7 Most Dangerous Exercises to Never Do

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By Dr. Kareem F. Samhouri, CSCS, HFS
Neuro Fitness & Rehab Expert

You’re exercising to look and feel better, right?

leg pressThe last thing you should have to think about is whether or not an exercise is safe. It’s really a shame, but when I walk around most commercial gym settings, I see 90% or more of the members who actually work out do things completely wrong. With just a few minor tweaks to your program, your results can be night and day, and you can avoid 99% of exercise injuries that might take place in the gym.

Here’s a realistic expectation when you follow the lessons below:

Up To 3x Faster Results,
99% Less Chance of Injury

Well, at least that’s been my experience with every person I train and rehabilitate in person at my facility… and I mean everyone. That’s why I started the world’s first Master Trainer and Master Physical Therapist certification, where we truly integrate how the body moves with rapid fat loss and strength development. The good news is that the results have all been reproducible with my staff and their clients.

It’s really neat to see the human body’s potential – are you ready to see yours?

As a side note, I think it’s important to mention that the last thing I want is for you to feel discouraged; rather, it’s important that you feel inspired to know you have eliminated the negative from your exercise program. You’ll be able to safely rely on the fact that “you’re doing it right” when you exercise. You may even be shocked by how much you’ll learn about your body’s ideal positioning and muscle recruitment strategies with exercise.

Make sure read below and find out if you’re doing any of the 7 most dangerous exercises. You’ll want to eliminate them and find a substitute, immediately. The exercises have been chosen according to the following criteria:

  1. The exercise creates muscle imbalances.
  2. The exercise has no functional benefit/carryover to daily living.
  3. The exercise winds up the joint into an unsafe position.
  4. The exercise creates pain – the symptomatic body part is listed.

# 1: Leg presses
(see image above right)

There’s a common misconception in many exercise programs. People think that they should do leg presses to develop strong quads, but they are very often developing strong quads in the wrong position. Your quadriceps should be trained with co-activation (same time) of your hamstrings to avoid muscle imbalances. Also, beware of the torque placed into your knees with this exercise – it could cause serious damage.

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Quads are generally stronger than hamstrings; this reinforces the problem.Quads and glutes should be used as a pair. In this case, they are not being used effectively. In most cases, people aren’t coming down to a full 90 degrees of knee flexion, which is needed for getting in/out of a chair.Even in these cases your abs are so pre-contracted (active insufficiency) and low back extensors so overstretched (passive insufficiency) that it’s tough to use your quads with any abdominal or low back support.Since your abs and low back are out of the picture, this exercise loses a lot of its functionality. When your quadriceps overpower your hamstrings in deep knee flexion, there is increased torsion placed into the meniscus, increasing the likelihood of knee injury.When your glutes do not fire while using your quads with a great level of force, there is increased risk of low back injury.The metabolic effect of this exercise is less because the number of muscles used is less than similar weight-bearing (closed-chain) exercises. Knees and/or Low Back.Your knees may hurt from the torque/pressure created from this exercise since you are not weight-bearing, which would normally cushion the joint.Your low back may hurt because if every time your quads get strengthened you are bent at the waist, you will learn to do the same thing every time you use your muscles in daily living. Since you wouldn’t bend over while walking, you’ll naturally arch your back instead.

An imbalance between your quadriceps and hamstrings can quickly result in a number of knee issues, including patellofemoral (kneecap) and meniscus damage. Even worse, when your quads overpower your hamstrings, it’s not uncommon to develop restrictions in these muscles as your body attempts to even things out. These restrictions lead to increased pull on the top of your pelvis, tipping it forward, and placing pressure in your low spine.

This all sounds complicated, but let’s make it easy. Just stand up and lean backwards. If your hip flexors are tight, you’ll feel a stretch in the front of your thighs. It’s a good bet that we should get you training in more functional abs positions. You may already be spending too much of your day in this pre-shortened position, while sitting at a desk at work.

#2: Leg extensions

leg extensions

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Quads are generally stronger than hamstrings; this reinforces the problem.Quads and glutes should be used as a pair. In this case, they are not being used effectively.Interestingly, if you are having a hard time contracting your vastus medialis oblique (VMO) in your knee, the last 15 degrees of this movement can be helpful, but careful with the torque into your knee joint. Again, only for the last 15 degrees until your knee is totally straight, and this can often cause more damage than good.It can also be argued that this exercise mayhelp if you are a soccer player, but power lifting has been demonstrated to improve sprinting and kicking ability much more than any variety of leg extensions.When you walk, you use your quads and hamstrings; here, it’s just quads. This comes down to torque. Think about a long screwdriver and a short screwdriver. It’s easier to use the long one, meaning you don’t have to turn it as hard. This is a result of the
force of you turning the screwdriver X the distance to the end of the screwdriver. That’s how torque is calculated.In this example, we are exercising above our knee, but the weight goes on our ankle. Think about that distance… that’s a lot of torque into our knees with a lot of weight!
Knees and/or Low Back.Torque into knees causes a lot of pressure on your knee cap and meniscus (joint line). You may feel pain in either area.Low back pain results from a lack of core support. If a weight is heavy, we tend to arch our backs to get it up. Be sure to keep your abs tight to avoid this.

#3: Machine leg curls
machine leg curls

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Majority of force placed through distal hamstring, rather than proximal. This results in increased pressure behind the knee.Requires change of position to recruit medial hamstrings and glutes on this exercise, which should be used as a muscle pair. I can’t think of a moment in time where I need to perform this movement in daily life.However, if I ran hurdles, this may help, but again deadlifts and power lifts seem to improve sprint capacity at the same time and provide greater benefit. This is a question of torque into the knee again. Also, in this case,
the hamstrings tend to cramp a lot, which isn’t necessarily
a good thing, or necessary at all.If you have a Baker’s Cyst behind your knee, that’s a lot of pressure. For others, it’s really pulling the posterior horn of your meniscus, while missing your proximal (closer to your butt) hamstring altogether.
Low Back, Cramps in hamstrings (back of thigh)Low back – this is if your back arches during this exercise. Make sure to keep your glutes squeezed to avoid this, but it’s best to eliminate it altogether.Hamstrings cramping – essentially, this is working the middle of your hamstring, which is prone to cramping. In reality, you want to work the top of your hamstrings instead, which won’t cramp nearly as often. Consider bridges and deadlifts instead.

#4: Biceps preacher curls
bicep preacher curls

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Forward shoulder position leads to increased stretch (passive
insufficiency) on the rotator cuff and biceps tendon.Position also leads to increased pressure on the anterior and posterior capsules of the shoulder. Any pain signal or pressure will reduce the recruitment of your delts and shoulder stabilizers.Biceps are being shortened in an over-shortened position for your pecs, reinforcing a common imbalance.
This is an artificial movement, in an abnormal position. It’s only purpose is to build biceps, and there are better ways. For example:The biceps is an elbow flexor, but it’s also a supinator (meaning it turns your palm up). Preacher curls only work on elbow flexion, which means you’re missing 50% of the muscle’s action. Whoops!Evening out all of your elbow flexors has more carryover effect. See next column for more info. This is true for your shoulders and neck. In this forward position, you are at risk for injury. Also, like many people who perform this exercise, you may be placing excessive weight into your armpit, which is where your brachial plexus is. This is the bundle of nerves that controls your arms.The elbow is only safe when balanced. You need to train your brachioradialis (hammer curls), biceps (curls), and brachialis (reverse curls) in order to hit all elbow flexors. Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist/Hand:Shoulder: Since you are placing your shoulder into a rounded position, your rotator cuff is going to be overstretched and trying to work. Look out for a major pull on your biceps tendon or a
rotator cuff tendonitis in your future. Be careful!Elbow – talk about torque! You’re crushing your elbow with the weight in your hand and your shoulder blade out of the picture to help stabilize.Wrist/Hand: When your elbow gives out, guess what takes the brunt? Be careful not to train with your wrist extended, which is the position you’ll naturally go towards with this exercise. Boo.

An imbalance between your pecs and lats/shoulderblade stabilizers results in a forward shoulder position. This leads to rotator cuff tendonitis, biceps tendonitis, and increased risk of tears. Also, this limits the amount of growth of both your pecs and lats, due to the sub-sensory pain stimulus taking place and telling your brain
that you’re out of alignment.

This all sounds complicated, but let’s make it easy. Just stand up tall and place your hands straight up into the air. Now, bend your elbow out to the side until your shoulder and elbow are both at right angles. If you already feel a stretch, your pecs are super tight. You may already be spending too much of your day in this
pre-shortened position, causing ‘active insufficiency’ to take place. This will limit your strength and fat loss gains, while also increasing your risk of injury.

 

#5: Smith machine squats
smith machine squats

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Your hamstrings are basically off in this exercise, meaning that it is totally quad dominant.Simultaneously, it’s very hard to properly recruit your glutes when the weight is not directly loading your spine. Without glute support, you are weakening your core, ultimately increasing risk of injury and slowing fat loss. Since your hamstrings and glutes don’t really have to work here, you’re not squatting like you would in real life. Actually, here, it’s unsafe for the opposite reason, interestingly enough. Check this out…When you squat with your arms overhead, you tend to lean forward, or your knees come forward, or both. Controlling for this is the controlling inter-related segments so they can get stronger and more mobile together. These segments need to work together to prevent injury, so squats that are not on the smith machine tend to limit you to the correct weight selection, while these squats do not. Knees, Hips, Low Back:Knees – since this is so quad dominant, it’s only a matter of time until you start to have pain along the top or bottom of your knee cap. It’s just too much pull on that patellar tendon.Hips – You are shortening your hip flexors (bending your waist) while contracting your quads, you are teaching your hip flexor to be short. This means that it will be uncomfortable when you stand and feel tight.Low Back – constantly contracting your quads without your hamstrings builds tight hip flexors. This puts pressure on your pelvis to tip forward and makes you want to arch your back.

#6: Overhead tricep extensions with dumbbells
overhead tricep extension

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Overstretched proximal triceps in this position, causing increased tension on the triceps tendon by the elbow.Internal rotation, targeting the medial triceps head, can lead to shoulder impingement and more serious issues. This is another movement that never happens in daily life. When are
we overhead forcefully extending our elbow like this. It’s kind of silly, if you think about it.
You may be arching your back while doing this, which could cause a lot of strain and take your abs out of the picture, altogether. Bad idea! Shoulders, Elbows, Wrists, Low Back:Shoulders – This is what’s referred to as a fully wound up position, meaning that your shoulder capsule is compressed, and so is your labrum. Any slight accidental movement can cause a tear in either.Elbows & Wrists: This is more because of the amount of torque of the weight over head. So long as you maintain good alignment you should be ok, but it’s easy to tip your wrists.Low Back – this is from arching your back, which is very difficult to avoid unless you have a ton of thoracic extension (middle back flexibility)

# 7: High pulls
barbell high pulls

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Forward shoulder and capital extension (typical form with this exercise) leads to rotator cuff tendonitis, biceps tendonitis, upper trap pain, mid back tightness, and tight pecs.Tight pecs lead to overstretched lats and shoulder stabilizers, decreasing middle back and core support. When do we do this, outside of pumping up a tire?And even then… are we really pulling up this high?Now that you think about it, don’t you look kind of like a slinky or something when you do this?It’s pretty silly… Maximal internal rotation of the shoulder (elbows up, pulling high) with abduction (elbows out) is a recipe for disaster.This is especially true when done above 90 degrees of shoulder flexion or abduction (above parallel to the ground.)This can result in rotator cuff tendonitis, tears, and labral tears. Be careful! Shoulders – Forceful internal rotation causes impingement and tears, as you just learned. It’s no wonder that your shoulders may ache after you do this exercise.A good test to see if you’re getting ready to breakdown and cause injury is to lay on a tennis ball behind your shoulder blade and roll around. If its painful, you’ll need to avoid these and get rid of those restrictions.

Bonus terrible exercise:
External rotation with a dumbbell, standing
external rotation standing

Muscle Imbalances

Zero Functional Benefit

Winds Up Joint – Unsafe

Symptomatic Body Part(s):

Since this exercise is actually working brachioradialis against gravity (the dumbbell is weighing me down, against gravity, not side to side), it’s only adding to the muscle imbalances I may already be experiencing. Holding a dumbbell in my hands and moving it side to side is not placing tension on the external rotators of my shoulder, just my elbow flexors. This issue is not being resolved. The only weight being placed into the shoulder is the torque from your hand, which is holding the dumbbell, through your elbow, and up to your shoulder.So, all in all, it’s causing a very small amount of damage with no benefit. Elbow, Wrist, Shoulder:Elbow – this is basically just torque into your elbow and nothing else.Wrist – only if you avoid keeping a neutral (straight) wrist position and the weight stretches the ligaments a bit.Shoulder – sometimes people tip their shoulders forward. This exercise does nothing, though, so don’t do it.

Here’s a Pain Relief Strategy Should Any of These Exercises Hurt You:

Shoulder: Inflammation reduction is key. Make sure to ice by placing a wet paper towel on the painful area with a thin bag of ice (not an ice pack) to allow the ice to work deeply under your skin. The water on the wet paper towel acts like a conductor to increase the effect of the ice.

Secondly, you’ll want to get the restrictions out of your rotator cuff by rolling on a tennis ball. Place the tennis ball on the ground and lay with your shoulder blade against the tennis ball. Roll slowly until you find a sensitive spot and roll over it, back and forth, for about 2 minutes or until the sensitivity goes away. These are pressure receptors that tell you the tissue is there. The only way to get rid of them is by adding pressure to release the restricted muscle tissue and fascia.

Elbow: Follow the inflammation instructions above. Additionally, consider gentle movements in the pain-free range for your elbow. Many times, gentle glides of the elbow joint take away pain related to any structure that has ‘caught’ or become impinged, in the elbow joint.

Wrist/Hand: In addition to managing inflammation, since the wrist compartment is so small and has so many bones, it’s also important to manage wrist bone, or biomechanical alignment. The best way to work on this on your own is to gently resist hand movements in all directions with your opposite hand.

For example, you would resist extension by placing your left hand against your right fingers in a flexed wrist position. Then, you would push your right hand into your left, while resisting with your left and slowly allow your right hand to win as your fingers straighten and your wrist tips back.

Then, repeat in the other direction. This does a good job, when you alternate back and forth, in re-aligning the wrist, but be sure it’s not causing any pain before you go for it, ok?

Low Back: Posterior Pelvic Tilts – lay on your back with your knees bent. Gently squeeze your cheeks together as you flatten your back into the floor. You’ll feel your belly button move towards your rib cage. Hold 10 seconds and relax. Repeat 10x.

Hips: I prefer a tennis ball here to a foam roll. The goal is to gently rock back and forth on a tennis ball as you lay on it against the floor. Place the tennis ball directly on the sore spot of your hip flexor and move side to side.

Interestingly, many times it’s a restriction on the Femoral Triangle causing an increased pull in your hip flexors. This is on the inside of your thigh and will usually be sensitive. If so, gently rock back and forth on this section with a tennis ball instead. You may just find some incredible pain relief!

Hamstrings Cramping: Lay on your back with your opposite knee bent, foot flat on the ground. Gently extend your knee on the side that’s cramping as you bring your toes towards your head. This will put a gentle stretch on your sciatic nerve and cause it to relax. You can pump your ankle from the gentle stretch position and it should relax fairly quickly. Take your time and do some stretches after you get the cramp to go away.

Knees: Foam roll on quads. Make sure to pick 2 inches and concentrate on it for 2 minutes a day. This helps avoid too much inflammation, but make continuous progress.

As you can see, not all exercises were created equally. I strongly recommend that you analyze an exercise before just going for it. I realize that you’re working hard to get great results, improve your health, and create a higher quality of life for yourself.

It saddens me to see people trying so hard and going in the wrong direction. I hope you’ll lead them with us, from now on. It’s time to get some crazy results – are you ready?

I’d like to share a very special video presentation that I put together for you. In this presentation, you’ll learn how to maximize the effect of your exercise program for both pain relief and fat loss – it’s fascinating:

5 Tips To Choose The Right Exercise

Click Now to See Dr. Kareem’s Method – FREE!
(for a limited-time only)


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Comments

  1. sari staggs says

    Thank you. Very useful information. I especially liked the herbal tips.
    Remember to tell people that if they have high blood pressure, they should stay away from licorice. It could get them into trouble.

  2. John says

    This article gave me no information that I can use.
    It lists the “names” of exercises and tells what’s wrong with them. The names are not descriptive enough for me to even picture them or understand the postures or motions that they might entail.
    For someone who has never exercised in a gym (I get all my exercise from either sea kayaking or mountain biking) the article is completely opaque.
    For those who are familiar with this specialized jargon and are familiar enough with anatomy to know where the muscle groups mentioned even are, there is probably useful information here. Sadly, nothing for me.

  3. Louis Rigano says

    Interesting article. Do you publish a booklet illustrating correct exercises for the vrious regions of your body? Thank you.

  4. Joanne says

    This is an excellent article with great information. I work out on the machines at the gym on my own (when my back isn’t hurting) so I’m not really familiar with the specific names of the exercises. I’m going to Google them and perhaps I’ll be able to see a picture so I can recognize each one.

  5. Lizette says

    I have to agree with John – I do know what some of these exercises are but am not sure about others and some I plain don’t know – would be nice to have a picture and also a “do this instead” suggestion. Some of the ones listed I know I used to do when a member of a gym – anymore it’s very difficult to know WHAT to do at all – all complicated – so much so that I’ve pretty much given up and only do normal things that one does every day anyway since I’ve had too many various types of pain that seem to pop up out of nowhere. At 61 the wrong thing can have some long term consequences!

  6. barr says

    John [commet #2] said it all. How can you stop doing something you don’t understand. Please insert line drawings of the exercises to put a picture in our heads of what you are talking about.

  7. Allan Anderson says

    Hi Jesse,
    Just a little late with all the advice as I am awaing a phone call to get myself into the hospital ready for my hip replacement,which has happened since I returned from taking mym son to India for Embryonic Stem cell treatment ,which wasn’t as successful as we may have hoped.any way I have had a lot of positive feed back from friends who have had it or know someone who has.

    I will be happy to geton with it .;
    Redards Allan

  8. walter says

    Great article, but like Lizette says, it would be a great benefit to have a “do this instead” suggestion. I’m 59 and sometimes my left shoulder hurts like crazy. I have to favor it in all my exercises and the fact that I’ve been doing ‘high pulls’ may have something to do with it.I’ll definately be eliminating that from now on. Thanks

  9. jomarie di iorio says

    could you send me name/s of master trainers in manhattan, ny?
    one/those who understand scoliosis and height decrease(perhaps, disc compression cause)?
    thanks very much.
    jm

  10. Edwin says

    All but one of these exercises are in my workout. Please suggest alternatives, especially for legs.

  11. Rashad says

    Great stuff! How do I get more information on your master trainer/ master physical therapist certification?

  12. Victor Lioy says

    John,

    Very interesting information, however, I can understand that for someone not familiar with gym language it can be hard to understand.

    I can understand what you are saying, however, it would have been nice to explain a safer replacement exercise, (example, a replacement for a leg extension or a preacher curl). I personally find a preacher easier on the back than a standing curl. Everyone has to find their own limitation. One size does not fit all.

    Thank You,

    Victor

  13. Jane says

    Thank you so much for sharing the hip flexor tennis ball massage it has really helped and I’ll email to a friend with a similar problem.

    Photos of the exercises would help please.

    I only do Pilates with an instructor so should be fine :)

  14. Esther says

    This article is quite limited in usefulness.

    It doesn’t tell you what would be a better replacement exercise. For example: don’t do leg press; do squats instead.

    Also it should describe the exercise motion so that if you don’t recognise the name you know what they mean.

    Don’t do high pulls. What is a high pull. I’m an experienced gym user and don’t know what exercise you’re referring to here.

  15. Margot says

    I had no problem understanding the leg press story, since the picture was included. But as a non-native speaker of English and not seeing the pictures with the other exercises I had no clue what you were talking about. Since February I have against adamant doctor’s and therapist’s advice restarted training in the gym. I wish I had done that earlier. The improvement has been astounding, more than I could have ever hoped for!! I am also doing several kind of leg presses and all I can say is that it only feels very good to me. I have sent this article to my personal trainer. I hope to hear Monday what he thinks about it.

  16. Laurie says

    I am familiar with all but 3 of the harmful exercises you mentioned. Could you please show a picture or describe the exercise for the following 3:
    Bicep preacher curl
    High pull
    External rotation with dumb bell standing.
    Many thanks.

  17. Cristina says

    Thank you for the information.
    I agree with some of the responses above, illustrations of the exercises, do and dont’s would be more helpful.
    Do you have contact numbers and names of people who specialize in muscle balance therapy like you in different areas? San Francisco, Bay area, California for example. I would like to have a live person assesses my muscle imbalances and advice to rebalance. I’ve been looking around and I don’t see anyone. Under what title are these especialist? I’ve been to an orthopeadic and I couldn’t belive she wouldnt’t look at any kind of imbalance, leg lenght comparison, feets.

    Thank you

  18. paul says

    I agree with John. What do these forbidden exercises look like or how are they performed? Might as well be in Chinese.
    Paul

  19. Esther says

    I also need to add that the article headline is badly written. “The most dangerous exercises to never do”, actually suggests that you SHOULD be doing these exercises. i.e. It’s dangerous not to do them.

    So you’ve inadvertently conveyed the wrong message in the headline.

  20. says

    Thanks for all the great feedback… we will add some pictures to the article so you’ll be know which exercise is which more easily…

    Also, if you want to learn about safer alternatives, I recommend you learn more about our “Lose the Back Pain” program as well as Dr. K’s programs.

    Jesse

  21. SarasotaLady says

    Great article in concept– but in order to be useful, you need to describe replacement exercises to address imbalances and be less strain on back, etc. Please do a follow-up article.

    Regarding comments– If you’ve never exercised in a gym– why are you commenting on this article, since almost all of the exercises involve gym equipment?

    For those unfamiliar with the exercises– just google the name and you’ll see many videos and pictures– no need to clutter up this article.

    Please do follow-up.,

  22. Ruben Delgado says

    I am A Physical Therapist Assistant and I am interested in learning more about the “Master Physical Therapist Certification” that was mentioned.

    I too have back pain and tightness.

  23. Dot Bardarson says

    Although I go to the gym rgularly, I could only identify a couple of the exercises. Pictures please!

  24. David says

    Thanks for the informative article with warnings about harmful exercises. I’m 73 and have been using Nautilus and Life Fitness machines and free weights for years. I’ve also read books and magazines on fitness and weight-bearing exercises, none of which gave similar advice to avoid some common routines.

    At the risk of appearing pedantic, I want to bring to your attention that the word for recline is lie, not lay. Lay is the present-tense word for place, and the past tense for lie. Example: Please lie on the floor. He lay on the floor for an hour.

    I’ve used your idea of rolling on a tennis ball to ease trigger points, and it works great.

    Thanks, Jesse, for all your informative and helpful ideas.

  25. Barb Guillory says

    I agree about needing to see the pics of the machines. I go to Curves, and only do the machines that don’t hurt my neck or shoulders while I do them. I have degenerating discs in my mid to lower neck, wake up with pain, even when sleeping with a curvical roll.Go to PT twice a week, for traction and strectching, as well as strenghening. Am also diabetic, so I know it can take time for me to improve. Heal and Soothe, 6 pills a day has not helped. Can you suggest any other exercises?

  26. Ms.M says

    Audio too low on presentation. I cranked my volume all the way up and could only hear about 10% of what was said.

  27. Hein says

    Why are people complaining that they can’t use information and that they don’t understand the postures and motions. I don’t go to a gym, but it seems pretty plain to see from the pictures what motions are entailed. And if you have never done the exercises, why complain about that? You don’t even have to stop doing them in that case!

    And to those that gripe about no alternatives given, have you looked at the end of the article?

    5 Tips To Choose The Right Exercise
    Click Now to See Dr. Kareem’s Method — FREE!
    (for a limited-time only)

    Get a life, it’s free!

  28. Ron says

    I appreciate this information very much. Unfortunately, these exercises are what we pay good money for in gym’s. I have personally experienced pain and or injury from many of the exercises you cite as wrong.
    Thanks alot for your advice.

  29. noah says

    Thanks so much for this article. I have recently been experiencing pain in my left knee and was sure it was due to a slight hyper-extension… Stupidly, I began to engage in leg extensions as I thought strengthening my quad would do the trick. Shockingly, the pain did not go away, and even seemed to get a bit worse!

    After reading this article I have pretty much abandoned machines and followed your advice in addition to some exercises from Anthony Kirk while doing the hamstring workout in “Lose The Back Pain” in addition to leg raises on a medicine ball… Needless to say, the next day the pain in my knee had subsided greatly!

    Jesse and Steve’s advice along with the advice of Esther Gokhale had been a godsend for me. These two programs together work like a juggernaut to eradicate back/muscle pain for good.

  30. Dr. Najeebullah Mahboob says

    Your efforts and publications are highly appreciable.

    Thank you & God Bless you

  31. Greg says

    Couldn’t the claim of Zero Functional Benefit be levelled at almost every exercise used in Bodybuilding with weights ?
    The exercises are intended to shape body and muscle, not duplicate daily tasks.
    I think a Sumo style High Pull is one of the more functional exercises.
    Lifting something efficiently from the ground uses all thye major muscle groups in a natural way. Saying we don’t lift things that high may be true, but seems a bit picky.. it’s merely increasing the range of an otherwise normal movement to involve the shoulders and traps more.

  32. David says

    Some of you folks crack me up! If you don’t know the names of these basic exercises, don’t worry about it . . . . They are obviously not part of your exercise routine.

    I thought it was great information, and had no problem viewing the pictures.

  33. Admin says

    Hi Renee,

    Thank you for your question.

    To target the upper hamstring any movement that puts the lower leg into a curling motion such as:-

    1. Kicking your Butt with your heels
    2. Leg curls, with cuff wt or bands or exercise ball
    3. Walking up hills, the greater the incline the more hamstring

    Thank you

  34. Jon says

    Hey, the link for the five tips to pick the right exercise didn’t work for me for some reason. So just wondering if you could please e-mail me the article.

    Thanks for the great article,
    Jon

  35. Vin says

    There are pictures of each machine and exercise so I don’t know what type of internet service some people must have to not see the images? If you don’t know the exercises (or the muscle groups) then it’s unlikely you need to know about them. Unfortunately I’ve done them all at various times so that’s timely information and very much appreciated. The idea of muscle imbalance makes a lot of sense and explains some of the injuries I’ve had over time. Thanks

  36. tam says

    I’m with you vin i have no trouble seeing the pics of the exercises and i have either seen these exercises or done some of these exercises so im familiar with all of them and the info is very useful and appreciated

  37. Hildy Varney says

    Thanks , Jesse , such good/helpful advice . would you publish a little booklet (printfriendly) ; i bought your 7 day back pain cure , the above is not included .
    Thank you again.
    Best wishes to you and your family
    Hildy

  38. David Bolding says

    More specific information on stretches that wont aggravate or worsen lower back pain due to nerve damage, 3 tears in three discs, 5 bulging discs and muslce stiffness?

  39. Ann says

    I go to Curves and there are 5 out of 7 machines that are similar to these exercises. Does it make a difference that they use hydraulics?

  40. Richard Tichenor says

    Thanks for publicizing the problems with these all too common machine exercises. I was surprised that the back extension machine exercise was not also included. Any comments on that exercise and equipment?

  41. Marjie says

    Good article but…the types of exercises that should be performed depend entirely on the individual. We are all different with regard to strength balances (an ex: although not in the majority, some people actually have stronger hams than quads, for these people, performing exercises that force them to use quads correctly is a good thing, not a bad thing), we all have varying fitness levels, movement patterns, goals and objectives, etc, etc, etc.
    Just as there are no ‘best’ exercises that work for everyone and should be done to the exclusion of all others, the reverse is also true with regard to ‘forbidden’ exercises. The bottom line? Know your personal strengths and weaknesses, assess range of motion, etc, etc…. BEFORE deciding which exercises will work to your advantage and which are unsafe. Check with a professional if unsure. You can have a great exercise but poor FORM and walk away blaming the exercise rather than realizing technique was terrible.

  42. jackie says

    While it’s great that you help us realize the exercises that aren’t beneficial to us I think you should write it in layman’s terms. Also pictures or diagrams are worth a thousand words. Found it hard to figure out!

  43. Drew Baye says

    With the exception of the high pull and standing external rotation, the other exercises are completely safe and “functional” when performed correctly.

  44. m0shbear says

    Just avoid all the machines. Olympic weights and a squat rack is enough (except for bench press). Not only is it natural range of motion, but you can drop the weights if you feel unsure. I use them for deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, bicep curls, pendlay rows, and barbell shrugs all the time.

  45. Lewis says

    Hi,
    You tell us about the seven exercises not to do, but how about giving us a couple that you recommend.
    Mainly for replacing leg press, extensions and leg curls.
    I know everyone is different, then how about a few per exercise.
    Thanks

  46. Shaimaa says

    Hi Jesse,

    your article is so good in the academic point of view.
    However to apply that on myself i can`t unfortunately.
    I felt it vague without mentioning any alternatives
    So,i`m waiting for your new figuring for this article.
    Thanks

  47. Geri says

    Hi Jesse,

    You’re articles are always great at telling us what not to do but I’ve yet to receive the helpful side of any article I’ve read. It seems the only way to get the information is to pay for it. The problem I have with that method is that I have no idea what I’m paying for. Have you ever considered providing some tips for free?

  48. richard mitchel says

    hi this is to say thanks for the info .of 7 ways not to exercise. as i used to do some of them. at a health club etc .and i ended up with a ingroinal hernia. and had surgery to fix it 3 years ago.it was a hard lesson to learn.as i am a senior citizen.in good health.at 115. lbs.

  49. Greg Williamsky DC,DO,Dip.Fitness says

    Hello Kareem,I thought your article heading was too harsh and maybe technically incorrect.I would have labelled these as “higher risk exercises” for some individuals. Each person should be individually and professionally assessed.I have been doing leg extension/leg curls on & off for years(and sometimes Smith machine squats & leg presses) and have never had any problems at all. While squats/deadlifts are superior exercises,they are not for everyone.I have advanced hip arthrosis which doesn’t allow me to do weight-bearing ilio-femoral exercises.With proper instruction and gradual progressive overload,these 4 lower limb exercises can be done with relative safety.I do not agree with you saying the hamstrings are not co-activated with quads in the leg press.There is simultaneous hip/knee extension occuring which recruits the glut.max and hamstrings.It depends also if your objective is health-related strength gains or performance-related.My first choice would always be compound/multi-joint/closed chain exercises and then maybe isolation/open chain exercises,with a preference to ones which help ADL’s(Activities of Daily Living)if the former are not doable,as long as the latter are correctly executed.

  50. Heather says

    Yikes, I’ve been doing 4 of those seven exercises for years – and yes have been feeling knee and lower pack pain in the past year or two – put it down to aging. Will refer to your book for exercises to replace these.

  51. Bennett says

    Maybe I missed something, but do you have exercises that you would suggest in lieu of these dangerous ones you have pointed out?

  52. Justin says

    these exercises formed the core training regime of most bodybuilding/ strength training books and manuals when i was training some twenty years ago, this is all we did and were taught. Scary to think they are now the most dangerous, we had great results from doing them while following strict diet and supplement plan

  53. Gary Jones says

    I second the emails of SarasotaLady, John, Walter and others. It’s good to know what’s bad, tell us what you think would be good exerzises.

  54. mervyn says

    I do a workout at home with a flexibar(not superaerobic)and I don’t beleive one can injure themselves.Have you heard of the same? If so just how good Is this?

  55. Steve says

    Mervyn,

    Anytime – Anyone, starts or even engages in any type of physical activity, there is a chance to hurt ones self, the trick is to make sure you start slow and understand that it takes your body time to get stronger and to become more tolerant of the activity you are engaged in, before you start to increase the Intensity frequency and Duration of the activity…

    So do not feel like the flexibar is the only type of exercise you can do because you were told and now believe that you can not get hurt doing it and exclude all other activities, I would challenge you to educate you self on other sport or activities that you have an interest in and engage your self, step out and find those things you love to do and do them with a love for doing them…

    Steve

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