Remember back in school when they started to teach you how to do exercises in gym class? It was in and around grade eight or nine – and if you’re old enough – you’ll remember being shown how to do arm circles while holding weights, how to use the leg extension machine, the Superman stretch, and the ever popular abdominal crunches. Well if you’re still doing them either because you haven’t learned any new exercises, or, they bring back some vague sense of nostalgia as you hit the gym in your short shorts – STOP. They’re dangerous for you as they’re either ineffective, or worse, can injure you. So forget the A+ you got in gym class, ignore the fact that Mr. Smith was the coolest gym teacher around, because the following 10 exercises that he taught you are 10 exercises you need to stop doing right now!
Arm Circles with Weights
I believe they started teaching this back in like grade 3. Sure it looked and felt like you were working your shoulders, loosening them up as you rotated them in small, then larger circles while holding weights in each hand. But over time, weighted arm circles are quite damaging to the health of your shoulder joints and tendons (a rather injury prone area of the body), as it can lead to pain, tendonitis, or what’s called shoulder impingement syndrome.
Machine Leg Extensions
Do you like your knees? No, we’re being serious because if you enjoy the fact that you have knees that allow you to do things like walk, then walk away from that leg extension machine immediately. The leg extension is the biggest cause of knee injuries due to exercise, as our knees simply weren’t designed to bear weight at such an angle. You’ll just have to blast your quads doing something else – like more squats.
Smith Machine Squats
Many love the smith machine (that machine that locks a barbell on a track), especially beginners, as it makes doing squats easier, allowing you to add more weight. Unfortunately, as strong as it makes you look, it also restricts your body’s natural movement by forcing you to move within a very uncompromising vertical plane. And the effect is that you bring unnecessary stress to your knees, fail to fully contract your hamstrings and glutes, while completely negating your core.
Every kid loved this one, mainly because it was called ‘The Superman’ – and what kid didn’t like Superman? Well rather ironically, this exercise where you lay flat on your stomach and unnaturally bend backwards, is like kryptonite for your lower back. For that burn you feel while you’re doing it is actually damaging stress being applied to your lower spine.
This one hurts, physically and mentally as this is everyone’s go-to ab exercise. But as they say, ‘the truth hurts’ as doing crunches is the worst way to build your core, as they don’t target enough of your mid-section – only your upper abs. And no one wants just a 4-pack. Plus, because crunches put your body into spinal flexion, they actually emphasize poor posture – which most of us have anyway from sitting in an office chair all day long.
Lat Pulldowns Behind The Head
Most by now are hip to this shoulder injuring exercise. But in case you haven’t noticed the lack of people doing behind the head lat pulldowns yet, it’s because they got hip to the fact that they force you to strain your head forward, which applies a ton of stress to your shoulder joints. Now you’re hip to not doing them too.
This is quite the controversial one as basically every personal fitness instructor will have you doing upright rows for your shoulders somewhere in the program they design for you. But despite many of them missing the memo, upright rows compress a bunch of nerves in your shoulders, along with the surrounding area, that often damage cartilage in your AC joint.
The elliptical machine was designed with the idea in mind that you can work your whole body on just one machine. But where in your daily life will you ever move in the way the elliptical machine has you moving? Like, nowhere. The elliptical forces you to move in a very unnatural way, and when the body moves unnaturally, injuries – naturally – will happen.
Are you a long time personal trainer, competing for a Mr. Universe title, or gymnast looking to win a gold medal in the next Olympics? If so, disregard this one. But if you’re a beginner, then don’t begin, middle, or end your workout by doing dips. While they’re great for blasting your chest and triceps – unless you’re a seasoned pro – anything less than perfect form will cause too much tension on your shoulder, potentially damaging your rotator cuff in the process.
Plyo Pushup Jack
The Plyo pushup jack is a popular one amongst those bootcamp classes. As with every exercise in boot camp, they take your common exercises and make them more extreme – such as the case with these pushups where they force you to go further down than you naturally would because of, well, the ground. But just like with dips, unless these are performed with the most immaculate of form, they’ll have you visiting the orthopedic surgeon for a shoulder injury in no time.