You may or may not know it, but the personal training industry was first popularized because of bodybuilding. The first “trainers” were those guys and gals that looked the best and started getting asked for help.
The only problem was that these trainers only had their own knowledge and experience to go off of, and all of that knowledge was through a bodybuilding lens.
And while a lot of the most popular exercises of the past were great for looking good, many of them do not have much purpose in today's world.
So, unless you are a bodybuilder and prioritize looks over function, please, stop doing these exercises:
1) Sit Ups
The sit up and crunch have been a staple of the fitness world forever and even today it is still the most commonly used exercise, and yet it has almost no purpose.
From an abs perspective, you would be better off changing what you eat. From a strength perspective, you would be better off with plank variations. And from a longevity perspective, doing tons of sit ups is hard on the back.
2) Inner/outer thigh machine
We have all seen these, and have probably used them a few (or more) times, but again, there is no practical purpose to get on these machines.
Your inner and outer thighs do have an important job though: stabilizing the knee.
The problem with these machines is that they are not helping with stabilization. They are strengthening your inner and outer thighs in ways that you do not use in your day-to-day life.
Instead, train your inner and outer thighs by doing some of the single leg movements I talked about above. Single leg squats or deadlifts are some of the best exercises you can do to not only train your inner and outer thighs, they train your whole leg, your hips, and your core at the same time!
3) Pull downs (behind the head)
If you are going to do pull downs, just make sure to keep the bar in front of your face. There is no advantage to pulling behind your head and it can be terrible for your neck.
Just look at the position the neck has to get into in the image above. When you do this, you are actually reinforcing poor posture, and you are putting undue stress on the disks in the neck.
Your neck position should be neutral (straight up and down) in almost all exercises because you want to reinforce good posture and keep your neck safe.
4) Triceps kick-backs
I have no problem with triceps work as I find that it can help to boost arm strength in the push up, but kick-backs are not the way to go.
First, you are in a very weak position and 10/10 people use momentum to lift the weight.
Second, because it is TOO isolated. The triceps is meant to work in conjunction with the shoulder, so unless the shoulder is involved in some way, the work will not transfer.
So if you want to work your triceps, try narrow push ups or cable chops and you will get much more out of your workouts.
5) Back squats
This one may be the most controversial because a lot of people have fallen in love with the back squat, but again, if function is your most valued goal of fitness, then these just do not serve a purpose.
Most people have one side that is stronger than the other, so by doing heavy back squats, you are just reinforcing that compensation.
On top of this, back squats put a lot of strain on the low back if you do not have proper mobility…and most people do not have the hip and back mobility to get into the right squat position. The good news is that you can do all kinds of other squats (lateral squats, single leg squats) and other types of leg exercises (lunges, reverse lunges, step ups) and still get a killer workout while also fixing compensations.
6) Side crunches
Just as the sit-up is out of date, so is the side crunch, but this can be worse in some ways because of the strain it puts on the spine. Every time you crunch to the side, you are adding stress to your disks in a motion that is unusual.
And while I fully promote moving your spine through a full range of motion on a daily basis, it is not beneficial to add strain during the movement.
If you want to work your obliques, go with cable pushouts or side planks instead.
I can go either way on this one, but if your time is limited, skip the curls. The only reason to do a curl is if you really want to get bigger arms. If that is your main goal, go for it.
But in all reality, if you do a lot of back exercises, you will work your arms too and you will be much more efficient in the gym.
8) Hamstring curls
The hamstring is not meant to be used in isolation, and actually has a very important role in the body that is the exact opposite of what the hamstring curl trains for. Your hamstrings’ #1 job is to slow down and control knee extension.
In other words, it helps to stop your knee from extending too fast (because that would lead to injury). So, while you do need strength there, curls are not the way to do it.
Instead, focus on deadlifts and lunges as your way to improve hamstring strength.
9) Calf raises
The calf raise is a perfect example of the bodybuilder mentality brought to life. Calf raises are great for making your calves big, but is it really going to improve your life to have bigger calves?
For most people, it makes more sense to skip these and spend time elsewhere in the gym. And if you really want to do things that help the calves, focus on jumping type exercises (box jumps, ice skaters, etc).
10) BOSU Ball squats
I saved this one for last because, while it did not come out of the bodybuilding world of fitness, it needs to stop nonetheless. And not just BOSU squats, but all lower body instability training.
BOSU Balls and stability balls are great for upper body and core work, but they are the wrong answer for lower body work.
Most people use them because they want to improve balance, but if you need to balance, practice balancing on the surface you need to balance on...the ground.
I have seen way too many people who train on unstable surfaces that cannot even stand on one leg when the floor is NOT moving.
If you need to train balance, start on the floor. If you are balanced on the floor, then you can go to unstable surface training if you want.
While there are plenty of other exercises that you should avoid, I brought these up because I see them a lot.
If one of these has been a staple in your current routine, I would just encourage you to think about your goals and see if it aligns. Some of these should be stopped because they are not safe, but others are just inefficient.
When it comes to how we develop programs at Mint, we are always looking for the most effective way to train so that you don’t have to spend hours at the gym every day.
In addition, training needs to be based on function. I want you to be able to live your life to the fullest without anything holding you back. To do this, you need a training program that is designed to help you function at your best.
The good news: if you train for function and eat for looks, you can move, look, and feel great!
It’s when you train for looks and eat for fun that you get into trouble.
Now that you know what NOT to do, you might be wondering what you should be doing to get the results you want. That is where we can help.
Right now, registration is open for our 28-Day Kickstart Program where you will get the exact exercises you need to start feeling better while having a coach to show you how to do them correctly.
But that’s not all.
In this program you will get:
- Full fitness and goals assessment
- Personalized fitness coaching to teach you the exact exercises you need to safely and effectively move better and build stamina
- A simple meal plan to help you decrease inflammation
- 1-on-1 success coaching to help guide you as you work to change your diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits
This program is designed to help you look, move, and feel better, so click here to learn more and take back control of your health and fitness today!
Mint Condition Fitness empowers people to take control of their fitness and fully enjoy the life they have built.