Published on Enhanced Fitness and Performance (http://www.enhancedfp.com)

The Seven Worst Exercises

By DMorgan
Created 05/19/2009 - 11:12am

The 7 Worst Exercises of All Time!

By BJ Gaddour, CSCS, YFS

In the past, I’ve shared my top exercises for rapid fat loss and muscle gain, featuring a host of multi-joint, compound movements for your upper body (e.g. push-ups, pull-ups, rows, dips, etc.), lower body (squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.), and core (pillar holds and rotational core exercises). These “many muscle” exercises provide the biggest bang for your buck during your workouts to generate maximum results in minimal time. Even better are total body exercises like a curl to squat to press or a squat thrust variation that takes the meaning of a whole body workout to a whole new level.

But, I think we’ll switch it up a bit today and focus on the WORST exercises you can add to your training routine. The following list features movements that I wouldn’t be caught dead doing- movements that deliver shoddy results and flat our hurt people- movements that have far greater risk than reward:

The 7 Worst Exercises of All Time

1.) Abs Machine

abs-machine [1]

Crunches and sit-ups only promote excessive flexion of the lumbar spine and tend to cause neck and back pain. What’s worse than crunches or sit-ups? Doing a similar movement with added weight in a machine that only trains your body in an unnatural front to back motion in a seated position!

Yes, abs machines, like crunches and sit-ups, do make your feel your abdominal muscles, but there are far better ways to accomplish this without the high risk of short and long-term injury to your spine.

Remember, the true function of your core is stabilization, both static and dynamic- to be able to maintain a neutral, straight-line position from your hips to your shoulders in all 3 planes of movement (front to back, side to side, and rotational) no matter what the external stimulus may be.

21st Century Training Upgrade: For rock hard, athletic abs focus on pillar stabilization exercises like front, side, and back pillars and ground based rotational core work like chops variations and upper body twists.

2.) Back Machine

backmachine [2]
Well, if I HATE the abs machine, how do you think I’m going to feel about the back machine? I mean this is just such a stupid exercise for so many reasons.

First of all, people already use too much “back” on most movements because of tight hips and inactive/weak glutes. Thus, I prefer to focus more on hip extension movements that strengthen your butt rather than continually overloading the spinal erectors. Plus, adding in corrective stretching for the hip flexor complex, the hip rotators, and the hamstring complex that opens up your hips and alleviates excessive spinal flexion and compressions is literally exactly what the doctor ordered.

Second of all, just like the abs machine, this bootleg exercise trains your body in one plane of movement in a fixed path and as a results doesn’t work your key stabilizer muscles.

Lastly, the way that most people perform this movement in such an out of control manner for speed just makes me want to vomit. It literally looks like they are trying to lie down for reps- is this the type of movement that we want to get really good at? Wait, don’t answer that ;)

21st Century Training Upgrade: For a strong, stable back focus on deadlift, good morning, and hip extensions variations while simultaneously focusing on the corrective stretching and self-massage of the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip (LPH) complex. A prone cobra, or airplane as it is sometimes called, is also a great exercise to improve spinal erector endurance while simultaneously improving scapular strength and stability.

3.) Leg Extension Machine

legext [3]
This exercise is a personal one for me. When I first started lifting weights as a stubborn 8th grader who did whatever it took to keep pushing my training loads up, I abused this exercise like few others.

I remember maxing out the rack at 200 lbs and doing spastic sets of 20+ reps where the whole universal machine that the leg extension apparatus was attached to would shake like an episode of soul train.

Fast forward to my senior year in college as an over-trained football player who had 4 knee surgeries under my belt by the age of 22. Not too much fun, trust me on this. Exercises like this prematurely ended my football career and limited my potential to be a great, healthy player, instead of a good, but injured player.

Here’s the bottom line with this exercise- it will wreak havoc on your knees! The excessive compressions on your patella will without a doubt results in the brake down of articular cartilage which will in turn results in a bunch of arthroscopic knee surgeries to remove loose bodies and eventually full blown crippling arthritis. Avoid this machine like cancer!

21st Century Training Upgrade: For strong, stable knees, focus on both knee-dominant (lunge, step-up, and single-leg squat variations) AND hip-dominant single-leg exercises (single-leg hip extension, deadlift, and good morning variations) to prevent strength imbalances between limbs AND to prevent strength imbalances between your front and back thighs and your inner and outer thighs.

4.) Fly Machine

flymachine [4]
If your goal is tear your pecs and destroy your rotator cuff, then I highly recommend that you add this exercise to your routine. I think the chest fly machine actually gets even more play then the bench press, which is considered to be the most popular exercise for guys.

Again, the use of a machine versus doing a dumbbell fly alternative eliminates the use of the key stabilizer muscles surrounding your shoulders. Furthermore, the common male desire to use maximum weight to build a chest he can be proud of typically results in overuse injuries like shoulder impingement or biceps tendonitis.

21st Century Training Upgrade:
For strong, stable shoulders focus on performing an equal amount of pushing and pulling exercises. In fact, more pulling exercises initially may be a good idea if you find yourself heavily internally rotated and hunchbacked from years of focusing on your beach muscles (chest, abs, and biceps) while neglecting your rear shoulders and upper/mid muscles. The best pushing exercise you can do is any push-up variation as it not only safely trains the entire front side of your body but also engages your upper back musculature in a way that the bench press does not. Furthermore, every year people die from bench pressing, but there has never been a reported death from performing a push-up!

5.) Elliptical Machine

elliptical [5]

Look- if you are really, really overweight and haven’t exercised in over a decade, then I think an elliptical has some use. But, other than that, I think it’s relatively useless.

Yes, it is a low-impact alternative to running on a treadmill, but there is very little range of motion during the movement and does not burn nearly as many calories as the machine claims it does.

Furthermore, the elliptical is not a good machine to do intervals on because it promotes excessive hyperextension of the knee. This can easily result in injury at high levels of speed and resistance.

Think about it- what’s the first machine people who are new to cardio exercise jump on? The elliptical! Why? Because it’s so friggin’ easy!

Trust me, I have been there and done that. I used to convince myself that the elliptical was a good option for me because I had bum knees. But then I finally woke up one day I realized that my fat ass had to lose some weight, perform a ton of corrective stretching and self-massage on my front/inner/outer hips and thighs to improve my tissue health, and work on hip and ankle mobility to take pressure off of my knees so that I could get back to running pain-free.

At the end of the day, you can read a dam magazine while on an elliptical, so how much benefit do you really think you will get from this overpriced waste of space?

21st Century Training Upgrade:
For optimal results during your cardio training, you must focus on intervals. They burn 9 times more body fat than aerobics and also result in greater improvements in overall conditioning than long, slow, boring cardio. If you are overweight/de-conditioned and/or have joint issues, the best place to start an interval training program is on a spin bike, or better yet, an Airdyne Bike which has both upper and lower body attachments to make it more of a total body conditioning experience.

See below for a great interval training program using an Airdyne Bike from Mike Fry of Grappler’s Gym:

Airdyne Bike - 40-20 Intervals: This workout is a favorite of combat athletes all over the world. It is very demanding but for those of you who can make it to the end the reward is great.

Legs-Only- 40 seconds, 20 seconds off
Arms-Only - 40 seconds, 20 seconds off
Legs-Only - 40 seconds, 20 seconds off
Arms-Only - 40 seconds, 20 seconds off
Both Arms and Legs- 40 seconds, 20 seconds off

1-Minute Rest. Perform this 6-minute circuit up to 5x for 30 total minutes.

You can get the exact 40-20 soundtrack that Mike uses to get his clients super lean by clicking the link below:

40-20 Interval Workout

If you need to rock your cardio equipment-free and/or at home or on the road, use body weight based exercises like jumping jacks, stationary running, split jumps, etc.

Click the link below to see a bunch of cool body weight based cardio workouts you can do anywhere using the Continuous 30’s soundtrack:

Body Weight Cardio Workouts [7]

6.) The Sex Machine- Abductor/Adductor Combo

sexmachine [8]
Ah, the sex machine… this one just makes me smile. It certainly takes me back to the days where my meathead buddies and I would shamelessly gawk at this outrageously good looking gal who did 1,000 reps on the adductor/abductor machine to fit into her “skinny jeans.”

But, I can assure you this machine had nothing to do with her nice bod- rather it was a combo of genetics, a clean diet, and being a tri-sport athlete that did the trick.

Women all over the world seem convinced that this “naughty” exercise can some how help them rid themselves of the thunder thigh/cellulite situation.

How many times have I heard: “What exercises can I do to get rid of this flab inside my leg?” Too many times!

Come on now, you know that spot reduction is a myth by now, right? Seriously, no amount of direct inner or other hip-thigh work will burn that ugly fat covering that sexy toned musculature everyone wants to see so let it go baby.

So the first thing you need to do is clean up all of the junk carbs in your diet and starting consuming lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and veggies every 2-4 hours while plugging water like a fish.

Then you need to get off this sexy machine and get real with a total body workout!

21st Century Training Upgrade: The best exercises for your inner and outer-hip thigh will come from band-resisted hip walk variations, side pillar variations, and any and all single-leg exercises, especially lateral lunges.  My favorite lateral lunge is the Valslide Lateral Lunge that simultaneously stretches and strengthens your hip musculature.

For more Valslide exercises, check out:

Valslide Exercises [9]

For more great resistance band exercises, check out:

Band Exercises [10]

7.) Leg Press Machine

legpress [11]
It never ceases to amaze me how we all look for the easy way out when it comes to working out. It’s clear why people prefer to leg press- they get to lay or sit on their ass depending on the exact type of leg press machine being used.

If you want both nice legs and a flat midsection then you need to squat! And yes, you can’t squat lying down, sorry!

But squats are tough because they require a whole body effort, an effort most people aren’t willing to put in explaining why they get crap results form their workouts.

The leg press could very well be a major contributing cause for the rapidly increasing number of bulging and/or herniated discs among exercise enthusiasts. People always use way too much weight and use poor form resulting in brutally compressive forces on the spine.

Seriously, if you are opting to leg press over squatting, then you don’t know squat, pun intended ;)

21st Century Training Upgrade: The best (and safest) exercises for your lower body are a healthy combination of double-leg and single-leg exercises using free weights and body weight based exercises. Be sure to perform an equal amount of knee-dominant lower body exercises (e.g. squats and lunges) and hip-dominant lower body exercises (e.g. deadlifts and single-leg hip extensions) to make your knees, hips, and back bulletproof. In fact, most people are very knee-dominant and could benefit to start by performing a greater number of hip-dominant movements to balance out their lower body musculature.

You’ll notice once common trend among all of these crap exercises: they all involve MACHINES!

Get off those dam machines and focus on functional movements using free weights, bands, stability balls, etc. Not only will you ramp up your fat-burning and muscle-building pursuits, but more importantly you won’t end up hunchbacked in a wheel chair by the time you turn 50 ;)

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