Bodybuilding.com Information Motivation Supplementation
in:

Crimes Against Muscularity: 5 Exercises That Make Trainers Cringe

You've no doubt seen someone botch a classic movement, but before you critique a stranger's form, be sure you're not guilty of one of these forehead-smackers!

Dentists hate it when you don't floss. Bartenders wince when you stumble out the door. Lawyers shake their heads when you represent yourself. After all, they know how bad the outcomes can be. So what makes a fitness pro grimace? For starters:

  1. When you butcher a great exercise by using poor form.
  2. When you use an exercise that puts you at unnecessary risk for injury.

We polled several top Men's Health advisers and asked them for specifics. The result: The top five exercises that make trainers cringe.

1 / The Classic Upright Row

Yes, this upper trap exercise is a highly popular move used by everyone from serious bodybuilders to novice lifters. But it can be murder on your shoulders. "It's my pick for the absolute worst exercise," says Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Indianapolis Sports and Fitness. "It puts your shoulders in a horrible position."

That's because the exercise requires you to rotate your upper arms inward while raising them to shoulder level or above. This puts you at high risk for shoulder impingement, a painful condition in which the muscles or tendons of your rotator cuff become entrapped in your shoulder joint. We say this is one to skip entirely; there are plenty of other great exercises you can use to work your shoulders.

2 / The Typical Push-up

A well-executed pushup is a beautiful thing. It makes trainers smile and nod with respect. Trouble is, that doesn't happen often enough. "What you usually see is a person whose head is jutted forward and hips are sagging, both of which signal an underlying weakness or just poor form," says Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., owner of B.A.S.E. Conditioning in Long Island, New York. "Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles."

To test your form, get into a pushup position and have someone place a broomstick or dowel rod on your back. It should touch your head, upper back, and butt, and remain in contact with all three points as you perform a pushup. Use Mejia's cues to do a pushup with perfect form.

  • Brace your core. Make yourself as long as you can (stretch out!), then imagine you're about to be punched in the gut. This stiffens your torso, which helps prevent the movement of your spine. You need to hold this contraction for the duration of the exercise.
  • Squeeze your glutes tightly. Then hold them this way for the entire exercise. This helps creates an inflexible bridge between your torso and legs, which keeps your hips from sagging.
  • Keep your elbows tucked. As you lower your body, pull your elbows toward your rib cage instead of allowing them to flare out. This reduces stress on your shoulders.

3 / The Rounded-Back Deadlift

When we asked our top fitness experts to rank their favorite exercises, the deadlift was near the top of every list. Check that: A perfectly performed deadlift was near the top of every list. Once user-error was accounted for, the deadlift became cringe-worthy. The reason: Many people round their lower back when doing the exercise.

"It's well documented that when the lumbar spine is in a flexed or rounded position, it's more susceptible to injury," says Joe Dowdell, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Peak Performance in New York City. "And that risk increases exponentially when resistance is pulling you further into that rounded position, as it can during a deadlift."

The upshot: Don't round your lower back when you do deadlifts; it could you land you in a world of hurt. Instead, you want your spine to maintain its natural shape, with a slight arch in your lower back. Warning: You might think you aren't rounding your spine, when you actually are. Try taking a video of yourself doing the exercise and then compare your form to that in video of the deadlift below.

4 / The 45-Degree Leg Press

This is the machine in which you lie down and push the weight sled upward with your legs. It's certainly a good muscle-builder, and perhaps the most popular way that gym-goers work their legs. But when done wrong—as it often is—it can be a disaster.

"The 'easy chair' position allows people to load this up with all kinds of weight," says Mejia. "Then they round their tailbone at the bottom of the movement. This combination creates the perfect environment for a disc herniation."

Mejia's advice: If you want to build true lower body strength, stick to squats, deadlifts, lunges and step-ups. "The back support on the leg press minimizes the involvement of the core, which is why you can use more weight on it than with other lower body exercises," says Mejia. "But that also means it doesn't translate as well to sport and leisure activities, where your core is often the weakest link. What's more, it's tougher on your joints."

And from a logical perspective, you might ask yourself: Why would you lie down to work your legs?

5 / The Typical Burpee

We love the burpee. In fact, this classic calisthenic is one of the best fat-burning body-weight exercises on the planet—when it's done right.

"Unfortunately, most people lack the hip, ankle and upper back mobility to do the conventional version of this exercise safely and effectively," says B.J. Gaddour, creator of Speed Shred, the first-ever DVD fitness program from Men's Health. Common problems: "Their knees cave in as they squat, they round their lower backs, and they have little control over their bodies, leading to a high risk for injury. What's more, their form only gets worse at they fatigue."

The good news: Gaddour says that three simple adjustments can allow you to enjoy all the benefits of the burpee, while doing it safely.

  • Take a wide stance. "By setting your feet significantly wider than shoulder-width apart, you'll be able to move more at the hips and less at your lower back," says Gaddour.
  • Use a box. "Instead of putting your hands on the floor, place them on a low box or step to reduce your range of motion and lock in perfect form," says Gaddour. As you improve your technique and mobility, you can then move to the floor.
  • Don't move too fast. "Perform the burpee more deliberately and slowly, with distinct pauses of a count or two in both the squat and push-up positions," says Gaddour. "This keeps you from getting sloppy."

Watch the video to see Gaddour demonstrate perfect burpee form in one of his Speed Shred workouts. He first shows you how to ease into a burpee by using a modified version to improve your mobility. Then he progresses into a full-on burpee that protects your back and joints while doubling as a fantastic cardio exercise.




Bookmark and Share

Related Articles

About The Author

Men's Health (MH), published by Rodale Inc., is the world's largest men's magazine with 39 editions in 46 countries.

RATE THIS ARTICLE
POOR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
EXCELLENT
OVERALL RATING
5.2

Out of 10
Good
52 Ratings

87

Comments

Showing 1 - 25 of 87 Comments

(5 characters minimum)

      • notify me when users reply to my comment
redgork

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
redgork

Thank you!

Jan 11, 2013 12:31pm | report
 
pagansaint

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
pagansaint

Leg Extensions, the number one most despised workout of olympic and professional athlete knee surgeons isn't on here? Wow.

Jan 11, 2013 12:34pm | report
 
accace

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
accace

I agree sir

Jan 11, 2013 7:00pm | report
lefrenchie

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
lefrenchie

I like them for the lower quad but only in the higher rep range, yeah it's definitely a knee injury waiting to happen with too much weight. What would you do for lower quad development if not this?

Jan 13, 2013 7:45pm | report
josephrobeson

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
josephrobeson

I totally agree with you pagansaint. Lefrenchie you could do squat variations. Squats are king and develop the entire leg. Even with lower weight it's not a good idea to do leg extensions. It is an unnatural movement and should completely be avoided. CFT

Jan 14, 2013 6:10pm | report
WorldDomnit

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
WorldDomnit

I do leg extensions with over 300lbs, no knee problems ever.

Jan 20, 2013 4:36pm | report
audioartemis

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
audioartemis

All of these are soo true! I don't normally do upright rows on shoulder day...note to self, stick to the other kinds of raises instead...

Jan 11, 2013 12:55pm | report
 
NewBuild1

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
NewBuild1

I've found that doing upright rows with a wider grip eliminates the stress on your wrists, and gives your traps and rear delts a huge boost. If you keep the bar close your body throughout the move, and don't go stupidly heavy with the weight, it can be a great addition.

Jan 26, 2013 12:35am | report
footballer74

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
footballer74

Or just perform the exercise with dumbells.

Jan 27, 2013 11:21am | report
GunslingerUSMC

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
GunslingerUSMC

I thought burpees included a push-up after you kick your legs out...

Jan 11, 2013 1:39pm | report
 
xtcaliburx

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
xtcaliburx

I thought so too (especially as a military way), I haven't seen anyone outside the military do it.

Jan 11, 2013 6:37pm | report
theguitarhero

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
theguitarhero

In the militray (at least the Army) burpees do include a push up. However, I've know a lot of civilian personnel who do not do add the push up. For example, the Spartan Race, an obstacle course race, doesn't require a push up OR a jump during a burpee.

Jan 11, 2013 11:47pm | report
drunkengunner

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
drunkengunner

Agreed. The so-called perfect burpee that they show is definitely a "Stop...get back!" burpee in my eyes.

Jan 12, 2013 3:15am | report
JWawr

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
JWawr

The way we do a "Military Burpee" is a, sort of, improved upon Original Burpee. The Burpee actually is just a squat thrust into high plank back up to standing. Although I was under the impression that the burpee did indeed have a jump and that was the big difference between a squat thrust and burpee...

Jan 12, 2013 5:26pm | report
Holly444

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Holly444

Yep - the complete burpee has a push-up at the bottom and a jump at the top with arms overhead. The other versions are scaled-down options for individuals who can't handle the complete, most difficult, version. However, all versions are pretty tough depending on your fitness level and conditioning.

Jan 13, 2013 10:45am | report
ryanemm

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
ryanemm

great stuff, thanks!

Jan 11, 2013 1:44pm | report
 
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 5'10"
  • wt: 169.62 lbs
  • bf: 15.0%
gsmackdude1917

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
gsmackdude1917

I think it's kinda funny how you guys put up these worst exercise list, then your training programs have you preforming these exercises

Jan 11, 2013 1:51pm | report
 
wisnic

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
wisnic

the word of the kids is contradiction.

Jan 11, 2013 3:22pm | report
wisnic

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
wisnic

word of the day kids is contradiction.

Jan 11, 2013 3:23pm | report
futbolmuscle

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
futbolmuscle

These are not the worst workouts, these are the workouts most commonly mis-used

Jan 11, 2013 6:27pm | report
Holly444

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Holly444

The article isn't saying all of these exercises are poor choices - perhaps a few. For the most part they're saying most of these exercises are good as long as your form is perfect. For example, bodybuilding.com would never trash the classic deadlift - only if it's done incorrectly as the article describes.

Jan 13, 2013 10:52am | report
groovebot

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
groovebot

I didn't know bodybuilding.com was a hive mind where they all think and believe in the same things...whoops...

Jan 14, 2013 12:49am | report
Kataboy

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Kataboy

I just know I always Deadlift wrong....

Jan 11, 2013 2:07pm | report
 
Holly444

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Holly444

Kataboy - ask a qualified personal trainer or fitness coach to spot your form. They should be happy to do so for absolutely no charge. :)

Jan 13, 2013 10:55am | report
NewBuild1

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
NewBuild1

@Holly444
Totally agree. I feel that personal trainers should be letting people know if they aren't deadlifting properly, but time and time again I see guys get in the gym, load up the bar, and invent new ways to destroy their lower backs! I always feel I should say something, but I don't want to be "THAT GUY"!

Jan 26, 2013 12:38am | report
Showing 1 - 25 of 87 Comments

Featured Product

Give Us Feedback:
Report A Problem
Site Feedback
Follow Us:
Twitter
Facebook
RSS Feeds
Bodybuilding.com Newsletter

Receive exciting features,
news & special offers from Bodybuilding.com