Exercises are like music; there are a million options to choose from, but not all of them are good. I’ve put together a list of some of the most common exercises found in peoples’ fitness programs that are inefficient, and often times, not safe. Are you performing one of these 9 potentially unsafe exercises? Here’s what to do instead.

Side Bends

This ever-popular exercise is probably the most common one seen on the gym floor. The person takes dumbbells in each hand in a standing position, and then they bend from one side to the other.

The thought behind this exercise is that it will work your obliques, (the muscles on the side of your stomach). However, your core is designed to resist movement, not create it. Instead, try something like a cable wood chop (both upwards and downwards).

Wrist Curls

Grip strength is something that can either make or break someone’s lift. Oftentimes, failure to complete a lift at a certain weight isn’t because the person isn’t strong enough, but rather they do not have the grip strength to be able to hold the weight properly.

Therefore, people sometimes think that that they will be able to increase their wrist strength by doing wrist curls – but it is not a functional movement for lifting. This is because, as in most cases, the wrist should be in a locked position. Instead, invest in some Fat Grips and try doing your normal exercises such as bench press or rows and see what a difference it makes without breaking away from proper form in the wrist.

Hip Abduction/Adduction Machine

These are the machines where you typically see a lot of women using them to “tone” their legs. Because of the design for these machines, they isolate very small assistance muscles in the legs.

While this might be great for something such as trying to work on muscle imbalances, it is a very inefficient approach. Instead, to work the abductors and increase exercise efficiency, try doing squats with a mini resistance band right above or below the knees. To work the inner thigh more, try doing side lunges or sumo squats.

Inverted Pull-Ups

This is an exercise that makes me cringe every time I see it in the gym. Many times, the person practicing the move’s thought would be to work the traps (upper back muscles), but in a different way of doing so. However, all the person is really doing is an upside down body weight shrug. Instead, take the safer alternative and just do shrugs while standing one the ground or really isolate the traps by sitting down facing an incline bench and doing dumbbell shrugs.

Related: weight training vs cardio – do you know which one achieves greater fat loss?

Lat Pull Downs Behind the Head

This is something people do to work the lats (muscles that span the width of their back). By pulling the bar behind your neck, you cause excessive flexion of the cervical spine in your neck and can actually do damage because of it. It also provides no more benefit than pulling the bar down in front to chin level. Instead, try doing pull-ups (assisted if needed) or dumbbell pullovers.

Dumbbell Shoulder Internal/External Rotations

This is an exercise I see many people doing, who are probably trying to do some rotator cuff work. However, because of the way in which gravity pulls on the weight, the exercise doesn’t actually work the way it is intended to work. Instead, try doing it with a resistance band or cable. Another alternative exercise would be to do external rotations while lying on your side.

Rotary Torso Machine

This exercise is often performed by people who want to work their obliques. This is a bad exercise for your back because of how it is designed. It causes twisting of the lumbar spine (which shouldn’t twist). Instead, try side planks.

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Crunch Machines

People who use these machines typically do not activate their core correctly, and therefore use the momentum of the machine to do the work for them. Because of this, using the crunch machine can actually be a dangerous exercise. Instead, try doing the ab roller.

Upright Rows   

This exercise is popular because it is used to target the shoulders and traps. However, the way in which this exercise is executed can actually impinge the shoulder and cause shoulder pain. Instead, work try working the traps and the shoulders by doing over-the-head rack carries with dumbbells.

This post was written by FFC Union Station Personal Trainer Tyler Sutphen.

FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen

About Tyler

Tyler Sutphen is a master trainer at FFC Union Station. Want to contact Tyler to set up a complimentary consultation? You can email him directly at tsutphen@ffc.com! You can also follow along with him on his Facebook page here to receive a weekly fitness update along with great tips, tricks and discussion.

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