4 Exercises Athletes shouldn’t do


Now before I lay a George Foreman haymaker to the egos of every developing adolescent pubescent teenage boy reading this article, let me first say that I am not making an attempt to alienate anyone.  Through my ever gaining knowledge base and evolving beliefs associated to the human body, I have developed what I would consider “amendments” – these are ideas that I believe to be true through my personal experience as a former athlete, a trainer, a coach, a student and overall fitness advocate, but reserve the right to change any of these at a moment’s notice.  Through my evolution as a trainer/coach, I find that I often change my opinion.  Ideas or processes that used to have merit or substance, give way to a different mindset that may or may not prove to be more effective.

Now brings us to the title of the article.  After observing a training sessions taking place at my facility on a Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but notice I had a few athletes that “strayed” from the flock.  Now I use this phrase because for those of you who have never been to PSP, as an athlete, there is a process involved.  First off, all of our workouts are customized to the individual with special attention given to those with movement pattern dysfunction, back pain, knee pain etc.  This allows us to work with large groups of athletes (up to 15 at any given time in some cases) without having to put everyone through the “WOD”. Second, I personally design each athlete’s workout so I KNOW what is on their tracking sheets.  Needless to say, I observed more variations of curling than I think our dear Canadian friends to the north can use to create a sport.

After intervening “Arnold Fest 2013” I found myself quickly off on a tangent while explain to these young men why I don’t include these exercises into their program in addition to several others… 25 minutes later they were no closer to being done with their workouts as I was finishing my explanation.  So just to elaborate on a thought I put this together as an official explanation.  Agree or disagree, here are my thoughts:

1.     Calf raise

There are a couple reasons why I think there are better uses of your time.  First, the musculature of your lower legs, are extremely well conditioned.  Let’s think about this, most of us are on our feet for a good portion of the day.  Through every step we take, there is a repetitive transition from a dorsiflexion to plantar flexion position.  The result: A calf-raise every time you take a step.  It becomes quite challenging to load the ankle extension pattern with putting a crippling amount of resistance loaded on the body.  Ever see a guy at your local gym doing calf raises on the leg press machine?  He has most likely hoarded every 45lb plate that he was able to wrestle away from the other members on to a machine that naturally puts the lumbar in a very vulnerable flexed position, then proceeds to perform about 25 reps with about ¼ range of motion.  The result: Maybe sore calves the next morning but at what cost; how about a decrease in ankle mobility, maybe a sore lower back, maybe even pain in your knees.  The benefit?   Probably not bigger stronger calves and maybe even knee pain in your future when you perform a squat because of your loss in the ability to dorsi-flex.  I’ll take a pass on this one.

2.     Crunches

I will address the pink elephant first:  Crunches will not get you a 6 pack period.  Only your nutritional habits will.  If you are looking for abs; cut your body fat to less than 12%.  Now why we don’t crunch, or most exercises that force movement of the lumbar spine under resistance.   What we know about the lumbar spine is its limited ability to be mobile.  Each intervertebral joint only has 2 degrees worth of movement.  Given we have 6 lumbar vertebrae, we only have 12 maximum degrees of movement.  Draw a 90 degree angle on a sheet of paper, then get your old fashioned protractor out and mark 12 degrees… know any movement beyond is compensated form other joints (hips, t-spine, gleno-humeral) but make no mistake, in a crunch position, the lumbar spine carries the majority of the stress.  On a side note, some the most recent research techniques regarding degenerating disc disorder in the lumbar spine has scientists repeatedly place cadaver spines in a flexed position (crunch machine).  If this is what some of the brightest minds in the world are doing to study the breakdown of spine health, what sense does it make to use the same technique to build health?  …Sounds counterproductive to me.  I would argue the same case for most lateral flexion and rotational exercises as well.   Most baseball hitting instructors will agree the more force you can generate through your hips, the more power you can transfer to through the bat and into the ball.  However if your lumber spine rotates, oh back to physics class, you lessen your ability to transfer force.  My favorite way to train the core is train the core to resist movement. (I.e. planks, side planks, lifts & chops).

3.     Bicep curl

I love you Arnold but we don’t have time for this single joint isolated movement. There is not much need in the sports world for isolated hinge joint exercises because there is not much activity in the sports world that requires isolated hinge joint activity.  A chin-up in addition to much needed thoracic spine development through the Traps & Lats gives the bicep plenty of work and trust me; your arms will look plenty defined in your football jersey.  If you absolutely must, if you would like to throw in 2 or 3 sets of 5 before you leave the gym for the day it won’t kill you, just make sure you keep your shoulder back so we don’t end up with tendonitis of your biceps tendon.

4.     Forearm curls

The easy way out would be to copy and paste from the calf raise section as the wrist and ankle are very similar in structure.  However since we have opposing thumbs, simply by gripping, we tend to develop plenty of forearm strength.  Have you ever tried to perform 3 reps of a heavy hang clean? …Or 3×5 of maximum effort chin-ups?  How about a farmer’s walk with 80lb dumbbells in each hand?  Each of the above are excellent exercises for helping develop power, strength, and stability, but tell me how your forearms feel after performing those sets first, then we can decide if you really need to perform those reverse forearm curls with the barbell or go digging for a prize at the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket filled with rice.

In a daily life that is rapidly increasing demand on efficiency, there is still this perception that in order to properly develop every muscle in the human body, you have to isolate every muscle in the human body.  Now while I’m not completely against isolation exercises, I steer clear from some more than others.  I chose these 4 exercises because they just might have the greatest deal of appeal to the adolescent teen (my average client) – at least these were some of my favorites in addition to bench press when I was that age.


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