From professional athletes to amatuer gym goers, thousands of people find themselves injured each year when exercising. To maximize your workout both safely and effectively, I want to debunk some of the myths surrounding common, yet injury-prone practices, and discuss the five exercises you should avoid.
Incorrect form when lifting weights is one of the top contributors to sports-related injuries. To prevent pulled muscles and other ailments, it is important to take age and fitness level into account as well as any neck, back or spinal issues you may have.
Below are five exercises to avoid as well as alternative methods for a safer workout:
1. Box Jumps: A compound movement that works the musculature of the hip and knee joints, this method also places excessive pressure on the Achilles Tendon, which can lead to a rupture or tear. Missing the box with an uncoordinated misstep can result in a twisted ankle or scraped shins while the repeated jumps on a hard surface can cause knee pain.
• Alternative: The leg press works these same muscle groups but can create stronger muscles without the negative impact of box jumps. The leg press targets the muscles around these joints as well, and produces more explosive and higher jumps, often the reason many turn to box jumps in the first place.
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2. Walking Lunges: Improper form is the main problem with walking lunges, as the majority of people perform them incorrectly. Bad form leads to increased stress on the knee and places it in a vulnerable position. Putting excessive force on structural components of the knee such as the Patella Tendon and the Meniscus can lead to injury.
• Alternative: Doing stationary lunges (and having a spotter) will keep the knee in the proper position and allow you to maintain proper form while reaping all the benefits of lunges.
3. Dumbbell Chest Fly: Without a spotter or when using heavier weights, dumbbells can be difficult to control properly, which can potentially lead to catastrophic muscle tears. Furthermore, most individuals use a shortened range of motion (ROM) for chest flys, which misses the mark for the most effective portion of the exercise.
• Alternative: The chest fly machine or cables can be much more effective and safe, as these alternatives place you in the proper positioning to utilize a full ROM without leaving your muscles and joints vulnerable to free weight errors.
4. BOSU/ Stability Balls: The extremely unstable platform these balls provide can lead to a myriad of injuries. They put you in a vulnerable state while performing movements that often times lead to injury when in completely stable environments. Contrary to popular belief, doing exercises on these balls has no functional purpose outside of training the body to better perform these exercises while on a stability ball.
• Alternative: Perform the exercises in a stable environment rather than on the ball. You will better target the primary muscles (i.e. chest for chest press) while not leaving your joints, muscles and tendons susceptible to injury. Then, exercise your core muscles and abdominals separately. Working your chest with a chest press movement on a stability ball is a poor attempt at a two-for-one type of deal. While killing two birds with one stone sounds good in theory, if it leads to injury you are worse off than when you started.
5. Upright Rows: This exercise puts the rotator cuff muscles in an extremely pinched space (referred to as the sub-acromial space). In many individuals the Acromion Muscle is hooked or slightly hooked, which leads to increased impingement.
• Alternative: To work your trapezoids in a similar method, use the shrug and pull technique. This allows you to target the same muscles while moving the joint in a much more natural way, thus decreasing the chance of injury.
Dan Geraci is a Head Strength Coach at Hard Pressed, Chicago’s premier strength training facility with a focus on full-body strength training. For more information, visit http://hardpressed.me/ or like them on Facebook at “Hard Pressed High Intensity Workouts.”