They say "no exercise is a bad exercise." That's garbage. There ARE bad exercises. I can't even get on board with the idea that any exercise can have a place for a certain purpose, or that no exercise is risky if done with textbook form. When it comes down to it, there are exercises that are:

1. Dangerous
2. Ineffective
3. Downright stupid

While I'd never castigate someone for wanting to get fit and healthy, I would strongly encourage them to quit doing any of these 5 exercises immediately. (Don't worry, I'm not just telling you what NOT to do, I've got some failsafe alternatives instead that will give you much better results.)

Offender #1 - Smith machine squats

The issue:
Squats are awesome... unless you do them on a Smith Machine. If you're thinking - "but the Smith Machine is safer - there's less risk of me dropping the weight" - stop right there.

There may be less risk of the weight crashing down and pinning you to the floor, but this should never happen with a free-weight squat anyway. And if you're running that risk, you should be doing it with a spotter or some safety bars in your rack.

Where the Smith Machine really gives you a kicking is in terms of joint health. Your knees and ankles are forced into a fixed plane of motion, which means you can't move naturally. Over several sessions, over several weeks, months and years, this builds up to the point where you run a serious chance of developing over-use injuries. Does that sound safe?

What to do instead:
Squat with a barbell (or even a dumbbell). It may seem scary, but once you've perfected your technique, the barbell squat is a beautiful exercise, and one you'll look forward to doing. Every guy and girl I've trained has got a real kick out of adding an extra 5 or 10 kilos to their squat PB, and the benefits for fat loss and strength are immediately evident. If you're still not too sure, start out with bodyweight or kettlebell and dumbbell goblet squats instead.

The 5 worst exercises ever invented (and what to do instead)

Offender #2 - Machine chest presses

The issue:
You might see a pattern emerging here, with the mention of another machine exercises, but any kind of machine chest press can get me riled up. They're not as dangerous as Smith squats, but they're still pretty redundant, as you have the same issues of forcing an unnatural range of movement. Plus, they're just not as cool as the bench press.

What to do instead:
If you can't bench press or dumbbell press, then - and you may laugh at me for this - push-ups and dips are your best choice. Sure, they might not be 'hardcore' and you don't get many pro bodybuilders doing them, but press-ups and dips are far more natural movements, and can both be regressed and progressed as needed, so you can do wall, knee and negative press-ups when you're starting out, moving up to weighted, band-resisted, or plyometric if you can build up enough strength.

It's the same for dips. Come to think of it, I've never met someone who could knock out 50 bodyweight dips, or do reps with 30 kilos attached them who hasn't had a kick-arse upper-body.


Offender #3 - Tricep kickbacks (with stupid pink dumbbells)

The issue:
Tricep kickbacks are just downright ineffective. It takes more effort for you to hold the dumbbell up at your hip than it does for you to 'kick' the dumbbell back (which is the actual portion of the move that should be working your triceps.)

I guess these make the list due to their association with toning and sculpting a muscle using high-reps and ultra-light weights. This is pure bro-science, as the only way to 'tone' a muscle is to make it bigger, or lose fat, not do hundreds of tricep kickbacks.

What to do instead:
Close-grip bench presses are awesome, as are the aforementioned dips and press-ups with a close-grip. Kettlebell and dumbbell floor presses also make the list, and are both exercises more people should be doing.

The 5 worst exercises ever invented (and what to do instead)

Offender #4 - High-rep plyometrics

The issue:
Plyometrics have a place in any routine, but they need to be programmed appropriately - for low-reps. The reason for this is that they're so demanding and the impact and force put through the body is huge, hence focus needs to be on maximum speed and power generation, not just working until you feel the burn. (Unless you want to kiss goodbye to your knee joints.)

What to do instead:
You can do box jumps, jumping lunges, and plyo squats, just do them for sets of quality reps rather than setting up a 1-minute timer and allowing your form to go from good to horrific after the first 10 seconds. The main role of plyometrics is to increase power though, so unless this is up there as one of your main goals, you're best off sticking to regular lower-body exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, kettlebell swings and step-ups.


Offender #5 - Sit-ups

The issue:
Ever since the 1960s, people have associated sit-ups with getting a six-pack. Nope. Sorry. Doesn't work like that. Sit-ups may work your abdominal muscles, but they don't burn fat directly from your mid-section. Doing that comes down to your diet, and your training plan as a whole.

Add to that the fact that sit-ups cause a large amount of stress on your spine, and repetitive spinal flexion isn't good for anyone, and you're looking at an exercise that really shouldn't be in your plan.

What to do instead:
Stabilisation core exercises are awesome. Get some planks, side planks, and push up planks in your routine. Then throw in some reverse crunches, curl ups, leg or knee raises and you're pretty much there. Don't forget that if you're training hard and heavy on free-weight and bodyweight moves, your core will get a killer workout anyway, with no need for sit-ups.


Are You a Repeat Offender?

Still doing these exercises? No dramas. You're not going to kill yourself if you perform them in your next workout, but you're probably going to want to phase them out as soon as possible. Even if you're not too worried about the potential injuries that could arise, you should be worried about wasting your gym time, so try out these alternatives instead.

At the end of the day it's about maximizing your time, building strength, burning the most amount of calories, while minimising the risk of injury. Enjoy.


The 5 worst exercises ever invented (and what to do instead)