This list was surprisingly difficult to make. I fall into that category of health & fitness educator whose answer 9 times out of 10 is “it depends”. So annoying. I know.
As an eternal skeptic and chronic over-analyzer my brain defaults to finding exceptions to the rule. However, this isn’t always helpful. So I put those tendencies away and settled on five exercises (that for the large majority) have no place in your workout and/or do more harm than good. Though, I do admit that I could still play devil’s advocate against myself on all the below exercises and find a proper time to utilize them. Here goes anyways!
5. Curtsy Lunges
The king of lunges is the reverse lunge. It’s better than a walking/forward lunge because it puts less stress on the knee and involves slightly more glute and less quad — which is usually a good thing for everyone. The problem with curtsy lunges is that they are often poorly executed and put the knee at a problematic angle for many individuals. Often the reasoning for curtsy lunges is wanting more glute involvement, however a reverse lunge would likely allow someone to use more weight and therefore activate more glute. If boredom has led you to curtsy lunges, instead try: front loaded reverse lunges, pulsing reverse lunges, slow eccentric reverse lunges, front racked dumbbell reverse lunges or Bulgarian split squats.
4. Partial Rep Bench Press or Squats
To get it out of the way, partial reps definitely have their place for a seasoned lifter – but here I’m talking about people who don’t know the proper range of motion for an exercise or avoid it because it’s too challenging. That guy loading up the bench press and lowering it only one inch, that person who hasn’t found their ideal squat stance and doesn’t quite get to parallel, that guy leg pressing 1,000 pounds over a total distance of 4 inches. That’s who we’re talking about. I’m all about lifting heavy weight and there is even an allowable range of “good form” for a max effort lift. However, form always needs to be mastered first and then load can be increased.
3. Poorly Executed Kettlebell Swings
As a trainer, a proper kettlebell swing is one of those movements you’re super proud of when a client executes it beautifully. Kettlebells swings should be a hip hinge (not a squat) and explosive (not lackadaisical — great word). I don’t love “American”/Crossfit kettlebell swings either. If you’re trying to perfect or learn a kettlebell swing, looking in a mirror or video recording your form is such a great tool to make sure 1) your back stay flat, 2) the bell isn’t getting below your knees and 3) the knees aren’t bending too much.
2. Bodyweight Donkey Kicks
I’m pretty sure the eighties invented this exercise as a way to look attractive while working out. Sure it’s hip hyperextension and so it does use the glutes and hamstrings to some degree — but you’d have to do approximately one million per side to actually fatigue the muscle in this position without resistance. Bret Contreras has made it virtually impossible to ignore the fact that hip thrusts and abduction with resistance are the way to actually get bigger, stronger glutes. So either, 1) add resistance to this exercise with a cable machine or smith machine if you must or better yet 2) do some hip thrusts and band abduction instead.
1 . BOSU Ball Bicep Curls
Even though I love debating, I don’t even want to face off against the BOSU ball lovers of the world. Sure balance and stability training has practical implications for a certain group of people, but there is no good reason to hold a weight on a BOSU ball (fun fact: did you know BOSU stands for both sides utilized?). Research has repeatedly shown that the most effective way to increase muscle engagement is to increase the weight used. If you do a bicep curl on the ground, you can use much more weight than while on a balancing half-orb. You get more bicep recruitment on the ground than on said orb. If you’re working on your balance, do it with your bodyweight on the dang BOSU. If you’re trying to increase muscle strength, do it on the ground.
That’s my list! Now I want to know your least favorite exercises in the comments 🙂