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5 Exercises You Need to Stop Doing

stop doing theseI was very young when I first started attempting to lift weights. I think I was only around 8 years old. 

My aunt was a fairly successful female bodybuilder at the time and I remember her room at my grandmothers being filled with those old school, cement filled plastic weights by Weider. 

In addition to several of those weights she had a bench that would also incline, a cable pull-down contraption, a little wobbly leg extension piece, and several sets of interchangeable dumbbells with the collars you had to screw on and off.

In the corner of her room were stacks and stacks of Muscle and Fitness magazines. I laugh now, thinking about when I read those magazines. 

Talk about some real, hard core 80’s shit… on the cover were dudes with mullets that would make Joe Dirt envious, dressed in neon pink, skin tight spandex pants. 

The chicks were no better… they’d usually wear the typical 80’s garb, a half shirt which showed their stomach (that was actually kinda sexy), black spandex pants, thick aerobics socks that went half way up their shins and a pair of Reeboks, usually red or neon green, that looked like they were made out of plastic.

But, the dudes were BIG and RIPPED and the chicks were lean, muscular and sexy….

I would flip through those magazines, never stopping to actually READ anything, just looking at the pictures, get all fired up and decide I was going to get big muscles. 

I remember pumping away endless reps of dumbbell curls (or at least something that resembled a real dumbbell curl) with a set of 5 lb. dumbbells because, besides push-ups and sit-ups, it was the only thing I knew HOW to do… or at least I thought I knew how to do.

I started playing football and baseball around the same time and as I approached my teen years my love for working out and my desire to get big was still very strong. 

So, I started going to the gym with my older brother. At the time I thought he knew what he was doing and could show me how to put on some muscle. 

However, he seemed to have no time to waste on me, he was there to get big himself after all, and did little in the way of showing me how to work out correctly. Now that I think about it, it was probably because he didn’t really have a clue himself.

So, I did what most every person who’s new to the gym does, whether they’re a teenager or they are stepping foot in the gym for the first time at the age of 40, I watched what other people were doing and mimicked their actions. 

Now, anyone who knows anything about real TRAINING, not just “working out”, knows this is not really the best approach in terms of exercise selection and trying to put together a training program. 

A lot of beginners watch what other people in the gym are doing and attempt to copy those movements simply because they don’t know what they’re doing. What those beginners fail to realize is the people they are copying often don’t have any idea what they’re doing either! 

This quickly becomes a vicious cycle of ineffective exercise selection, horrible form, zero progress (muscle gain/fat loss) and, a lot of times, injury.

Now the flip side of this coin is the people who do have some basic knowledge of training and proper form. Those people manage to build some muscle, lose some fat and reshape their bodies. 

However, even though a lot of them use what most people would consider “good form” they still end up suffering pain and injury. Fast forward a few years and this was exactly the type of trainee *I* was.

As time has passed I’ve become more experienced and learned many lessons in the weight room, most of them the HARD way. The “hard way” seems to be the way I learn in every other area of my life as well. 

What I’ve come to realize from my time battling the iron is that there are a few exercises that should be eliminated from everyone’s weight training routines.

Now keep in mind as you read this list, I’m NOT basing this opinion on a “whim” or because of dislike for any of these exercises. I’ve used them ALL, with some pretty good success, at one point or another ever since I started training. 

No, my opinion is based on REAL, hands on, time in the gym as well as the fact that I’ve suffered a couple of devastating (and preventable) shoulder injuries. 

Couple my injuries with the time I’ve spent with Physical Therapists and the TONS of research I’ve done on the human body and it has become blatantly obvious to me that there are some exercise that are HIGHLY likely to eventually cause an injury to lifters.

Having said that, what follows is 5 weight training exercises you should STOP doing. 

If you are currently performing any, or all, of these exercises I would highly recommend that you at least consider switching to another movement. 

Almost any exercise you can think of has another variation to it and, often, the variation makes the movement safer. 

Staying injury free and healthy should be the top priority for you. You can’t make progress if you’re not able to actually lift weights.

1. Behind the Neck Shoulder Presses: I’m not sure what genius came up with this exercise but it is obvious they had no idea how the shoulder girdle works in the human body. This movement is a rotator cuff tear just waiting to happen. 

The position you must put your arms/shoulders in, in order to perform the exercise, puts MAJOR stress on your shoulders (rotator cuff, labrum, ligaments, tendons) and that’s WITHOUT any weight. Add a loaded barbell to this equation and you have a PERFECT recipe for a serious shoulder injury. 

Seriously guys, I put this one at number 1 because it is such a dangerous movement. In fact, I firmly believe that doing this exercise early in my bodybuilding career led to the shoulder surgery I eventually had.

2. Upright Rows: I know there are some of you that are not going to like that I included this on my list. And, it’s likely that many of you will go on doing them anyway. 

I’ve used the wide grip barbell version to build my side delts for many years. However, after conversations with Physical Therapists and learning more about the anatomy of the shoulder I think it’s best to pass this one up. 

Every time you raise the barbell by pulling your elbows high, into the top position of the lift, you are causing impingement in your shoulder. All it would take is ONE bad rep, or repeated abuse of your shoulder doing this exercise over time, and you could find yourself on an operating table. 

Overhead presses (NOT behind the neck) performed properly will effectively build your entire shoulder region and if you want to specifically target the medial (side) delts lateral raises are a safer option. 

Again, that is, if they are performed correctly. 

3. Dumbbell Fly’s: Most guys do this exercise as a chest builder because they’ve heard of the stretch that it provides at the bottom and that it’s excellent for building the outer chest. 

The truth is, in the bottom position of the fly, unnecessary and dangerous stress shifts from the pectoral region more to the shoulders and even into the tendons in the biceps. 

So, not only is there a high potential for a shoulder or biceps injury, the tension does not remain on the chest, which is exactly where you want it. 

There are better options. If you want to include a type of chest fly in your workout I would recommend you do a standing version, using cables and do not allow the weight to over extend your arms and shoulders.

4. Leg Extensions: First things first, I’m going to burst a few bubbles. For all of you guys who want massive legs, but don’t squat, and you think you’re going to build them using leg extensions, you’re DEAD WRONG.

If you were going to do leg extensions (and you shouldn’t) they should ONLY be done after you’ve blasted your quads with several heavy ass sets of barbell squats, and that’s if you have anything left in the tank. 

However, I recommend that you just skip them all together.

Simply put, the leg extension is not an ideal mass or strength builder and it causes extreme and unnecessary stress on your knees. 

Ask anyone who has suffered a knee injury and they will tell you, avoid it at all costs. Once you’ve injured your knee(s), it will affect you for the rest of your life.

5. Good Mornings: I’m willing to bet there are a lot of younger lifters who don’t even know what the hell this exercise is. GOOD! 

It’s supposedly a lower back “builder” but I tend to think of it more as a lower back “destroyer”. 

It’s not that this exercise is necessarily “bad” but it’s more so because many people lack the thoracic extension required to safely and properly perform it. 

With a plethora of other exercises available that people can safely perform in order to build and strengthen their lower back I recommend leaving this exercise where it belongs, in the past. 

If you really want to build some serious lower back strength, along with building most every other muscle group, learn how to SAFELY perform barbell dead lifts!

So, there you have it. It is my humble opinion, based in real world training and scientific evidence, that it would serve most lifters well to leave these exercise alone. 

The great thing is, for every one of these exercises there are several variations that will work the intended muscle group just as well, if not BETTER, and more safely. 

Bodybuilding should be a life time endeavor. It should not just be a fad or phase that you go through during a certain period of your life but rather a continuous journey of self-exploration, self-discipline, knowledge, achievement and growth. 

Give your exercise selection careful consideration and put forth the time and effort to master perfect form on every weight training movement you perform. 

Doing so will ensure that you’re able to reap the rewards of all your hard work in the gym and it will keep you healthy enough to continue on this journey for as long as you want.

– Michael Wheeler

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