Okay bros, time to get a little controversial with you all, and share what I feel are the five most over-rated exercises I see every single day in the gym. Now, I’ve worked with some very high-level athletes, and been around professional bodybuilders, so I’ve seen both sides of the metaphorical training coin, and I realize that there is a place and time for everything.
This is going to be for you bros who don’t compete in powerlifting or play any particular sport, but just want to look good. Everyone wants to impress their friends and develop an aesthetically pleasing physique for the ladies, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
All of these exercises have their place, and absolutely zero of them are bad by any means, they just aren’t the most optimal way to accomplish the goal most people are using them for. I’m going to briefly explain why I think it’s over-rated, and give you an alternative. Read on, consider what I have to say, and either apply it to your training or don’t, your decision.
In no particular order, here we go.
Exercise 1: The Leg Press
Now, if used properly, the leg press is a great way to strengthen your legs. However, for every ten people I see use this, eight of them have absolutely atrocious form. Rolling the lower back off the seat, using a four-inch range of motion… horrible. Used correctly it’s perfectly fine, but I see plenty of bros using hundreds and hundreds of pounds, who can’t perform a single squat with good form to save their life. If this is just one small part of your leg workout, carry on. If this is all you do, plus some leg extensions and curls, it’s time to mix it up.
Do this instead: Bulgarian Split Squats. If you’ve never done these, grab some dumbbells, stand a couple feet in front of a bench, put one foot behind you on the bench, and squat away. You’ll get the same movement as a squat, but without any danger of crushing your spine, much greater range of motion, and you’ll be absolutely fried if you’ve never tried this before.
Exercise 2: Barbell Shrugs
Relax your arms while standing. Where do they fall? Right by your sides, correct? This is where you want your arms during a shrug – get your palms facing in, shoulder blades pulled back, and try to bring your shoulders to your ears. Your body likes this. What your body doesn’t like is trying to do this with a barbell, and having to either drag it across your junk if it’s in front of you, or roll it over your butt if it’s behind you, with your hands turned out.
Do this instead: Seated Dumbbell Shrugs. Sit on the end of a bench, hang on to it with one hand, and hold a heavy dumbbell in the other. Let the dumbbell-holding shoulder drop all the way down to stretch out your traps, and then bring that shoulder all the way up to your ear, slow and controlled. You get a full stretch and contraction, your core gets a great workout trying to hold you upright, and your arms aren’t rotated due to holding a barbell.
Exercise 3: Crunches
Everyone wants great abs, no question. Everyone says abs are made in the kitchen, and while nutrition is important, you still need to have something under that fat to show off when you lose it. Crunches are a decent way to hit your upper and middle abs, but not the most ideal. They don’t have much carryover to anything you do in daily life (good posture involves standing upright, not rounding forward), and they can be rough on the lower back.
Do this instead: Stability ball or ab-wheel rollouts. If you do these correctly, they will smoke your abs, and teach your core to brace and stabilize your body through and active range of motion. Kneel down, brace your abs and glutes as tight as you can, place your hands on the wheel or ball, and slowly roll out as far as you can, and roll back, keeping your spine and hips tight the entire time.
Exercise 4: Tricep Rope Pushdown
This is an awesome assistance exercise, and a great way to hit the triceps. However, the execution of this is often horrible, and even worse, I’ve seen this as the primary tricep exercise in an arm workout. Short range-of-motion, momentum, shoulders scrunched up, leaning so far over it that it becomes a decline bench press… if there’s a way to butcher this, I’ve seen it. Also, in the grand scheme of things, you really aren’t moving too much weight around.
Do this instead: Close-grip bench press. Dips are a close second in my book. Before you start hitting your triceps with kick-backs, cable pushdowns, or any other small movement, hit a big lift. For close-grip bench press, set up just like you would for a regular bench press, only move your hands to just outside shoulder with, and bring your elbows closer to your ribs on the movement. You’ll hammer the triceps with much more weight, and then you’re free to rope-press away.
Exercise 5: Upright Rows
Some people say they’re good, some people say they’re bad… personally I believe they put your shoulder in a pretty dangerous position, and to me the risk really isn’t worth it. Sure, you might not get hurt, but you also might pinch something in your shoulder joint, and have to deal with that for who knows how long. So yeah, there are better ways to hit your shoulders.
Do this instead: Seated lateral raises. Sit on the edge of a bench, with your core tight. Holding dumbbells at your sides, slowly raise them away from your body up to shoulder level, and bring them back down under control. This will absolutely fry your shoulders, by using slow form and sitting down, thus eliminating the swinging many do to use weight that is too heavy for them. If you try to actively pull your shoulder blades back together while doing this, you’ll get some nice upper back/rear deltoid work as well.