Some exercises not worth doing

I was recently asked by a reporter at The Active Times what workouts I always avoid.  All of you know by now that I advocate functional training over the typical grinding away at the gym, so my answers shouldn’t come as a surprise.  That said, I’d like to share them with you.

Bench Presses and Lay-down Pec Flies
The reason I avoid bench presses is that you do the exercise while you’re lying on your back on a bench.  Unlike pushups, for example, bench presses don’t engage your core at all.  Both bench presses and lay-down pec flies can also create a muscle imbalance that leads to rounded shoulders.  The motion and resistance supplied don’t mimic anything a person would do in real life, and I can’t think of any sports that you play lying down, except maybe luge, and those guys aren’t known for their huge pecs.

Overhead Presses
Many, many people have less-than-optimal range of motion in their shoulders.  If you have a shoulder issue and you can’t have full range of motion without any weights, it doesn’t make sense to put resistance on already poor posture.  That will just exacerbate dysfunction.  If you happen not to have a shoulder issue (although most people do, even if they don’t know it) overhead presses won’t hurt, but athletes who make a living raising their hands over their head like pitchers, golfers, and tennis players, don’t do this exercise because it doesn’t resemble their actual motion in play, and it carries with it a substantial risk of injury.

Machine training
Machines only work muscles in one plane, while our body works in three planes.  Building muscle the way that machines do, it’s very easy to get a muscle imbalance.  In functional training, we emphasize stability and balance.  You can’t build stability and balance if you don’t exercise the companion muscles that your body requires to stabilize itself.  I also avoid the treadmill and the ellipticals as they do not mimic the movements that you actually perform while running and jogging.  Again, functional training emphasizes the body’s own ability to stabilize itself and maintain good posture, and machines do nothing to help you develop that.

Crunches on the floor
I avoid crunches on the floor, because they only exercise your core in one direction: flexion.  Most people already spend too much time with their abs under flexion from sitting and standing with bad posture.  The body needs to extend as well as flex the core muscles to remain in balance.

There you have it.  It’s not an exhaustive list, and only your fitness professional can tell you what it’s okay for you to do, but it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no use in taking one step forward only to take two steps back.

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