Even the classic exercises that you thought were “safe” may be slowly damaging your joints–whether you can feel it or not.
You don’t have to completely blow out your knee to damage it. In fact, it’s almost too easy to injure your joints, back and neck during exercise without knowing it.
That’s why today I’m sharing five top dangerous exercises… but make sure you read thoroughly, because some exercises have alternatives or posture tips that will allow you to continue some of these classic and beneficial exercises without the danger.
The Top 5 Most Dangerous Exercises
1. “Abs” and Sit Ups
Crunches and sit-ups can put unnecessary stress on your lower back and neck–and may actually be counter-productive for strength.
The worst forms of ab work are when someone sits on your feet or when your legs lay flat on the floor. These exercises strain your lower back and actually target your hip flexors and quadriceps, not your abdominal muscles.
You should focus on strengthening your complete core – which includes your glutes, hip flexors, abs and obliques, lower back, spinal muscles, hip adductors, and pelvic floor for women. Excellent core strengthening workouts include yoga, Pilates and swimming – all of which are low impact and easy on your joints and neck.
2. Lat Pull Downs
Lat pull downs behind your neck work against your natural range of motion. They put stress on your shoulders, cervical spine and can even tear rotator cuffs. Not to mention the danger of slamming the lat bar into the back of your neck.
You can still perform lat pull downs by working in a natural range of motion. Simply lean slightly back and bring the bar to your chest instead of behind your neck. This protects your cervical spine and rotator cuffs while giving you the latissimus workout you’re after.
3. Bench Press
When bench pressing, you not only put your shoulders, wrists and back at risk – you may also be risking your life if the bar falls on your neck or chest.
Aussie osteopath Dr. Andrew Lemon says that keeping your forearms perpendicular to the floor and your elbows from flaring will help reduce injury. “Keep your chest up by tightening the shoulder blades,” he says. “This will increase the space in the shoulder joints reducing the possibility of repetitive friction injuries.”
Even though you should always have a spotter with this exercise, a spotter does not guarantee a risk-free workout. University of Southern California football player Stafon Johnson found this out the hard way in 2009 when a bar fell on his throat, crushing his larynx and neck.
Thankfully, there are several risk-free ways to strengthen the chest, including swimming, push-ups, a pectoral machine, and doing a bench press with bands or dumbbells instead of a weighted bar.
4. Squats and Jumping Squats
Your knees and lower back are at risk in this effective – but risky – exercise. However, squats can be highly effective when performed properly. The key is to keep your heels firmly on the ground and never let your knees pass a 90 degree angle. This posture will help prevent your back from rounding, which can lead to lower back strain.
Jumping squats are especially hard on the knees if your body isn’t accustomed to regular squats or plyometric exercises. Work your way up to this explosive exercise by starting with regular squats then adding momentum slowly.
5. Upright Rows
Upright rows are done by raising your elbows above your ears while holding weights. “Pulling weights up under the chin is a big no-no,” says fitness trainer and podiatrist Jodai Saremi. “When people [do that], they are going to compress the nerves in the shoulder area, impinging the shoulder.”
To get the same benefits of this popular exercise, try the exercise sitting down, and leaning forward to 90 degrees at the hip. This will relieve tension and allow the shoulders to move more naturally.
Remember, when you’re working out the cardinal rule is if it hurts, stop. Your body is telling you that something is wrong – either you’re attempting too much weight, you’re out of alignment, or your form is off.
Use This Post-Workout Routine to Improve Workout Results
Whether you attempt any of these potentially dangerous exercises or stick completely to safe ones, here’s an easy three-part post-workout routine that will help you recover quickly and improve your workout results.
Working your muscles to fatigue is a good way to break them down to build back larger than ever. But they won’t build overnight. Give the muscles you worked out at least 48-72 hours to fully recover.
In order to build muscle, you need enough of the building blocks your body requires to build it. Eat more protein – and, contrary to popular opinion, eat more fat, too. Give your body the immediate nutrition it needs within an hour of workout with a 60/40 (carb / protein) snack.
A regular diet with 30% or so of calories coming from healthy fats help you maintain critical testosterone levels needed for muscle development while minimizing post-workout muscle breakdown.
Besides testosterone, maintaining adequate levels of human growth hormone are also important for helping your body repair post-workout muscle tears and build new muscle.
Proteolytic enzymes serve a key post-workout role: wrapping up the muscle repair process.
Every workout, your muscles break down with microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. During the repair process, your body sends fibrin (scar tissue) to repair the tears.
Once the healing process has completed, your body sends proteolytic enzymes to eat up excess fibrin and scar tissue to restore mobility and relieve related inflammation pain. The problem is by your late 20s the levels of these crucial enzymes in your body plummets.
A natural proteolytic enzyme supplement taken at least a half hour before or an hour after a meal can give your body the boost it needs to finish the repair process and relieve post-workout pain quickly.
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Lemon A. Top 3 Most Dangerous Exercises: The Bench Press. The Sports & Spinal Group.
Greer J. Scary Injury for USC Football Player. US News & Education: The Paper Trail. 2009 Sep 29.
Sarnataro B. 9 Least Effective Exercises. WebMD: Fitness and Exercise.