I was recently asked a question by a client of mine who had come across an article written by a fitness expert talking about “7 horrible exercises”. The article did make some valid points, but in my opinion, it could do more harm than good. Any exercise is good exercise, and we just really need to start, and fast! Articles like this, written in this manner often intimidate potential “fitness recruits” into a state of paralysis. The average person really doesn’t have much in their repertoire in the way of exercise or program design and “fitness gurus” strip them of the few exercises they do happen to enjoy performing. Making such bold statements, leaves the reader with the thought as if to say performing an angled leg press will potentially cripple them for life if they continue to perform this “forbidden” exercise. I am not advising anyone go out and perform any and every exercise improperly…in fact, any person who has ever trained with me can vouch for my attention to detail when it comes to utilizing proper exercise form and technique. What I mean is that every exercise has potential dangers (including walking on a treadmill) but, we are not advising against the treadmill because of the tremendous benefits it may elicit.
Here are a few reasons of why the leg press is now forbidden according to this article:
- Causes muscle imbalances: Almost anything a human being does can cause muscle imbalances. Example: sitting in a chair all day may cause tightness in the hip flexors.
- Leg Press is predominantly quadriceps: While a leg press is predominantly quadriceps, it does involve hamstrings and glutes during the eccentric contraction (lowering the machine towards the chest) to the degree that the body’s nervous system decides it needs to help reduce the amount of external force being placed on the body. Foot placement on the leg press machine plays a role in the percentage of muscle fibers being recruited from the hamstrings, quads, or glutes. (high or low positioning)
- Leg Press causes deep knee flexion: How deep is “deep knee flexion? “ I personally instruct the majority of my clients/patients to stop when the knee is at a 90 degree angle, which in most cases is not considered “deep knee flexion.” But there are times due to injury or other reasons why even 90 degress may be too deep for some. (deep knee flexion can be a relative term)
- Abs are pre-contracted: If you maintain a neutral spine, the abs are not contracted at all. Abs perform “trunk flexion”, you cannot perform excessive trunk flexion while maintaining a neutral spine therefore; the abs are not contracted at all if the exercise is performed properly.
- Does not provide functional benefit– 100% correct but is it a must that every exercise you perform in the gym has to have functional benefit in order to be allowed nowadays? I don’t think so. I am a big fan of functional training……but one of the interesting things with training the average person is they really could care less if they have great functionality, particularly if they do not have the body they want. People mostly want nice looking body parts (arms, legs, buts, etc) and developing lean muscle mass is a great start towards that. Maybe I am wrong but you can only build so much muscle mass standing with one leg, eyes closed, single arm overhead press on a BOSU Ball. That being said, please find some balance between functionality and strength/muscle building exercises.
I didn’t take the time to examine each exercise largely because I don’t believe blanket headlines such as “top 10 exercises to never do” is a 100% accurate statement. Statements about particular exercises being “bad” makes about as much sense to me as saying “everyone should perform cardio at a 90%-100% max heart rate for 45 minutes daily because you will burn more calories than 45 minutes at 60% of your max heart rate.” That is a true statement and everyone should strive to work out with great intesnity, but how many people can really achieve that type of effort? Answer…not very many. Working out is just like our clothes, and there is no one size fits all answer.
Are the exercises bad?…possibly for some people…. Have people performed them with no adverse effects? Some people have for years, including me; meanwhile others sustain low back injuries while tying their shoes. Is tying your shoe not safe either? Apparently not for everybody! (lol) All in all, I thought the article was very well written, just not 100% accurate for everyone……besides, being 100% accurate for everyone is not even possible right? My advice get in the gym now, get in there regularly and find some exercise that work for you. If you need more help besides reading the machines, then talk with or hire a trainer until you develop a program (with exercises you can do) for yourself. Get moving and do not be paralyzed by all of the fitness gurus screaming at you to perform only their favorite type of workout…they may be just trying to sell you on the idea that they have discovered “the way” to health and fitness. In case you are wondering, I am selling something too…. Accelerated results through consistent action!