6 Exercises Every Gym Goer Should Avoid

The next time you’re in the gym, have a look around, you’ll see plenty of people working out, some harder than others, and plenty of those people will have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Ask most people WHY they’re doing a particular exercise and they’ll have no idea!

Muscular Man Exercising

They may get the general body area correct but often they’ll have no clue if they’re doing the right thing.

Even worse are the people that load up the weights, only to perform an exercise with horrible form, putting themselves at risk of getting seriously hurt.

I see it time and time again, and unfortunately for many people, the only time they realize their mistakes is once they’ve injured themselves.

Well, you don’t have to suffer an injury, you can learn, from their mistakes, right now.

Read on to see which exercises you should never do again.  

Sit-ups & Crunches

Sit-ups and crunches are some of the worst exercises you can ever perform.

They place unnecessary stress on the spine and can cause some pretty serious damage if done regularly.

The primary job of your core is to protect, support and stabilize your body, stabilizing against flexion and twisting, they are not meant to encourage it.

This repetitive flexion in sit-ups or crunches can negatively impact posture and can lead to lower back injuries which can spiral from there.

In most examples, you’ll be working your spine more than your abs and although the abs can become fatigued during sit-ups any potential benefits to the abs are absolutely not worth the debilitating back pain you may suffer as a result.

Safer alternatives: Planks, Ab Rollout, Pallof Press

Behind the Neck Lat Pulldown

The behind the neck Lat Pulldown is an awkward exercise that people often perform very, very badly, with extremely poor technique. It places great stress on the shoulders and neck and puts you at risk of injuring yourself.

Your neck, back, and shoulders are all at risk and there’s a good chance you will damage the rotator cuff too.

For Olympic weightlifters and some elite level Crossfitters, behind the neck exercises are important, unless you’re currently in training for the next Olympics, then this move isn’t for you.

Safer alternatives: Traditional lat pulldown, Pull-ups

Upright Row

The upright row is favored amongst many as it targets the traps and the shoulders; ironically it’s also one of the worst shoulder exercises you can do.

It forces you to internally rotate your shoulders whilst adding more force and tension to the shoulders, due to the fact that you’re holding a heavy weight.

This level of stress can lead to shoulder impingements and rotator cuff injuries which can cause some real damage to your body and your gym gains.

Safer alternatives: Dummbell Overhead Press, Dummbell Lateral Raise

Smith Machine Exercises

The much-maligned Smith machine, CAN, be helpful to newbie lifters or people recovering from injury, but once you’ve practiced a movement or tried it for the first time, it’s time to get off the Smith and to go and find a Dumbbell or a Barbell.

I’d even go as far as to say you should completely avoid the Smith machine altogether, even if you are new to lifting weights.

While it does help you to feel supported whilst learning the basics of a movement, such as the squat, it also limits your natural movement as the bar only moves in a straight line.

This means you don’t learn how to balance and stabilize yourself correctly and you won’t activate the same muscles that you would if you were squatting with a free weight.

It may make you feel safer as the bar locks in place, but you should avoid the Smith machine and build your form the right way, starting with lighter weights and only progressing when you’re ready.  

Safer alternatives: Any free weight variation of the exercise you are performing.

Tricep Dips (Hands behind the back)

Tricep dips, usually performed on a bench or a chair, with the hands placed behind your body, are performed to hit the triceps and really test your upper body, trouble is most people don’t have the required range of motion in their shoulders to perform this move safely and effectively, which can lead to injuries and further complications.

The shoulders are often internally rotated and you are left in a weakened position which can cause some serious damage to the shoulders.

Safer alternatives: For a safer alternative try dips with a parallel bar (arms in front), close grip push ups or close grip bench presses.

Leg Press

The leg press can be effective if used correctly but often, that isn’t the case.

People often use the leg press machine as an alternative to squatting, when they suffer from lower back pain, however one of the most common mistakes is people setting up at the wrong angle, loading the leg press machine up with weight, and as a result, adding more pressure to their lower back, go figure?

Using the leg press machine incorrectly can also add pressure to the hips and knees and cause you more trouble with injuries than if you’d just stuck to squatting.

A common mistake is setting the seat angle incorrectly, placing the feet at the wrong angle and going past the required point of depth when lowering the weight, all of which can lead to injury.

Safer alternatives: Squat, Bulgarian Split Squat, Goblet Squat, Walking lunges, also try the Romanian Deadlift for the hamstrings.


Remember the next time you go to the gym that just because you see everyone else doing something, it doesn’t make it right.

The gym is full of people just winging it or copying their friends and the majority of people have no idea when it comes to form, technique and most importantly safety.

Some of these things can be funny and will end up on a gym fail video on the internet, but do you know what isn’t funny?

Life altering injuries!

From muscular pulls and tears to broken bones or worse, working out can be dangerous, IF you don’t get the right advice.

Remember, if you’re not sure how to do something, ask a professional and if you really want to see results from your time in the gym, hire a professional.

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