When people try to get into shape, it is a common idea to try as many different exercises as possible. There is a thought that through doing lots of different exercises that can target all areas of the body, you can maximise toning and fat loss.
This is a common misconception. Not only will certain exercises not benefit your fitness goals, whether that be fat loss or muscle building, they can also increase your risk of injury due to the unnecessary stress placed on your body. So, it is important to know which exercises are not of any use to you so that you are getting the most from your workouts and keeping your body safe and healthy.
Behind the Neck Barbell Press
This is exercise is not too dissimilar from a standard overhead barbell press, except the bar is going behind your head at the bottom part of the movement, instead of in front. The issue with this movement is that it requires a lot of external rotation of the shoulder, which means that it is being forced back into an awkward position behind your head. This places stress on your shoulder even without any weight, so when weight is added, it is going to increase the risk of a shoulder injury, as well as damage to your wrist as it forces it back when in the behind the head position.
You are much better off doing a standard dumbbell shoulder press or an overhead barbell press as they are more orthodox movements that place lots of tension on your front deltoid (shoulder) and will not cause unnecessary stress on your shoulder joint. And in a world where shoulder injuries are common, this is very important.
Upright EZ Row
This exercise is commonly used with an EZ bar but is also used with a standard barbell. Firstly, the front row can cause or aggravate pain in the shoulder due to the great deal of internal rotation that is involved. Although internal rotation is not always a bad thing and is less stressful on the shoulder than external rotation, when you combine this with heavy weight, it can then place stress on the shoulder due to the extra pressure placed on it in the unnatural position.
The other issue with this exercise is that it does not actually do much for shoulder development. The nature of the movement means that you are recruiting very few of your delt fibres due to the fact that your shoulders are consistently elevating when you are lifting the weight. As a result, more tension is placed on your trapezius (upper back) muscles and you will not be getting the most out of your shoulder workout. It would be much more beneficial to perform a version of the lateral raise, which keeps your shoudlers down (when executed correctly) and actives more of the deltoid fibres.
Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown
This is an exercise that you will see several people perform due to the fact that they think this will be an excellent movement for activating your lats (back muscles). Not only does this not fully activate your lats due to the limited range of motion you can get, but it instead works more of your bicep and rear delt muscles. When you perform this exercise with the bar in front of you, you will be able to drive your elbows down more and therefore activate and place more tension on your lats.
The other issue with the exercise is that it is not particularly safe. Much like with the behind the neck barbell press, it causes your shoulders to go through a great deal of external rotation, placing it in an unnatural position after each repetition and therefore consistently placing strain on that area. And when you add heavier weight on top of this, you are going to increase the risk of injury to your shoulder.
Front Raise (Barbell, Dumbbell, Plate)
This is another common exercise you will see people perform during their resistance training sessions. Unlike the other exercises, this movement does not particularly put you at risk of damaging your shoulder. This exercise develops your front delt (front part of your shoulder). The reason why you should avoid this exercise is that you will have already worked your front delt by doing a dumbbell shoulder press or an overhead barbell press, and therefore you do not need to be working your front delt even more, as it will become over-developed, compared to your mid and rear delts.
After performing a front delt movement, you want to then move onto a mid-delt and/or a rear delt exercise so that your shoulder has a more balanced, more rounded shape to it. Performing a front raise is only going to over-develop your front delt even more than you need and therefore waste precious time during your workout.
The final exercise is to do with abdominal training. You will see many people performing the leg raise due to the fact that they think it places tension on their abs, especially at the top of the movement. By lifting your legs horizontal to the ground and not properly crunching in, you will be placing limited tension on your core and instead work your hip flexors more. And instead of your core fatiguing, it will be your legs that tire out first.
There are much better abdominal exercises that you can perform. For example, the hanging knee raise is excellent because you can bring you knees all the way up to your chest, therefore placing tension on your abs. Other good core exercises include the reverse crunch, ball crunch and the plank – the latter being very effective for providing constant tension on your abdominal area, especially if you don’t have any equipment with you.
So, be careful during your workouts and watch out for exercises that provide little benefit to your goals and even increase your risk of injury. My biggest piece of advice would be to keep it simple and focus on mastering the best, most effective 2-3 exercises for each muscle group. That way, your sessions will be simple, effective and you will be well on the way to achieving the results you want.
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