4 Exercises That Really Suck

I never realized how tiring traveling can be. I think the one thing I dislike most about traveling is that my routine gets messed up. I’m a routine kind of guy, so when that gets out of place, I don’t feel as productive. Keeping up with my training becomes a bit more challenging and staying on point with my nutrition just goes down the drain.

With that being said, it’s good to be back!


If you were to tell me seven years ago that in seven years I’d be running my own fitness business and networking with some of the top minds of the fitness industry, I’d be lost for words. I was in Anaheim this past weekend and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great trainers and coaches. Best part was that I was able to catch up with my buddy Josh Landis, and I got to meet up with Dean Somerset and Tony Gentilcore again for their awesome workshop.


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So…today’s post is all about exercises that really suck.

With regards to exercise selection, there’s obviously nothing wrong with varying your workouts or trying to isolate specific muscle groups.  For instance, I love to lift heavy ass weights just as much as the next person, but if it means wrecking myself in the process — it’s not worth it.  The same rule applies to exercise selection. If the movement you’re doing hurts, then don’t do it. You have to avoid what hurts.

What kind of a training effect would I get if I was doing high volume sit ups everyday or overhead pressing a barbell twice a week?  I don’t know about you, but my lower back and shoulders would be giving me the finger.

At the end of the day, the goal for every training session should be to maximize muscle fiber recruitment with minimal risk.  In other words, the rewards should far outweigh the risk for injury.

With that in mind, here are four exercises that really suck.

1. Sit Ups

We all know that having a strong core is important for developing overall strength, but that doesn’t mean doing a thousand sit ups like Rocky. Sit ups will wreak havoc on your discs. Imagine taking a wire coat hanger and bending it back and forth over and over.  Eventually the metal will break.   The same thing happens to your spine.  Dr. Stuart McGill notes that traditional sit-ups imposes huge loads of compressive forces on the spine, so repeatedly bending your spine will result in disc bulges.  You might get a nice 6-pack, but you’ll probably have some lower back pain to go along with that.

Do this instead: Stir the Pot

This has to be my favorite core exercise. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to remain stable through the hips and lower back.

2. Upright Rows

I remember the first time I started performing this exercise.  I felt like a boss!  I mean come on, everybody else does it.  Arnold did it in the 70’s, and athletes all over the world do it as well.  Well let me tell you, nothing screams at your shoulders more than this exercise. I can tell you that most people will experience some type of shoulder discomfort if they were to implement this exercise in their program.

From a structural standpoint,  not all bodies are created equal.  Individuals with a type I acromion are the lucky ones who can pretty much upright row for days because they have a lot of space to work with.  Those with a type II and III acromion have a high impingement rate due to minimal space, so to put this simply — for most people performing the upright row is the equivalent of repeatedly banging your head against the wall.


Photo Credit: tnation.com

Do this instead: Banded Face Pulls

In addition to working the shoulders, you work on building the entire musculature of the upper back with banded face pulls. Keep the shoulders low and chest high.

3. Barbell Overhead Press

If you can’t get your arms up overhead without dropping your head forward and excessively arching your lower back, then there is no reason for you to be adding load.  Loading a dysfunction creates more dysfunction, which will eventually lead to pain. So if your trainer or coach has you overhead pressing a barbell on day one without a proper assessment, here’s a tip: RUN!

From my own experience and training people from all walks of life, the overhead press doesn’t bode well for most people. For most general population folks, this movement might never be an option simply because the cost of doing business is too high — the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Don’t get me wrong, the overhead press is a fantastic exercise, but you have to earn the right to do it.

Do this instead: Landmine Press

I’ve grown quite fond of this variation because it’s a user-friendly exercise that can work the overhead pressing motion without compromising shoulder health and integrity.

4. Forward Lunges

Forward lunges are one of the most common exercises you will see almost everybody doing in the gym or outdoors.  It’s an exercise that I use to do a lot in the past, but I’ve found that all it really does is create a lot of anterior knee pain.

As Dr. John Rusin stated, “The forward lunge focuses on a hard eccentric quad contraction on the step leg to stabilize the foot and ankle, while still staying upright at the hip and trunk.” This is where most of the shear forces in the knee occur.

Do this instead: Reverse Lunges

From a coaching standpoint, I’ve found that reverse lunges are much easier to teach and are far more effective in terms of working the quads and glutes without the shear forces that it’s counterpart induces.

To put everything into perspective, your training should stimulate your body, not annihilate it.  You have to accommodate the activity to the structure. Peace!

Oh and one more thing… DON’T EVER DO THIS!

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