Bodybuilding has been around for quite some time now, but we have to be honest and say that the science and innovation has been lacking. Recently, many of us have been starting to dig and seek the truth about exercises and nutrition. While some exercises are inefficient, others are inherently bad exercises.
In this article we are going to distinguish the difference between inefficient and bad exercises. Moreover, educate you so you can make the best decision on which exercises you should choose.
Bad vs. Inefficient Exercises
Before we begin to look at the factors that make up a bad exercise, let us distinguish between what an inefficient exercise is, and what constitutes an inherently bad exercise. When it comes to inefficient exercises, they might work for certain goals, but we have better options. Why perform them if you have better options?
Examples to illustrate this can be squats on a bosu ball, or doing biceps curls while squatting. These exercises are not necessarily bad or harmful, but we have better ways of achieving a certain stimulus.
So, they are not going to cause you injuries, or make you worse off, but they simply are a waste of time. There are so many better options, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
On the other hand, we have exercises that are going to make you worse off over the long-term. These exercises are simply bad. You might not notice anything bad after performing this exercise for a short while, or even 20 times. But, if you keep doing this exercise repeatedly over time, something bad will eventually happen.
This is because you are training an inefficient and dysfunctional movement pattern that can affect your motor patterns. As a result, it may affect how you actually move your body.
A common example of this is to retract your scapula while doing dumbbell lateral raises. The reason some trainers are telling you to do this is in an attempt to eliminate your traps from the movement.
In the same way, many tell you to retract your scapula before you perform a dumbbell or cable row for your lats.
Without going deep into biomechanics and anatomy, what this does is that you are forcing your body to move in a way it is not designed to move in.
Which means we are performing dysfunctional movement patterns.
By going against the way our bodies are designed to move, we also affect our body’s ability to create stability and output, and also go against how our joints are made to move.
Exercises That Go Against Functional Movement
What we truly mean by “bad” exercises are exercises that go against functional movement. More specifically, performing movements that go against how our bodies are designed to function. You might survive without injuries for a while, but inevitably these “bad” exercises will lead to long-term damage.
It is also important to remember that just because an exercise might not be the most efficient exercises, we cannot jump straight at it and label it as bad. Like we said, there is a big difference between an inherently bad exercise, and simply an efficient one.
Another example of a bad exercise is the Frog Pump. We see many people use this exercise in an attempt to train the glutes. When in reality, this exercise completely goes against our joint mechanics, and the function are glutes are designed to perform.
First of all, the frog pumps jam the joints.
They also put a tremendous amount of pressure on small muscles that are not designed to have a lot of force go through them, without the support of the surrounding and stabilizing muscles. These muscles are being inhibited because of the position you put them in.
Avoid the Frog Pump at all costs, unless you want problems with your hip joint. With that much external rotation in the femur, while trying to get maximum hip extension, we basically jam the hip joint.
Not only that, but there is also very little tension in the glutes with this exercise. By limiting the gluteus maximus or the butt as we know it, it limits the amount of tension we can create down there.
Instead, we are putting a lot of stress on the sacrum. Which is a small bone that connects the spine and the pelvis.
Thus, the frug pump is simply a bad and harmful exercise. They train dysfunctional movement patterns and can cause long-term damage from continuous use. Instead, try to go for a glute bridge. This puts your glutes in a way better position to create tension.
A Curtsy squat however, is not necessarily a bad exercise, rather an inefficient one. The reason is that we cannot load it much, and stability quickly becomes an issue. We can train the glutes in the fully lengthened position with a Curtsy squat, but load and stability are the limiting factors.
As long as you stay within your active range of motion, this exercise will not hurt you, but again, you have much better options.
You could use the Curtsy squat to train your glutes in the lengthened position, but a hip-dominant leg press is a much more stable option.
With this in mind, we can see the importance of looking at these things in context. We do not want to just jump to conclusions and label exercises as bad, if they are actually just inefficient. There are many exercises we do not advise people to do, and it may be the case with yourself.
That does not mean that an exercise is necessarily bad, but rather that we have better options when we program and design training plans.
We advocate exercises that are going to be the most efficient for ourselves and you.
The Sissy Squat is an exercise that we have been asked about frequently. In this exercise your feet are locked down, shins are vertical, and you are sitting back and down in knee flexion. People often wonder if this is a great exercise, and if it fully lengthens the quads.
It is not a straight-up bad exercise.
The Sissy Squat definitely trains and loads our quads, but it also requires a lot of stability in the pelvis and trunk. Moreover, we need to focus on the coordination of our movement when we perform it, much more so than in a hack squat.
While it is not a bad exercise, it is not an exercise that we choose to advocate when programming training plans. This is because we cannot get as much output from our quads as we would like, and it requires a lot of balance.
We cannot get that much output because we are not able to load the quads because of the required coordination and movement.
Not only that, but we cannot get out quads fully lengthened in a Sissy squat, because we are in a hip flexion. The only way we would be able to get a fully lengthened knee position, is we would basically have to be laying on the floor. We have to stop long before that, and additionally we are leaning and balancing ourselves.
Therefore, we never really advocate for Sissy squats. Again, it is not a “bad” exercise, but there are better ways to train the quads. If you love the exercise, and want to use it as an option to train the mid-range, feel free to do so! But keep in mind its limitations.
Bad Exercises for Fitness Goals
Below we are going to list three more exercises that are simply harming your body. These include Lying Cable Lateral Raises, Jefferson Squats and Guillotine Press.
Lying Cable Lateral Raises
You might have tried this yourself, or seen others do lying cable lateral raises. At first glance, you might think it helps you with stability. But the truth is, when we are laying on our backs, we inhibit the natural movement of our scapula. In turn, this affects our ability to produce force and tension.
While you may feel a stronger sensation in your shoulder, this is actually your nervous system screaming at you. It is telling you that your scapula is not able to move how it wants to move.
Instead, try to do Prone Incline Lateral Raises. This will help you with stability and not limit your scapular movement.
Another bad exercise is the Jefferson Squat. If you want to build bigger legs, avoid this exercise. There are simply too many things that go against functional movement when doing Jefferson Squats.
First of all, your spine is twisted while being loaded. It is also hard to load your glutes and quads because of the difficulty with stabilizing your pelvis in this position. Moreover, you can quickly go outside of your range of motion if you have bad mobility. Lastly, if you have short arms and a long torso, it will be very difficult to even perform the exercise.
The guillotine press is not only bad for your shoulder health, but it does not even properly train your pecs. When you put your arms perpendicular to the ground like that, they do not align with the way the fibers in your pecs pull.
In other words, there is no place in bodybuilding for the Guillotine Press. If you want a bigger chest and healthier shoulders, stay away from this exercise.
When looking to understand which exercises are bad and which ones you should avoid, it is important to understand some basic human anatomy. You have to see when certain exercises are simply inefficient and you have better options, and when they actually go against the functional movement of our bodies. It is when we force our bodies to go against their natural movement that we will suffer from injuries down the road. This highlights the importance of understanding our bodies when trying to build them!
Thank you for reading our article!
– Terry Asher
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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