5 Worst Weightlifting Exercises And 5 You Should Be Doing Instead

Fit woman with personal trainer doing one of the worst weightlifting exercises behind the back lat pulldowns.

If you’re like a lot of people, you go to the gym with great intentions, but you don’t reach your desired goals. You might be choosing ineffective, risky exercises that fail to deliver results and can actually cause injuries. Stop wasting your time with these top 5 worst weightlifting exercises, and use safer alternatives instead.

1. Military Press Behind Your Head

The Problem: For this shoulder move, you lift weights or a barbell up and down behind your head. You need very mobile shoulder joints to do this move properly. If you don’t, you risk shoulder impingement or a tear in your rotator cuff. Also, if you drop the bar on the back of your neck, it could injure your cervical vertebrae. That is why behind the head shoulder press is one of the worst weightlifting exercises.

A Safer Military Press Alternative: When you’re doing the military press, keep the bar or dumbbells in front of your head. Stand with the weight no lower than your collarbone and keep your upper body straight and upright. You can also do this exercise while seated. Always sit straight and keep the natural curve in your spine. Your upper back and glutes should be pressed against the chair when you’re doing any shoulder press movements.

2. Squats on the Smith Machine One of the Worst Weightlifting Exercises

The Problem: The bar on the Smith machine doesn’t give, which can force your body into risky angles. It can also put stress on weaker muscles and joints instead of where the force should be placed, which is primarily your quadriceps. When you use the Smith machine for squats, you may also tend to put your feet farther in front of your body than when you do squats without the machine. This puts too much pressure on your lower back and knees. If you really want to do squats on the smith machine check out this tutorial.

A Safer Squats Alternative: Use free weights for your squats and keep good form. This means you must stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lower your body, keeping your back straight. Move your hips back as if you were going to sit in a chair. Try to maintain your weight directly over your feet, keeping your heels on the floor. Lower yourself so your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Slowly return to a standing position.

3. Lat Pull-Down Behind Your Head

The Problem: This exercise presents the same issues as the military press behind your head. You need very mobile shoulder joints so you can keep your spine straight enough to do this exercise properly. If you do it wrong, you risk serious injury.

A Safer Lat Pull-Down: On the pull-down machine, lean back a few degrees and place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring the bar down in front of your body to your breastbone, pulling your shoulder blades down and together. Contract your abdominals to stabilize your body and avoid using momentum to swing the bar up and down. This lat pull-down works the muscles in your upper back and is a much safer alternative to the pull-down behind your head.

5 Worst Weightlifting Exercises By Jeff Cavaliere

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4. Upright Row

The Problem: You should never try to pull weights, a barbell or a weighted cabled bar up under your chin. It can compress the nerves in your shoulder area and cause impingement.

A Safer Alternative to the Upright Row: Instead of doing an upright row, work your shoulders with a front or lateral shoulder raise. Lift the weights out to the front or side of your body. This will work the same muscles but greatly reduce your risk of injury.

5. Lying Leg Press with Your Knees Bent Too Deeply

The Problem: For this exercise, you lie on your back with your feet on a weighted plate. You push the plate up and bring it down to work your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. The problem with this exercise, though, comes when you bend your legs too far, which can hurt your lower back and knees.

A Safer Lying Leg Press Alternative: Position your knees and legs properly so you feel the force on your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. You shouldn’t feel it in your knees or lower back.

Avoiding The Worst Weightlifting Exercises

Now you know which weightlifting exercises to avoid and the safer alternatives you can use to get a great workout and avoid injuries. Check out these great workouts.

Pin image of Fit woman with personal trainer doing one of the worst weightlifting exercises behind the back lat pulldowns.

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