Common Gym Exercises to Avoid


Common Gym Exercises to Avoid

It pains us to see some people routinely performing exercises that are destroying their bodies. The worst part of it is that many people believe they are actually helping themselves! The purpose of this article is to look at five gym exercises that you shouldn’t be performing, tell you why, and then tell you some alternatives. Let’s get started!

Leg Extension Machine

Why People Do Them: It seems like a safe and effective way to build those quadriceps muscles.
The Truth: While it may strengthen the quads, it’s bad for your knees. Leg extensions put significantly more stress on the knee joint and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than squats and lunges.
Alternatives: Squats, lunges or variations of either.


Why People Do Them: Everyone wants a ripped 6-pack and people like to “feel the burn” when performing sit-ups.
The Truth: Sit-ups combine spinal flexion with compression – which is exactly what causes disc injuries. In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) found that workers who repeatedly load the spine with 3300 N of force have a high rate of back pain. Guess how much force each sit-up produces? 3300 N! Yup, each sit-up you perform is very likely one step closer to back pain. Quit performing them now! We hear there’s a 12 step program if you’re addicted.
Alternatives: The abdominal musculature is NOT meant for movement, it is meant for stability. The best “core” exercises are the “Big 3” proposed by Stuart McGill, PhD and leading low-back pain expert. But make sure to do them correctly, as Dr. McGill himself said, “Doing these exercises correctly will build a bullet-proof core but doing them incorrectly will destroy your low back.” Check out a video of the exercises below.

Behind the Neck Lat Pulldowns or Barbell Presses

Why People Do Them: We have no idea, it even looks stressful and painful. Although watching the Kardashians is very stressful and painful, yet people do that too.
The Truth: In order to put a bar behind your head, you must do two things. First, you have to put your head into a more anterior posture. This creates more compression and strain on the discs in your neck (Hello neck pain!). Second, you have to bring your shoulder joints into a very unhealthy position (Hello shoulder pain!).
Alternatives: It’s easy – just bring the bar in front of your head.

Round backed deadlifts

Why People Do Them: This also might appear to be a good way to strengthen your low back if you didn’t read our articles.
The Truth: Luckily, you read our articles and now realize that flexion of the low back is generally dangerous and a road towards back pain.
Alternatives: Any dead lift variation, but it is imperative that you keep a neutral, braced spine. Keeping a neutral, braced spine doesn’t stop with dead lifts though – use it with squats, rows, push-ups, and basically every exercise.

Smith Machine Squats

Why People Do Them: Well squatting with a bar looks dangerous and hard, and since leg extensions are bad, this must be safe to do right?
The Truth: Wrong. Smith Machines only allow the bar to move straight up and down. In a proper squat form, you need to move down and back and the Smith Machine prevents this. Basically, this means some part of your body has to compensate and undergo more stress – usually the low back or knees.
Alternatives: Learn correct squatting form. It’s a motion you should be using every day, whether at the gym or just picking up things at home. If having a bar on your back scares you, a simple solution is to just hold a dumbbell in each hand.

So there are five exercises that you should start avoiding today. In regards to hitting the gym, the best piece of advice we can give you is to find a good personal trainer. They are more than worth their price and can help you build a base of good exercises and proper form. Finally, if you’re performing good exercises with proper form and have any kind of pain, it generally means you have some muscle imbalance issue that needs to be addressed. Don’t ignore it, or else you’ll regret it down the road.

Since this is our April newsletter article, we have one note about New Year’s Resolutions – if your resolution is about improving your health, why are you waiting until January 1st? If your health is important enough to make a serious commitment to it (which it should be), then start now!
Admittedly that was more of a personal opinion/pet peeve than a note, but it needed to be said.

Drs. Jeff Remsburg and Thomas Cotter are chiropractors at Active Health KC: Chiropractic & Rehab located in Prairie Village, Kansas.  You can find more information about their clinic by visiting their website at or by calling 913-341-1200.