This time of year gyms across the country are full of eager people trying to get in shape for the summer. While they may have good intentions, poor exercise choices or technique do more than sculpt muscles; they wreak havoc on your joints. Here s a list of my current top 5 most useless exercises, and why they do more harm than good. #1 Lat Pull Downs - Behind the Neck - Pulling behind the neck forces you into poor posture. Its also stressful, and potentially dangerous for your cervical spine or neck. Additionally, your moving your arms against their natural scapular plane, placing the shoulder joint in a compromising end range of motion. While its great you are working some pulls into your push dominant routine, a better way to perform this movement, would be in front of your face, down to your collar bone. Keep your shoulders down, and your shoulder blades pulled together. You ll continue to reap the same muscle and strength building benefits, without the potential for injury.
#2 Sit-ups & Crunches - Again, your putting more stress on your neck and spine, than your abs. With the exception of getting out of bed once a day, this is a pointless exercise. Train those same six pack building muscles with these core stability exercises, and save your spine.
#3 Protracted Rows with lower back flexion- Everybody does this. It feels like you are getting more range of motion. Its also allows you to move more weight. Unfortunately, your putting undue stress on your shoulder joints, scapulas, and lower back. Sit up tall, keep your shoulders down and relaxed, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Spare your shoulders and spine and focus the attention on the muscle building effects of your upper back and biceps.
#4 Dumbbell Side Bends - So you want to burn those love handles? They're there because of a poor diet, not a lack of lateral flexion. A flexed and rotated spine is a great way to blow a disk in your lower back. Give your lumbar vertebrae a break and try some of the lateral stability exercises, I have here. I promise they re a lot more challenging for your obliques, and a lot better for your lower back.
#5 Bench Dips - Dips are a great upper body push for the chest, shoulders and triceps. They are also very challenging. Doing bench dips with your feet supported on the floor is not a regression. Again, you're placing a tremendous amount of anterior pressure on your shoulder joint, which can lead to soft tissue damage. If you struggle with a traditional dip, supplement with machine assisted dips or other elbow extension exercises, until you are strong enough to perform this movement correctly. Many of us could still get a lot out of the traditional pushing exercises before moving on to dips, but never bench dips.