7 Exercises That Do More Harm Than Good

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Plenty of workouts can help you burn calories, build muscle and increase endurance in healthy ways. Unfortunately, there are a few popular exercises that can also do a lot of damage to your body. Despite how often you see these moves in the gym, you should avoid them. Most on this list will place dangerous amounts of strain on weaker body parts and do more harm than good.

Kipping Pullup

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The Kipping Pull-up (Barbell Pull-ups and Deadlifts):

The Kipping pull-up is the typical pull-up seen with the long barbell, lifted from the thighs up to the shoulders while standing up. The deadlift is a related exercise designed primarily for more serious bodybuilders. Both of them are unwise. They encourage you to jerk your arms up and even kick up a little with your legs. Any time that your body is making harsh jerking motions, it is a warning sign that the exercise is a bad one. These pull hard on your shoulders and put dangerous strain on shoulder joints.

The Traditional Leg Press:

The traditional leg press is a smaller type of lunge that has you step forward and dip until your front knee is making a 45 degree angle. Normal lunges, in moderation, can be a healthy exercise, but traditional leg presses tend to use extra weights and barbells. This extra weight and repetitive motion puts a whole lot of stress on the knee, one of the more delicate joints in the body. It also isn’t a very good workout for your leg muscles in the first place.

The Bench Press:

Bench presses are immensely popular, particularly for building chest muscles, but it suffers from many of the same problems as the deadlift. The typical flared-elbow hoist used in the bench press puts far too much strain on rotator cuffs, another part of the body that is very easy to damage when doing workouts the wrong way. If you want to do a bench press, put on lots of weight and keep your reps down to below five.


Sit-ups and crunches are another old, old favorite for building the abs. Unfortunately, they don’t build ab muscles. Other exercises, like the simple plank, actually work out the ab muscles in far more efficient ways than sit-ups do. What sit-ups and crunches do well is put unnecessary strain on your back. There are plenty of safer and far more effective ways to workout your abs.

Jumping Jack Presses:

Jumping jack presses involve lifting weights, but incorporating jumping jack movements while holding weights. This is ridiculous for several reasons, but suffice it to say that your knees, particularly your tender ACLs, are put in danger by this move. It has no benefit on any particular muscle group. It doesn’t even look cool.

Half-Squats and Half-Pull-Ups:

Half-squats and half-pull-ups both operate on the same principle. They let people do a lot of reps and allow beginners to start squats and pull-ups without fully completing the movement. This is illogical, because exercises are safest when fully completed, and sure enough, these half-measures can be very damaging. Only squatting down halfway leaves out the most important muscle groups that are worked out through squats and places undue strain on the knees. Ditto for half-pull-ups, but the strain is placed on the elbows instead. Do the full exercise or don’t do it at all.


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Untrained Kettlebell Exercises:

Kettlebell exercises offer great workouts, but only for experienced people who have been taught the right way to use kettlebells. The swing move is particularly dangerous. Do it too fast, or with too much weight, or with the wrong hold at the height of the move, and damage can result – from shoulder and arm injuries to dropping the weight on your head. Learn how to use a kettlebell before trying to imitate any of the moves.

The bottom line: you can’t stay in shape when you’re injured. Mixing up your workouts is a great way to get motivated, have fun, and challenge yourself. Just be sure you take the time to learn proper mechanics. Otherwise, your workout will have the opposite effect of what you intended.