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Top Three Overrated Exercises

Katy Perry, Fat-Free Ice Cream, the New York Jets …. We are inundated with lots of things that are given far too much credit these days.  Fitness is no stranger to this phenomena.  Let’s face it, some exercises just suck; yet for whatever reason, they consistently seem to be glorified by everyone from TV personalities to commercial gym personal trainers everywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, there are no completely useless exercises; but there are many that are completely ineffective for the majority of the general fitness population.  Let’s check out a few and learn why they aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

  1. Tricep Kickbacks
What they are purported to do:  “tone” the triceps What they really do:  Make you look silly and wear out your elbow The staple of body blast classes everywhere, this move seems logical.  If you already have defined triceps, it probably even looks like it’s doing something.  The biggest problem: you can’t use ANY load.  Females are particularly prone to high-rep sets with the tiniest dumbbells they can find.  Remember, just because it “burns” doesn’t mean it’s effective (but it may be contagious!).  Toss in the horrid posture often associated with this exercise and you just wasted another five minutes of your life.  Although I’ll concede that using a cable or resistance band will enhance the effect of this exercise because it shifts the load vector, I rarely recommend any isolated arm work for someone that likely can’t handle a set of quality pushups.  If your triceps lack definition after six weeks of progressively loaded pushups and perhaps even some bench press, fire me an email and I’ll send you a Forgive Me Bouquet.

"its a deeeep burn"

2. Shrugs What they are purported to do: Make normal size shirt collars cower in fear What they really do: Contribute to your crappy posture and shoulder pain. I rarely venture upon commercial gyms anymore these days, but I am willing to bet somewhere in the country, the following scene is taking place.  Guy sporting a fanny pack, tiny legs, and a conspicuous lack of sleeves is strapped in to an overloaded smith machine.  He gathers all of his strength to guide the bar on its magical 3 inch journey, grunting with a voracity normally reserved for his attempts at removing his tight designer t-shirt.  If I could list the most important components of a workout for 99.9% of the gym-going population, upper trap development would be somewhere at the bottom next to lower abs.  Do you sit at a desk all day?  Do you constantly struggle with neck discomfort and pain in your shoulders?  Want to make it worse?  We should be working on getting the shoulders AWAY from the ears, not closer.  Oh, btw, rolling your shoulders while doing shrugs earns you double bonus stupid points. What could our misguided hero in the above example do instead to get not only neck development but upper back, glutes, hamstrings, grip, and core as well?  Maybe drop the straps and smith machine and learn the appropriate deadlift variation.  Want another great upper trap exercise?  Pick up two heavy things, carry them as far as you can, repeat as necessary. 3. Superman Lower Back Exercises What they are purported to do: they are “good” for the lower back What the really do:  6000 Newtons of force on your lower back, yikes This one has a special place in my heart because it’s STILL commonly prescribed by physical therapists that are only ensuring that the patient will remain a patient forever.  Stuart McGill, a researcher who is a beacon in the foggy haze of crappy lower back treatment, has measured the force on a hyper-extended spine during this exercise at roughly 1400 lbs of force.  While your lower back extensor muscles CAN create this position, they are designed to prevent your spine from potentially hazardous positions under load.  While every spine will tolerate this position to a greater or lesser degree, you simply need to look at the studies citing the long term effects of repeated spine extension on gymnasts, dancers, and football lineman to figure out that it’s a bad idea.  Proper core training should always emphasize stability of the lower back, and by simple semantics something cannot gain stability by moving it. BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS!!!!! I would be remiss if I forgot one of my all-time favorites. Upright Row What they are purported to do: develop your deltoids What they really do: hurt, a lot

dumb squared

Anyone who has ever done an assessment with us is familiar with our shoulder impingement test.  If you are not familiar, it looks a lot like this exercise, only without weight.  It is designed to provoke shoulder pain and thus determine if and to what level someone has whats commonly referred to as shoulder impingement.  Bending down and touching your toes is also used in this manner as a test.  Would I recommend deadlifting like that?  Absolutely not.  If I could pick a position I didn’t want my shoulder to be in while picking up weight, this would be the one.  There’s not a whole lot of room for your glenohumeral joint to move around in your shoulder socket.  Basically when it runs out of room, it pinches (impinges) on the surrounding musculature, causing irration, inflammation, and eventually serious damage.  Your shoulder works best when your shoulder blades are anchored down and back (like the top of a good chinup), as everything typically has enough room to function properly.  This is precisely why bad posture creates shoulder pain.  I could go into more but please, I’m begging, just don’t do upright rows.