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Six Exercises To Avoid

Side bends

You only have to lean forwards or backwards a little and this puts excess force on your spine, leaving you at risk of intervertebral disc trauma. Don’t risk it.

Switch for The suitcase carry. Your core does its best work when it’s resisting movement and stabilising your spine – help it by carrying a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell for 20m, switching hands and walking back. It’s great prep for heavy farmer’s walks.

Seated calf raises

The calf is made up of three main muscle groups: the medial and lateral gastrocnemius, and the smaller soleus. The first two are recruited more when the leg is straight, so seated raises won’t hit them as hard.

Switch for The donkey calf raise is a better option, but if you don’t have a machine – or a willing partner – switch to single-leg calf raises with your leg completely straight and a fingertip against the wall for balance.

Machine pull-ups

The pull-up should be a full-body movement, where even your abs and glutes are creating tension to help brace your body for the movement. The machine won’t teach you to do that. It also lets you hold your body at slightly the wrong angle.

Switch for Smaller sets. If you can only do three or four pull-ups, then rather than using assistance to do more, do one or two at a time – either with 60-second rests, or throughout your day.

Lunges with anything

Yes, it seems like a time-saver, but unless you’ve got strong arms (or weak legs), there’s no way that a pair of dumbbells you can curl or press will provide enough load to work your legs.

Switch for Doing them separately. If you’re after a time-saving arms-and-legs combo, grab a heavy kettlebell in each hand, lunge for six reps on each leg, then do six kettlebell cleans. Repeat three times without putting the kettlebells down.

Leg hovers

The idea behind holding your feet slightly off the ground is sound, but unless your pelvis stays correctly tilted, your core muscles can’t do the job – and the spine muscles come in to compensate.

Switch for The hollow-body hold. If you can’t keep your lower back flat against the floor for the leg hover, bring your legs higher off the ground and your shoulders up, with your hands above your head. Hold for 30 seconds, rest for 60.

Upright rows

Yes, they feel like they’re stimulating your traps and delts – but they’re also aggravating any existing shoulder issues you have, by mashing your shoulder’s bony acromion process against the tendons of your rotator cuff. For most people, it’s not worth the pain.

Switch for Trap bar shrugs. They’ll allow you to load up and hit your traps harder, and the neutral grip means putting your shoulders under less stress.

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