Farel Hruska by Farel Hruska
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As we all look forward to the start of another year, many people are committing to improve their health and fitness in 2018. In an effort to keep evolving and training clients in the most effective ways, here are four exercises that should be left behind in 2017, along with some much safer and more effective replacements.  

Leg Throws

This exercise is a partner/trainer led movement, where one person lies on the floor and another stands at the head of the one on the floor and throws his or her legs toward the floor. In theory, the person on the floor uses his or her abdominals to stop the legs from hitting the floor, thus strengthening the core. In reality, however, so many things can go wrong with this exercise, particularly if the exerciser has a weakened core and tight hip flexors. Without stellar core strength, it is very difficult to successfully stop your legs from hitting the floor. Secondly, because of the shortened iliopsoas, the hip flexors catch first, causing the back to possibly go into hyperextension. 

Replace this exercise with a plank to activate the three-dimensional core, while stabilizing the spine and elongating the hip flexors.

Lat Pull-downs Behind the Head

This exercise is usually performed with a bar or a resistance band. The direction of the pull makes this exercise less than safe. When the pulls are behind the head, most people assume a forward-head position to avoid the equipment hitting their head, a position that excessively loads the spine. Secondly, the shoulders are placed in horizontal abduction and external rotation, which puts excessive stress on the rotator cuff muscles to stabilize the shoulder joint.

Replace this exercise with a lat pull-down to the front of the body (or chest).

Full Sit-ups

The full sit-up has been a topic of debate for some time. While there is no consensus regarding the injury risk of performing full sit-ups, enough research raises questions regarding the benefit-to-risk ratio that, for most people, full-sit-ups just aren’t worth it. The pressure this exercise puts on the spine may lead to issues in the discs. The movement also enlists tightened hip flexors to pull the upper body through the full range of motion, which further tightens these muscles. Many people experience back pain due to their overly contracted iliopsoas.

Choose instead a curl to gain the same spinal flexion without the extreme stressors of the full sit up.

Machine-based Seated Leg Extensions

This exercise is performed in a machine with isolated, seated leg extensions at the knee. With the weight or load fixed at the ankle, this movement provides a high level of torque at the knee that can lead to weakness and/or injury. The functionality, or lack thereof, needs to be looked at, as well. When the knee is in flexion in life or sport, it never engages in isolation (without other muscles to stabilize and support). Nor does this exercise support training for activities of daily living.

Replace seated leg extensions with a loaded squat using either dumbbells or a resistance band.

ACE’s Personal Trainer Certification is backed by 30 years of science-based research. Learn more.