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1. The Upright Row

This one is pretty common in most gym ‘bro’s’ shoulder workout. The big issue I have with this exercise is the position it puts the shoulder into- a combination of shoulder and elbow flexion with medial rotation. Now for any Physio’s or Sports Therapists out there, you will know this position as the Hawkins Kennedy test, an orthopaedic test we use in the clinic to diagnose shoulder impingement. So basically you’re trying your best to provoke impingement and just for fun probably loading that position with a ton of weight! If you want healthy shoulders give this one a miss.

2. The Good Morning

You may have never heard of this one and honestly that’s probably for the best. It’s primarily a posterior chain exercise (hamstrings, back etc). The movement itself is actually pretty good, it teaches people to hinge from the hips whilst having to maintain a little bit of t-spine (mid back) extension. Now the trouble is if you’re a 9am-5pm keyboard warrior, the likelihood is your t-spine is stuck in flexion (think hunchback of Notre Dame). This causes all the weight to be shifted onto the lumbar spine creating a huge levels of pressure on the discs and spine itself. If your looking to give yourself a back condition then give this one a try, but in all honesty I can think of at least 10 other more effective and safer posterior chain strengthening exercises.

3. Chest/Pec Flies

Everyone loves training chest (me included) but chest/Pec flies are utter garbage.

Primarily, bodybuilders do this exercise for the perception of the stretch they feel over the Pectoralis major, but if you look at the anatomy of the Pec major you actually can see that it doesn’t lengthen anymore in a fly than it does in a normal bench press. The extra stretch your feeling is one of the biceps (Coracobrachialis) stretching as you lock your arms out to the side, not to mention putting your shoulders pretty close to the position that causes an anterior dislocation. I know you might love this exercise, but seriously, let it go.

4. Sit- ups/ Weighted sit ups

If your looking for those chiseled, six-pack abs, then the sit up will isolate the rectus abdominus perfectly. But, if you understand the function of the core musculature then you will understand that their job is actually to prevent motion and with this stabilise the spine. Studies show that one sit up can generate enough force to herniate a disc in the lumbar spine, so by all means go ahead and do 3 sets of 15/20, maybe put a 10kg plate on your chest (?! ), or do the right thing and do an exercise that challenges your core in a functional way and that will benefit your spine, not wreck it.

5. Smith Machine Squat

The Smith machine is a staple in most gyms and can be a great gateway for new lifters to move from machine-weights to free-weights. They are also great for a more experienced lifter who doesn’t have a spotter.

If you’ve spent anytime in the gym you will notice that no two people squat the same way, and that’s fine, the issue is that the Smith machine forces everyone to squat the same way. I’m talking about the path of the bar. No-one brings the bar up and down in a completely straight line. Unfortunately, the Smith machine forces people to do this, and this can cause people to end up in some horrible positions, normally leading to a pretty miserable injury.

Bonus - Kipping Barbell Curl

‘Curls for the girls’ we all love training our biceps, and the barbell curl is a tried and tested way ‘to get the girls’ but, the issue arises when people get a little over zealous with the weight. You could say that if you go too heavy on any exercise that you will lose form but this exercise is the most common that I see people’s ego get the better of them. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone heaving the barbell up towards their shoulders and their back hyper extending like some sort of awful Saturday dance move. As soon as the person loses that neutral spine the exercise is no longer a bicep dominant movement, but a shoulder and back movement. And if our main goal is to gain muscle we need to think about time under tension, and if the back and shoulders are doing the work then the biceps aren’t going to be under much tension for any length of time, making the exercise pretty pointless and a one way ticket to snap city.

Honourable Mentions:

- Behind the neck overhead press - Seated leg extensions

- Ab Machine curls

So that’s it!

My 5 (6) worst gym exercises, let me know if there are any you would have added? Let me know how you feel about my choices?

Thanks for reading, Tim.

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