There are a lot of great exercises in the fitness library.
If you have read our series on training, then you probably already have a pretty good idea of which exercises are the best exercises.
However, there are also a bunch of bad exercises. Some A LOT worse than others.
We have compiled a list of the 9 worst exercises you should never do.
Look, I know you’re busy, and I don’t want you to waste your time.
If you are doing any of these horrible exercises, then you are wasting your time.
This post will discuss :
The Top 9 Worst Exercises of All Time
Why These Are Exercises To Avoid
Alternative Options That You can do Instead
Alright, let’s get started…
The worst thing that has ever happened to the fitness industry was the creation of the sit up.
Far too many people believe that performing this horrible exercise will give them a six-pack.
While this exercise will indeed cause fatigue of the abdominal muscles, you are doing it at the expense of your spinal health.
Performing sit-ups is not a functional movement of the human body. Aside from getting up from bed in the morning, how often do you flex your spine from a lying position?
What’s even more cringing is when people hold their hands behind their neck and yank on the back of their head to help them perform the repetitions.
This is almost a crime!
The bulk of our training should come from functional exercises; the ones that help us move better and obtain stronger positions in our normal activities of daily living.
There are far better ways of training your core muscles that do not involve causing injury to the spine.
Start by getting yourself an ab wheel. They are pretty cheap.
Cons: Why Are Sit-ups Bad For You
Causes excessive wear and tear of the spine through repetitive flexion
Worsens your posture by encouraging a more rounded kyphotic position
The abdominal core muscles are meant to stabilize your spine not encourage flexion
- Can lead to an increase of lumbar spinal injury
Alternatives to Sit-Ups:
2. Tricep Kick Backs
This exercise is just worthless.
First of all, too many people do it with incorrect form, AND they lack the flexibility to perform a full range of motion.
Secondly, you are severely limited by the amount of weight you can use in this exercise. It’s just too awkward to use any significant resistance as your shoulders have to be in an extended and externally rotated position.
As a result, you are forced to train each arm individually as it is extremely difficult to perform both arms at the same time.
Having to do each arm individually (in this exercise in particular) increases the length of your workout provides little to no benefit.
*There are numerous exercises where training each side individually is beneficial, but tricep kickbacks isn’t one of them*
There are plenty of better ways to train your triceps.
Cons: Why Are Tricep KickBacks Bad?
Forces you to train each arm individually, which increases the length of your workout with little to no benefit
Puts too much stress on the shoulder and elbow joint from poor exercise mechanics
Limits the amount of weight that can be used due to the awkward starting position
Tricep KickBack Alternatives:
3. Pseudo Pull-Ups
The pull-up is a fantastic exercise. So is the chin-up.
Some people have claimed that pull-ups are to the upper body what squats are to the lower body.
I believe everyone should do pull-ups on a regular basis. (I personally have a pull-up tower to do them at home regularly).
Unfortunately, the name “chin-up” has done this exercise a great disservice.
Somehow, people have assumed that the point of the exercise is to get your chin above the bar.
They do whatever it takes to get their chin to clears the bar so that the rep could ‘count.’
Here is the truth.
At no point should your chin/neck ever be involved in the exercise.
To perform the pull-up correctly, you need to use your upper back and lat muscles. Check out or complete tutorial here.
When you reach the end range, your chin should naturally clear the bar.
If you cannot get your chin to clear the bar without moving your chin, then you are not doing pull-ups. You are doing pseudo-pullups.
This is doing absolutely nothing for you or your strength. Your neck should remain neutral and never change position throughout the lift.
The bottom line?
Stop jerking your neck back so that your chin clears the bar while in actuality, you are performing half-repetitions.
There are many other pull-up variations you can benefit from that will allow you to perform a full range of motion.
Cons: Why Are Pseudo-Pull-ups Bad For You?
Gives false reassurance that you are performing a full range of motion repetitions
Causes neck strain
Chin Up Alternatives:
4. Chair Dips
Dips are traditionally a great compound exercise for the upper body. In essence, they are a much more difficult variation of a push-up.
However far too many people are trying to perform this advanced exercise without adequate preparation.
Even worse, a lot of workout programs recommend that beginners do a scaled variation of this exercise on a chair or a bench.
The chair makes it easier because your feet are flat on the floor taking away a lot of the weight that you need to lift. However, this is an awful exercise because many people do not have adequate shoulder range of motion to perform this movement safely and effectively.
When looking from the side many people allow their shoulders to go into extreme internal rotation which is a very compromising position.
This forward shoulder roll leads to a lot of damage on the joint, and more money in your orthopedic surgeon’s pocket.
Cons: Why Are Chair Dips Bad For You
Requires a great deal of shoulder extension (range of motion not many people have)
Puts excessive wear and tear on the shoulder joint from an extreme internal rotation
Worsens your posture by encouraging a forward shoulder position
Chair Dips Alternatives:
5. Upright Rows
The upright row is an exercise where you grab two dumbbells (or a barbell) and you lift the weight straight up towards your chin while keeping the weight really close to your body.
Many individuals use this exercise as a three-part combo: First, they do bicep curls, then tricep kickbacks followed by side lateral raises or upright rows.
In order to perform the upright row, your shoulder has to go into internal rotation with heavy weights.
This puts your rotator cuff into a compromising position and increases the chances of causing shoulder impingement. It’s just not worth it.
There are plenty of other exercises you can do to train your shoulders and upper back.
Why is The Upright Row Bad For You?
Places your shoulder in internal rotation, under load
Increases the chances of shoulder impingement
Can cause wear and tear on your rotator cuff
Upright Row Alternative:
6. Behind the Neck PullDown
I really don’t know how this exercise came about.
The Behind the Neck Pulldown is performed on a cable Lat Pulldown machine.
Instead of pulling the weight down to their chest (how the exercise is meant to be done), they pull the weight down behind their neck.
People assume that they can get a better activation of the lat muscles this way since they are pulling in a more vertical plane.
The problem is, you have to crank your neck forward to do this exercise.
Secondly, you place your shoulders in a very unnatural, externally rotated position that is fixed to the bar.
This is also true of the Behind The Neck Press. Both exercises have the same risk.
If you want to walk around with a stiff neck all the time, be my guest.
Why Is The Behind The Neck Pull-down Bad For You?
Places your shoulders in a maximally externally rotated position under load
Can strain the muscles of the posterior neck
Behind The Neck PullDown Alternatives:
7. Back “Hyper-extensions”
Does anything with the word hyper sound good to you?
What about a “hyper” extension of your low back?
Unfortunately, this exercise has been misnamed to the detriment of the fitness industry.
I’m sure you’ve seen this exercise many times before.
You get on a back raise machine, hold a weight on your chest and go to town bending at the spine all the way down and then all the way back up until you can’t anymore.
Your low back should never extend beyond its natural capabilities. Ideally, it should never extend past a neutral spinal position.
Heres a shocking statistic: According to the NIH, 80% of adults will develop low back pain at some point in their lives.
This is a proper back raise: Note that the spine should never hyper-extend beyond this point.
Why Are Back Hyperextensions Bad For You?
The low back is not meant to extend much beyond a neutral position
Hyperextending the low back under load can lead to a disc injury
Back Hyperextension Alternatives:
*Sigh.* Why do people love this exercise?
They grab the heaviest dumbbells they could find, or load up a barbell to 400+ pounds and start shrugging away with as much body english as humanly possible.
Even better the neck starts cranking forward and backward throughout the reps.
If you have done this exercise, have you ever actually felt it in your traps?
And how many people performing this exercise actually have trap development?
This exercise isn’t necessarily bad, but too many people perform it with too much weight, for too many ugly reps for no obvious benefits.
Like Mark Rippetoe says, you have no business performing this exercise if you cannot power clean 225 lbs.
Why Are Shrugs Bad For You
The exercise itself isn’t bad, it’s just that people rarely do it correctly
Many trainees overload this exercise with too much weight, sacrificing their form
Improper form can lead to severe neck muscle strain
9. Any Exercise on the Smith Machine
The smith machine is quite honestly the worst piece of equipment any gym has.
It’s the machine that has a barbell that is fixed and can only move in an up-and-down fashion.
The producers of the machine promote it as being a safer alternative to free weights, which is just wrong.
Sadly, people perform all kinds of barbell exercise on the smith machine, including squats, bench press, shoulder pressing and barbell rows in this contraption.
The truth of the matter is, this machine can be more dangerous than free weights as the fixed barbell forces your body into strange positions that it can’t normally achieve.
This is the most common way that injuries occur.
The smith machine also removes the major benefits of free weights which is the need to stabilize yourself while supporting the weight.
There are much easier and safer ways to scale barbell exercises to your needs.
Why The Smith Machine is Bad For You
The fixed bar path does not allow a natural range of motion of barbell exercises
Removes the elements of needing to stabilize the weights in functional barbell exercises
Risk of injury increases as the fix bar path forces your body into suboptimal positions
- The free weight alternative to the exercise you are doing in the smith machine
The Best Exercises Everyone Should Do
Please, do yourself a favor and stop doing these exercises.
These exercises are bad for you!
There are numerous exercises that you can perform which are safer, better, and more time efficient than any of these.
We have written an entire post on The Complete List of Gym Exercises Everyone Should Do.
In that post, we cover the 46 best compound exercises you can do to build muscle, gain strength, and improve your health.
A Training Program That Uses Only The Best Exercises (And Avoids The Worst Exercises)
There are more exercises that we can add to this list, but these are the most common.
Why risk performing the worst exercises and sabotage your fitness?
That is why we created the WCT Strength Template.
It is a 15-week workout program that takes all of the guesswork out of your workout.
You won’t have to worry about doing mediocre, or dangerous exercises, and you can focus on the stuff that matters.
So if you want to build muscle, and gain strength in as little as 35 minutes a day, check out our template here.
The next step is to learn:
- A Complete List Of The Best Compound Exercises
- The Best Bodyweight Exercises To Workout At Home
- How To Perform All Of The Best Exercises With Proper Form
Now we turn it over to you:
Do you perform any of these detrimental exercises?
Do you have any other exercises to add to this list?
Comment below and let us know.
Share this list with them so that they can stop wasting their time.
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