5 Exercises That Make Me Cringe

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.

Cannonball Abs

If you clicked on this link to learn about six pack abs, you came to the wrong site. Try Muscle and Fiction magazine. I don't care how many crunches Britney Spears does each day, we all know washboard abs are 100% diet anyway. This article IS about core stability. Despite popular ab training regimens, your abdominals function to resist movement and stabilize the spine, more than aiding movement and mobilizing the spine. Your spine is very mobile and because of this mobility, its vulnerable to fractures and disc pathologies. Your core, which includes the muscles of your abdominals, obliques and lower back, are your body's natural weight belt, for stabilizing the spine under various loads and stressors during movement. They serve to resist flexion and extension of the lumbar spine, front to back, side to side.

We all have experienced, or know someone, who has thrown their back out. Often it occurred doing something as innocent as bending over to pick up something light, tying a shoe lace, etc. Occasionally, it was something more aggressive like moving a heavy object, and not "using your legs." In both situations, your spine was in a flexed position, a forward bend. The majority of disc herniations are posteriorly displaced, and occur in this hunched over position. Common ab exercises like sit ups and crunches reinforce this hunched position, often putting undue stress on the spine in this flexed position. Over time, repeated flexion of the spine may ultimately lead to a spinal injury. Watch someone's ab routine next time you are at the gym and notice the excessive strain and force they seem to be putting on their spine from their neck down to their lower back. Are they working their spine or their abs?? With exception of sitting up out of bed in the morning, twice if you take a nap, sit ups provide no real world functional use.  Training the muscles of the core to resist flexion, will stabilize the spine and protect your discs from injury. Exercises like planks, dead lifts, and over head pressing, load the spine, engaging your core to resist extension and flexion of the lumbar spine. Add some of the exercises I have in my Core Stabilization section for greater challenge, spine health, stronger abs, and with a proper diet, "six pack abs." With smarter core training, you too can have cannonball strength abdominals! Don't take my word for it, read famed spine specialist, Stuart McGill's take on spinal health and core training.

Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention