It doesn’t matter how much you can lift or how long you’ve been lifting-one bad move can still land you on the disabled list. “Some of the most popular exercises that there are also one of the most dangerous and ineffective,” says Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength and conditioning in Woburn, Mass. Erase this body branding of your routine before they stall your progress–or send you to the sidelines.
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1. Kipping Pullup
DITCH it: Kipping Pullup
This step adds momentum-generating hip thrusts to the standard pullup and is a favorite of extreme-workout programs. It is also good for guys who struggle with the classic exercise. “It is a simple way to get more reps,” says Boyle, “but each one violently pulls your shoulder joints, which are among the most delicate in your body.”
Most people are more chinups than pullups–that’s because the underhand grip allows the biceps to participate more in the exercise. Grab a chinup bar using a shoulder-width, underhand grip, and hang at arm’s length. Cross your ankles behind you. Pull your chest to the bar, pause and return to a dead hang with your arms fully extended.
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2. 45 Degree Leg Press
DITCH it: 45-Degree Leg Press
“This exercise forces your back into a rounded position and compresses your spine,” says Craig Ballantyne, author of Turbulence Training. “That can lead to a herniated disc.” Plus, the move does not engage your core or stabilizing muscles, so any gains from it does not translate well outside of the gym.
DO it: Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
“This exercise is much closer to real-world movements,” says Ballantyne, “and it hits your core and tests your balance.” With a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length next to your sides (palms), place the top of one foot on a bench behind you. Lower your body as far as you can. Pause and return to the starting position. Do the same number of repetitions on each side.
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Done properly, this exercise is an excellent muscle builder. “But perfectly executed dips are like unicorns,” says Boyle. “They talked about but never seen.” And shoddy dips–done with flared elbows and a vertical torso–increase the pressure on your rotator cuffs, that are the most vulnerable components of your shoulders.
DO: Close-Hands Pushup
“Most guys do dips to hit their chest and triceps,” Boyle says. “A close-hands pushup provides the same benefits, without the risks.” Assume a pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your elbows tucked against your body as you lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, and press back up explosively.
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4. Bodybuilder Bench Press
CLOSED: Bodybuilder Bench Press
Bodybuilders and many gym rats flare their elbows to focus more weight on (and lead to more growth in their pecs. The problem is, that also increases the stress on their rotator cuffs, says Ballantyne.
DO it: Powerlifting Bench Press
Powerlifters focus on moving as much weight as possible. To do that, they make as many muscles as they can by keeping their elbows close to their sides. “That also minimizes shoulder strain,” says Ballantyne. Hold a barbell using an overhand grip that is slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Keep your elbows tucked as you lower the bar to just below your nipples.