Exercises that can break your body instead of building it up. With your busy life, finding time to hit the gym can feel like a minor victory. But when it comes to lifting, you might be four reps away from ruin. “Many popular moves are also the most dangerous,” says professional trainer Nick Tumminello. “Others are just ineffective.” Odds are that your workouts are riddled with both. Here are four moves to purge now and four replacements to put you back on track.
1/Close-grip barbell upright row “Using a narrow grip as you row can create an impingement stress, raising the odds of rotator cuff muscles and tendons becoming trapped in the shoulder joint,” says Tumminello. This condition, known as weightlifter’s shoulder, is an express ticket to the disabled list.
Try this instead: wide-grip upright row Grab a barbell (or a pair of dumbbells) and hold it in front of your thighs using a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Keeping your forearms pointed down, bend your elbows and pull the weight to your chest, raising your upper arms until they’re parallel to the floor. Then slowly lower the weight back down.
2/Bench dip It might seem like an easy swop for a bar dip (especially if you’re not strong enough to bang out a full set of the latter), but positioning your arms behind you creates an extreme extension in the shoulders, says Tumminello. Adding weight just compounds the danger.
Try this instead: close-hands push-up Assume a standard push-up position (your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head). Brace your abs, squeeze your glutes, and keep your elbows tucked in against your sides as you lower yourself until your chest is about two and a half centimetres from the floor. Pause at the bottom, and then push yourself back up.
3/Seated rotation machine Think about twisting a water bottle; if you rotate only the top, the middle buckles and weakens. The same goes for your body. “Your hips and shoulders are designed to rotate as a unit,” says Tumminello. “If you rotate just one and not the other, your spine can pay the price.”
Try this instead: cable chop Attach a rope to a high-pulley cable, grab it with both hands, and stand with your left side toward the machine and your feet shoulder-width apart. Without bending your elbows, pull the rope diagonally across your torso toward your right foot. Return to the starting position. Do an equal number of reps on both sides.
4/Seated chest press machine – Your body isn’t perfectly symmetrical, so any machine that forces both halves along identical trajectories is setting the stage for injury. Sure, you can lift more by bracing against the backrest. But an exercise that allows your arms to move independently is better.
Try this instead: dumbbell bench press Lie on a bench holding a pair of dumbbells straight above your chest so that they’re nearly touching; your palms should face forward. Without changing the angle of your hands, lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest. Pause, and then press them back up to the starting position as quickly as you can.
Find your weak link
The gym isn’t the only place you can throw your body out of whack. Slumping over a keyboard all day can do a pretty good job of that as well, says personal trainer David Jack. Detect upperbody imbalances with the wall slide. “If you can’t perform it with a full range of motion, that’s a sign of a weak back and tight chest muscles,” says Jack.
How to do it: Stand 15cm from a wall and lean your head, upper back and buttocks against it. Place your hands and arms against the wall in high-five positions, your elbows bent 90-degrees and upper arms at shoulder height. Keeping your elbows, forearms and hands pressed into the wall, pull your elbows as far down toward your sides as possible. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Pause, and then slide your arms up the wall as high as you can to form a Y.
The next step: Didn’t pass the test? No problem. Do 12 reps up to three times a day to improve your posture and shoulder function. (Stop if your shoulders hurt, and see a doctor before resuming the exercise.) Also, in order to bolster your back and balance your body, add more pulling moves (pull-ups or rows, for example) to your workouts.