4 Overated Exercises (And How To Make Them Better)!

What goes in an exercise programme is usually a mixture of opinion, fact and experience of the person writing that programme. Now that does not mean the more experienced you are the more relevant your exercise choices are. In turn qualifications mean nothing without practical experience. What follows are 4 exercises that you may commonly see on training programmes. In this post I will quantify why we programme them rarely or not at all and most importantly options to perform instead.


Tabata’s- Based on a protocol from a Japanese Sports Scientist, Tabata training seems now to include any form of short maximal intensity workload with short 10 second rest. When you look at the original paper that this type of training was coined from the workload has to be supramaximal (up to 170% of yourVO2 Max). It’s tough working that hard and a bit nasty- you can not last a long time working at these intensities. My issues are the fact that performing work for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds has all been coined “Tabata.” Simply you can not swing a kettlebell, perform bodyweight squats or burpee your way to this type of intensity. As well as this when being performed on the Treadmill, Rower or Bike you will see technical fatigue very quickly. If used at all the benefits of Tabata style training plateau after 3 weeks. The good side if used is that it can enhance VO2 Max and anaerobic capacity but should only be used as ashort term measure and most certainly is not the only form of cardiovasculkar training you should utilize.

Upright Rows- The old school body building classic to build up those shoulders. Now when you perform the upright row the shoulder joint internally rotates as well as flexes (turns inwards as the arm raises upwards). What happens here as you bring the arms up is that it closes the space in between your humerus and your acromium process (shoulder joint). In this area there is a large amount of musculature and connective tissue fitting in to the joint space. If this space is compromised and this tissue gets caught in that joint we may have an issue- shoulder impingement. It does have implications for those performing the Olympic Lifts though. Scapular position is vital and strong scapular retractors and depressors are vital for good performance. It also explains why they may be a step too far and too advanced for some individuals- especially if they are not using their lower body to generate enough force relying on the pull of the shoulders to elevate the bar. So what are the options for shoulder development and if necessary the Olympic Lifts? Well we are looking to work the shoulders so variations of dumbbell horizontal and vertical pressing (in those with stable shoulders) may be of use. With the Olympic Lifts if the shoulders need work postutrally then addressing mobility and stability with a suitable focussed programme may be the answer. This doent stop you looking at loaded jump based movements as an alternative as well as lower loading for squats and deadlifts and working on acceleration before returning to the O-lifts when structual balance is a lot more suitable around the shoulder.

Leg Extensions- Again, non-functional and unrelated to developing movement. The forces placed around the knee cap on a leg extension cause an increase in sheer force across the knee. As muscles develop in proportion to one another in a chain any form of dominance in one muscle group can cause postural imbalance and poor movement quality if performed over time. Single leg works multi-dimensional stability of the lower body- vital to move effectively and maintain good posture. Most people dodge it as it is tough- often we only do the things we are good at and leg extensions are an easy option for lower body training. Examples for other exercises include weighted lunges, step ups, single leg squats, heavy sled pushes/ pulls and single leg deadlift variations.

Ab Crunches- Ab crunches to end range flexion and extension are pretty much pointless for most individual’s that I work with. The reason being is that posturally most people do not need a shortened abdominal wall. If tight the rib cage is pulled down (towards the pelvis) it can affect breathing, round the upper back and in some cases be related to increased back pain as it will affect pelvic tilt. As an alternative we use a lot of side bridging drills, ab rollouts and sit to stand movements. This way we can challenge the dynamic nature of the abdominal musculature to resist against excessive force. As a point crunches do not give you a toned ab region. That is roughly about 80% diet related you won’t crunch your way to a six pack if your nutrition plan is not perfect. That also goes for any other “core” contraption.

Throw any others out there…. and feel free to disagree below!

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST (www.resultsfast.com)based in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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