the bar to move forwards and backwards as well as up and down. It's basically like having the free weight but it's a little bit more stable. I still prefer a barbell on a squat rack any day.

Apr 14, 2012 6:14am | report
 
samerym

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samerym

Smith machine squats are safe if you just move your feet forward a bit (6-12 inches, just find what's comfortable for you.) However, Canadian researchers found SM squats to be 50 less effective than barbell squats.

Apr 14, 2012 8:47am | report
 
jamesmetal24

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jamesmetal24

If you have to use a machine for squats a leverage machine is WAY safer than a smith, it uses a more natural motion.

Barbell squats are king though.

Apr 14, 2012 9:03am | report
 
coerik1983

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coerik1983

BURPEEE!!!!!!

Apr 15, 2012 12:06am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 45 Comments

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