Top 10 Contraindicated Exercises

One of the many benefits of research is that we learn to fine tune exercises, so that they are not only effective, but also safe. Unfortunately, many exercise instructors do not update their knowledge; they continue to teach outdated movements that are known as contraindicated exercises.

Similarly, many avid exercisers do not take the time to update their knowledge, either. A contraindicated exercise is defined

as “known to be risky.” It is deemed risky, because it weakens vertebral discs, ligaments, and tendons that may be damaged at a later time or injured at the time of performance. The most common area of the body that is abused is the spine.

There are many exercises, especially for the abdominal and lower back muscles, that damage discs by increasing compression force on the spine at the time of the movement.

Imagine that each of your fists is a vertebra and that you put a sponge in between the fists and push your fists toward each other. The pressure that you exert on the disc (the sponge) is compression force which, when repeated, can lead to a cascade of events that results in intense pain.

The following is my perception of the top ten contraindicated exercises and safe, effective modifications:

10. Donkey: On your hands and knees. Kick one leg out behind you while you throw your head up-both in a ballistic (sudden or bouncing) fashion.

Result: A lot of compression force on the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) vertebrae.

Modification: Keep head stationary facing the floor, reach right arm forward and left leg back at the same time, then switch sides.

Strengthens: Lower back.

9. Bent over row or flyes without support: Standing, bent over about 45 degrees, holding dumbbells or barbell and performing a rowing or flying motion with the arms.

Result: A lot of compression force on the lumbar vertebrae.

Modification: If there are no lower back issues and good core strength, then a modified supported version is a good way to work up to a unsupported bent over row or fly. For modified: use a bench for support. To exercise your right arm, put your left hand and left knee on a bench. Your back should be flat and your hand should be at the end of the bench with your wrist as straight as possible. If there are concerns for low back issues or a weak core, then perform arm circles without weight and butterfly stretches.

Strengthens: Mid- and upper-back.

8. Windmills and cherry pickers: Standing, feet apart, touch left foot with right hand and then touch right foot with left hand. Or, touch the ground between your feet several times, reaching back farther each time, before coming up.

Result: A lot of compression force on the lumbar spine.

Modification: Stay standing, gently twist to each side, knees slightly bent.

Strengthens: External and internal obliques (at sides of abdomen).

7. Upright row to neck: Standing, using dumbbells or barbell, elbows out, hands at the front of your thighs, pull hands up to chin.

Result: The bones in the shoulders rub against each other.

Modification: Do a Dumbbell Side Raise (for general fitness population) or a High Pull (for training an athlete who has good shoulder mobility).

Strengthens: Shoulders.

6. Deep knee bends: Standing and then squatting as low as you can go.

Result: Overstretching of knee ligaments.

Modification: Stop where your knees are at a right angle, 90 degrees, and your knees are over your ankles.

Strengthens: Thighs and rear.

Read part 2 of this article for the other 5! Can you guess what they are?

Shoulder Workout

The shoulders are not usually a part of the body that people focus on when trying to lose weight or tone up, but having shapely shoulders can do wonders for your overall physique. Try this shoulder workout to sculpt and tone.

Seated Military Press

The military press, otherwise known as the overhead press or strict press, is the flagship shoulder exercise as it is a compound movement working all parts of your shoulders and as such will feature as the first exercise in any good shoulder workout. This variation on a classic will take the burn to the next level and will really test your limits. Your shoulders are completely isolated so there’s nowhere to hide and no way to get away from the burn.

How to perform

If you have a partner to hand you the bar, you can do this exercise anywhere. If you are on your own, you will need to sit under a weights rack so that you can rest the bar above you.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your back straight.
  2. Hold the bar close to your chest at chin height with both hands.
  3. As you exhale, push the bar up above your head until your arms are straight.
  4. As you inhale, slowly and with control lower the bar back down to chin height. That’s 1 rep. Try to complete 10-12.

Because you are sitting on the floor, your legs and core will not be able to assist your shoulders and as such this is a completely isolating exercise, highlighting all weakness and really resting your strength. Start with a light weight until you increase your strength. It’s meant to be tough!

Leaning Dumbbell Raise

This is a single-arm exercise which will target the deltoids and give shape and tone to the sides of your shoulders. Again, it is a highly isolating exercise and so will burn intensely but give great results.

How to perform

You will need to find something sturdy capable of holding your full weight that you can hold and lean away from. Any equipment bolted to the wall of the gym should work for this.

  1. Hold something study with one hand, with your feet together and close to the structure, lean your body until your arm is straight.
  2. With a dumbbell in the other hand, raise your arm from your side to shoulder height and back down again. That’s 1 rep. Complete 10 on each arm.
  3. Complete all your reps on one arm before changing to the other.

Front Raise With Steering Wheel

You may well have done front raises at the gym before as they are very simple, easy to do, and yield great results. That’s why we are taking it to another level by adding the ‘steering wheel’ movement to ramp up the burn. Take this exercise slowly to maximise results.

How to perform

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart and hold a plate like a steering wheel with both hands in front of you.
  2. Slowly lift the plate up until it reaches shoulder height.
  3. Hold the plate there and twist it slowly like you would a steering wheel.
  4. After a few twists, slowly lower the plate back down again. That’s 1 rep. Try for 10-12.

The 5 Best Shoulder Exercises To Really Destroy Your Delts

Strong shoulders add grace and balance to your physique, and are definitely something to be proud of. Come summer, you’ll be ready to break out those tank tops and flaunt all your hard work if you perform the following shoulder-chiseling moves on the regular.

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Before you begin with the exercises, however, let’s examine anatomy and function of what makes up your shoulder complex.

The shoulder comprises the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid muscles, as well as the upper trapezius, and the rotator cuff. The anterior deltoid is responsible for moving your arm forward, in, and rotating it inwards. The lateral deltoid is allows for lifting your arm sideways (laterally), and the posterior deltoid lifts your arm back, and rotates it out. The upper trapezius runs down the back of your neck and helps is lifting the scapula (shoulder blade) upwards. The rotator cuff is made up of deep muscles that help to stabilize your (upper) arm and rotate it.

Though this explanation is brief and has been simplified, it may help you understand how your body moves to perform these shoulder chiseling exercises better.

Now, for the moves: Define those deltoids by incorporating the following shoulder exercises into your routine. Make sure you practice proper form and take care when you lift. Our shoulders are especially vulnerable to injury, so don’t lift heavier than you can manage and always take care to stretch thoroughly after your workout.

Steering Wheels

You will need a barbell plate for this one. Begin by standing straight with the plate in both hands in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Bring the plate up to your chest level, keeping your arms extended out in front of you. This is your starting position. Rotate the plate to one side, as if it were a steering wheel, and then reverse the motion until it is rotated as far as possible in the opposite direction. Instead of counting repetitions, you may want to time yourself as you do these, doing 3 sets of 30-second bouts, for example.

This exercise targets mainly your anterior deltoid, but also requires your forearms to assist the movement.

Arnold Dumbbell Press

You will need set of dumbbells and a bench with back support to perform this exercise. Start by sitting upright on the bench and holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bring your arms up in front of you and bend the elbows so that your palms are facing you and the dumbbells are in front of your shoulders. This is your starting position. Now, raise the dumbbells above your head by bringing your elbows out to your sides while simultaneously rotating your palms until they are facing out (forward) and your arms are fully extended above your body. Exhale as you do this. After a brief pause at the top, return to the starting position by lowering your arms, bringing your elbows back, and rotating your palms in the opposite direction you did while raising them. Inhale as you do this. As you lift, lean slightly forward.

This shoulder chiseling exercise targets the anterior deltoid, but uses other parts of your shoulder complex, trcieps, and back as synergists.

One-Arm Lateral Raise

To perform this exercise you will need a dumbbell and a supporting structure to hold for balance. Start by standing upright, holding a dumbbell in one arm and using the free arm to support yourself against a bench, or any other structure. Grip the dumbbell such that your palm is facing inwards and the dumbbell is in front of your hips. Bend your knees and hips slightly for more balance. This is your starting position. Raise the dumbbell laterally so that your elbows are slightly bent and your arms are perpendicular to your torso and parallel to the floor (elbows at shoulder height). Exhale as you do this and pause at the maximum height your arms can reach. As you inhale, slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position and prepare for the next repetition.

This exercise targets your lateral deltoid and uses other shoulder complex muscles and your back as synergists.

Dumbbell Lying Rear Delt Raise

You will need an elevated bench and a pair of dumbbells for this exercise. Begin by lying chest-down on the bench so that your body is facing the ground. Grasp the dumbbells in each hand with a grip that leaves your palms facing each other and your arms extended in a neutral position. This is your starting position. Raise your arms laterally until your elbows are at shoulder height and your arms are as parallel to the floor as possible. Pause for a second and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

This exercise targets your posterior deltoid, as well as uses other parts of the shoulder complex and back as synergists.

Bradford/Rocky Press

You will need a bench with back support for this exercise, as well as a barbell. Start by sitting on the bench and grasping the bar at shoulder level with your palms facing forward/out. Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width and your elbows should be pointed out at your sides. This is your starting position. Begin by lifting the barbell over your head by extending your arms and breathing out. Now lower the barbell behind your head instead of the starting position and inhale. Lift the bar again and bring it back to the starting position, exhaling as you lift and inhaling as your lower it. This counts as one repetition.

This exercise targets the deltoid (all aspects) as well as the triceps.

The Romano Factor

Almost every day I see someone doing something in the gym that I think looks really stupid. I’m sure everyone has experienced this. There are even websites dedicated to gym idiots where clandestine iPhone videos show people doing the most ludicrous things. It’s normal these days for trainers to try to outdo each other with crazy exercises employing Bosu balls, kettlebells, and bands that none of their clients can seem to ever do. Then there are people who watch workout videos on YouTube and try to replicate the moves in the gym to no avail. While such a phenomenon has been going on for decades, it’s gotten a lot worse since functional training came along.

Be that as it may, every now and then I see someone doing something that I might initially think looks stupid but, upon further investigation, realize it might be something worth trying. Then there are what I call “acts of life” that lead to aha! moments of enlightenment that lead to a new exercise added to the arsenal. In the exercise depicted here, it’s a case of both. I had seen guys holding up a plate and “steering” with it, but thought it was just a silly, useless thing to do. Then, one day, I returned home after a two-day bout of suspension tuning in my old race car and noticed severe soreness in my front delts. What had caused a well-trained bodybuilder to become so sore? The suspension tuning had required two days of flogging my car around a bumpy nine-turn track. Could that be it?

I stuck my arms out in front of me and mimicked the motion of steering. Feeling my front delts ball up, I realized in two seconds that they were sore from steering! Starting with my very next shoulder workout, I included doing some steering.

Back in the gym, I grabbed a 10-pound plate, held it out in front of me at the 9 and 3 positions and slowly “steered” back and forth. Twenty-five reps later, my front delts felt like I was doing warm-up laps in my car. I started including these in my regular shoulder workouts and eventually worked up to doing “steering wheels” with a 45-pound plate for lots of reps. I really don’t think any kind of front raise with any other piece of equipment will hit your front delts quite like these will. All you have to do is try it and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m not saying I invented this exercise. I certainly had seen guys doing them before but thought they were a waste of time. Now I realized they were on to something.

The exercise:

Stand in front of the mirror with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab a plate. I’d start with a 10 and see what happens; you can always grab a 25 or more on your next set.

Peer through the hole in the plate and fixate on a spot in the mirror. This keeps the plate up and out in front of you. “Steer” the plate all the way in one direction. When you can’t move any farther, squeeze the front delt connected to the arm that is higher than the other one. Rotate the plate all the way in the opposite direction and squeeze that front delt. Repeat.

Keep doing slow, controlled reps until you can’t do any more. Rest for a minute and then steer some more. You can always pick up a heavier plate if you’re getting too many reps or don’t feel a pump.

Check out this video of IFBB Pro Brad Rowe training shoulders pre-contest! It’ll give you some great ideas for exercises to add to your routine!

Steering wheel shoulder exercises

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