Gyms are becoming increasingly popular, and a lot of people believe that all exercises are good, safe and effective. The problem with gyms is that the majority of gym goers have never had formal training in exercise and are probably doing exercises based on what they see others doing.
The truth is there are a large number of very common exercises performed at the gym which are not safe at all, especially for people with pre-existing injuries or conditions.
An exercise is generally risky or dangerous if it fits one or more of the following categories:
Any unusual or unnatural movement pattern in the exercise
Any movement that causes pain or discomfort in any way
Any movement that enhances muscular imbalances that are already present
Any movement that requires joint flexibility that is above and beyond your range of motion
Any exercise with risks of injury that outweigh the potential benefit of the exercise itself
I could not possibly go over every dangerous exercise at the gym, but the list below is of 5 very common exercises I see performed commonly at the gym which may increase the chance of injuries:
1. Lat-pulldown Behind The Head
Many people were taught or have seen other people using the lat-pulldown machine and pull the bar behind their head.
This is a very unsafe position as it forces the shoulders into external rotation and the neck into a flexed position. This can lead to rotator cuff injuries of the shoulders and increases the risk of injuring the delicate joints and discs in the neck.
The best way to perform a lat-pulldown is to sit with your spine straight, abs pulled in, and then lean your torso back slightly. Pull the bar down towards your chest, but not below your collar bone.
2. Sit Ups
The irony of the situp is a lot of people perform this to help “strengthen their core” and prevent low back pain. The problem with the situp is the repeated flexion which places a lot
of stress on the intervertebral discs in the low back, which can actually lead to further low back pain. Also some gym goers add a twist or weights to their situp which can leave their low back even more vulnerable to injury.
Another fault with the situp is that is generally targets the hip flexors more than the abdominals.
Better alternatives than situps are to train the abdominals while keeping the spine is a relatively neutral position. Exercises such as the plank or side bridge are much safer and more effective alternatives.
3. Upright Row
Upright rows are a very common exercise people use to train their deltoids and shoulders.
The main issue with upright row is it places the shoulder into a forced internal rotation and abduction which increases the risk of impingement injuries in the shoulder. This can lead to partial or complete tears of the rotator cuffs. Wrist injuries are also very common with upright row because of the unnatural position of the wrist at the top of the lift.
Safer alternative is to perform lateral raises with a slight bend in the elbow and a modest weight so that you do not use momentum to lift them.
4. Leg Extensions
Perhaps one of the more commonly used exercises to target the quadriceps. Exercises should be functional – meaning it replicates or prepares the body for movements performed in everyday life. The leg extension has almost no function in everyday life, as both our feet are very rarely floating in space while extending our knees. Also, the knee extension particularly with heavy weight and repetition places excessive sheering forces on the knees and patellas which can lead to accelerated arthritis and injury.
Much safer and more functional exercises are to perform a squat or lunge.
5. Squats with Smith Machine
As mentioned above, the squat performed with body weight or free weights is a great functional exercise.
Many people use a smith machine to perform a squat because they think it may be safer. The fact is squats with a smith machine can lead to knee and low back injuries. This is because the bar is conformed to a fixed movement which doesn’t take the lifters natural mechanics into consideration, and doesn’t allow for subtle mechanical adjustments.
Much safer alternative is to start with body weight squats, and progress into weighted squats with a barbell.
If you have any questions with any exercises or are unsure how to perform them correctly, contact our clinic on 7903 2337.