That said, just because you’ll find some things in your gym (and practically ever single gym across the World for that matter) it doesn’t mean that it’s actually a GOOD thing for you to be doing in your pursuit of more lean muscle.
With that said, I have what I affectionately call my “4 To Ignore” and I want to share them with you in the hopes of saving not only you from countless hours of wasted effort doing these noneffective exercises…but also your joints from the wear and tear that these four can wreak in just a few sessions of doing them.
As a matter of fact, these bad boys have kept orthopedic doctors around the world much busier than we want them to be…repairing all the damage that results from doing them. That said, let’s get right to them so you can stop doing them!
The 4 To Ignore
1. Leg Extensions
I’ve written before about this one, but it bears writing about it again (especially because it’s my least favorite of them all). The leg extension is one of the most unnatural and impractical (meaning…nonfunctional) exercises you can do in the gym. It’s trying to strengthen your knee to extend or straighten, but it does so with your legs flying freely in the air!
At what point are you straightening both legs at the same time in the air?!? Unless you’re working on a flying trapeze for a living…the answer is never! If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s the damage that is done to your knees that makes this one brutal!
With a shearing force that is up to 8 times the amount of weight you’re attempting to lift, being borne across your knee joint on each and every rep…it’s no wonder how just a few workouts of these can take even the healthiest knee and reduce it to a nothing more than a clicking, aching, creaky hinge joint that even the Tin Man’s oil can’t fix!
2. Upright Rows
If you were to come in my office for a shoulder evaluation because you’re shoulder had been barking for days, I would put you through some tests to try and see if the cause of your pain was an impingement. One of the first tests I would do would be to put your arm in the following position.
I’d bend your elbow, keep your hand near your chin and then lift your elbow higher as I internally rotated your shoulder. Sound complicated? Not sure what that would look like?
No problem. Just go do an upright row and THAT is the same position! Ummm….do you see a problem here? How is it that the same position I use as a provocative test (one used to elicit pain!) can be the same that your elbow is in when doing an upright row?? The answer is, just because someone invents an exercise…it doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
The upright row is one you want to avoid at all costs, particularly if you have any long term plans of wanting to raise your arm over your head at some point in the future!
3. Prone Leg Curls
Here’s another one that can get filed in the category of “exercises that are training you to do exactly the opposite of what the muscles actually do” category! When you’re feet are on the ground (as they are in virtually every activity we do in sports and life) the hamstrings actually don’t bend the knee (gravity takes care of that for us) but instead they straighten the knee!
So with that being the case, why in the world would we want to try and teach the knee how to do exactly the opposite of what it’s job is? Not only does it not make sense, but it actually leads to more hamstring problems in the long run. You can’t expect to train one way and expect exact opposite results.
4. Barbell Bench Press to the Chest
How many times have you heard that taking the bar all the way down to your chest (and actually bouncing it off) when doing barbell bench presses is a good idea and the best way to recruit maximum muscle fibers for best growth? Hopefully this will be the last time! It’s simply not true.
Whatever extra benefit you’re “supposedly” getting from doing this, you’re increasing your odds of damaging your AC joint in your shoulder by 10 times! Trust me, I speak from experience.
Years of trying to lower the bar to my chest left me with one creaky left shoulder and not much in the way of chest development to show for it. Instead, I smartened up, took the bar only down to where my upper arms were parallel to the floor and proceeded to add more size to my chest in one year than I had in the last 3 doing it the supposedly “right” way.
Guys listen, it’s more important to protect your shoulders LONG TERM so that you can actually continue to work out for years on end than it is to try and push it to the limit and wind up having to shut down the workouts due to the unrelenting pain in your shoulders! Risk reward my friend has never been more at play!
So you see, you can’t always believe what you hear or see for that matter. Just because others in your gym may be doing an exercise, it doesn’t mean it’s a good one. If you’re currently doing any of these four in your workout program, I strongly suggest you not only ditch the exercise…but also the program for suggesting you do it in the first place.
Start following a training program that will work for you long term and will allow you to enjoy your passion for working out for many years to come. Want to read more about a workout program that can provide you with safe, effective muscle building exercises that aren’t just kind to your joints and muscles but actually capable of stimulating them into new growth more than the more familiar or boring exercises you’re used to doing? Then CLICK HERE to discover more about what the AthLEAN-X Training System can do for you. Your knees, shoulders, and back will be glad you did.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.