Longevity and injury prevention are becoming a big part in exercise and you may hear about things you shouldn’t do in the gym. This could range from different tweaks in form to staying away from a machine as a whole. This is actually true in some cases, but if you are injury free and you are aware of your body, then you don’t have to worry too much.
Here are some popular exercises that you have probably seen that could cause injury, but can be safe if done correctly:
Behind the Neck Exercises:
This one is a little tricky, not everyone needs to do them, but they can help target muscles on the posterior chain a little better. If you are someone who has a preexisting shoulder injury, and you haven’t done these before, it is best to perform the original, in front of the body variations to keep from making your shoulder injury worse.
Lat Pull Down/Pull Up:
You will see people butcher these exercises in so many ways and there really is not enough added benefits for the potential risks. Now to the opposite extent, if you are an Olympic lifter you are more than ok to perform these two exercises. The case being that if done improperly you can really tear up your shoulder joints and mess up your neck. If you are stubborn and feel like these are completely necessary in your program, then use light weight to start and make sure that you have immaculate form. This being a straight back, slight forward lean and head in line with your spine. Imagine you are doing an overhead squat, this will be the safest position for your body. As for the pull up variation, it is not recommended very much if at all, since you’re sacrificing quite a bit in range of motion, just to look cool.
Shoulder Press Variations:
These are a doozy since they take some of the focus from the anterior head of the delts and focus on the middle and posterior. So, these are great for people who like working shoulders on a back day or hit chest the day before and don’t want to add more volume to their anterior chain. Like the pull downs, you are going to imagine you are in an overhead squat position, this is the slight forward lean, shoulder blades down and back, and neutral spine. Don’t go too heavy on these variants since they too can be tough on the joint and there is a hyper range of motion involved that isn’t necessary. If you’re looking in the mirror, you only need to go till your elbows are 90 degrees.
Squats: The smith machine gets a lot of bad rep, but like everything in the gym, it has a purpose. People who are new to squats can benefit from practice on a smith machine since the bar path will be 100% straight and you can find the proper squat mechanics for your body. Just remember for the squats, it is as much a back and forth movement for your hips as it is an up and down movement.
Rows and Shoulder Variations: Same reasoning as the squats, they help keep the bar path as straight as possible and help to remove the stabilization aspect out of a lot of lifts. Focusing on proper form and the squeeze of the targeted muscles, you’ll get one of the best pumps of your life. Much like their barbell counterpart, don’t throw the weight around use slow controlled movements.
Leg Extensions: The leg extension machine is probably the trickiest in terms of should and shouldn’t. If done correctly, and there is enough hamstring work that comes with it, there is a lot of benefit that can come from leg extensions. Depending on who you talk to you may hear that these are bad for your knees or cause patellar tendonitis, etc. But a lot of what you hear about comes from the imbalance of strength/tightness between your quads and your hamstrings. They aren’t going to be a 1:1 ratio in strength, but ideally, you’re going to want to see a 3:2 strength ratio for quads and hamstrings respectively.
Adductor/Abductor Machine: This is the machine that you see Instagram models using to accentuate their glutes and “flex” for their followers. In all actuality, this machine is for strengthening the inner and outer muscles of your legs. Even though there is purpose for this machine, there are much better ways of strengthening the target muscles, and to be completely honest, there’s little reason to use this machine in a program.
While the only real reason to stay away from certain exercises is preexisting injury or lack of optimality, there is purpose behind everything in the gym. Even those 2 lb dumbbells that you probably didn’t know were there. The key thing to keep in mind when performing exercises that “Bros” tell you not to do is that if you’re not in pain and you can feel the muscles contracting than theirs no reason to change things. Keep doing what you are doing, but when things start to feel off, or are pulling/pushing a little differently, then you might want to move to less compromising variations.