4 Surprisingly Dangerous Exercises You Should Never Do

#1 Leg Press
22-originalA lot of people in the gym use the leg press thinking they are developing strong quads, but the leg press strengthens the quads in a specific and wrong position.  There is a functional relationship that exists between the quadriceps muscle and the hamstrings, and they are meant to be used together to avoid imbalances.  The leg press machine takes the hamstrings out of the equation, which can be very dangerous when you consider that the quads are often already much stronger than their opposing hamstrings.  Besides the potential for weak hamstrings, leading to tears, this relationship can also damage the knee; when your quadriceps overpower your hamstrings in deep knee flexion, there is increased torsion and strain placed into the knee’s meniscus, which can easily lead to meniscal injury.Just as the quads and hamstrings are meant to be used in unison, so are the quads and the glute muscles.  When performing a leg press, your glutes are not used effectively.  When you contract your quads with a great level of force and your glutes do not fire simultaneously, there is increased risk of low back injury.On top of the above mentioned injury risks associated with the leg press, the exercise provides no practical benefit as it is not a functional movement.  At no point in real life do you ever need to perform the movement that the leg press trains.  In most cases, people don’t even come down to 90 degrees of knee flexion, which is the basic requirement for getting in/out of a chair.  As well, it trains your legs in a position that changes hamstring, glute and even abdominal recruitment; muscle groups that should all work together when performing movements in real life. 

#2 Smith Machine Squats

22-originalJust like with the leg press, squatting with the Smith machine turns off muscle recruitment of the hamstrings and glutes, making the exercise quad dominant.  This leads to muscle imbalances and pain/tears on the top or bottom of the patella (knee cap).  Contracting your quads without your hamstrings activated can also build tight hip flexors pulling on your pelvis, causing it to tip forward, arching your back.  As well, and as with the leg press, by shutting off the hamstrings and glutes (muscles that should work together with the quads), this exercise loses all functionality; you’re no longer squatting like you would in real life.

The Smith machine also lends itself to certain other injuries.  In a normal squat, your ankles, knees, hips and back all move together in a specific pattern; as one joint tracts forward, another tracts backwards to keep the weight over your center of gravity.  Because the bar on the Smith machine is fixed and only allows certain movements, two things can happen: 1.) Your body is not able to move in the pattern it would like to, putting added stress on segments that are moving, and 2.) The squat movement enables all segments involved (ankles, knees, hips, back) to become mobile and strong together, but the Smith machine controls a large portion of the movement, doing the job of the body’s stabilizing and monitoring components, which usually act to limit the weight being lifted and keep range of motion in a safe zone.


#3 Bench Press

21-originalBench press seems to be the go-to upperbody exercise for anybody working their arms in the gym, but many people don’t realize how dangerous it can be.  The bench press has the potential to be a safe exercise if done properly, and with a reasonable weight.  However, many people in the weight room try to lift far too much weight and do not hold their arms and shoulders in the proper position.  Often when doing the bench press people allow their elbows to flare outwards, putting a lot of shearing force across the shoulder joint and pectoralis origin (where the muscle attaches to the humerus bone).  When this happens, pec tears are very common.  To avoid this type of injury make sure you keep your elbows tucked in closer to your body (at approx. 45°).

Aside from a potential pec tear, the bench press should be avoided because it is a completely non functional exercise.  It may serve a purpose for body builders trying to workout specific muscle groups, but for the general public, the bench press does not strengthen any movement used in real life.  There are so many other exercises that strengthen the same muscle groups through a functional movement, that the bench press is unnecessary.


#4 Behind The Neck Pull-ups/Pull-downs

24-originalBehind the neck pull-ups and pull downs are, just as the names suggest, pull-ups and pull-downs (on a pull-down machine) where the bar passes behind the head.  Either way you perform the exercise, it forces the shoulder joint, and its associated muscles, known as the rotator cuff, into an unnatural position.  This position can cause impingement of the rotator cuff and causes some major wear and tear on the shoulder joint.  There is no reason to do this to your body as the exercise can easily be substituted with pull-ups and pull-downs to the front.  It works the same muscles and is much healthier on the body.



Injuries are never fun, especially when they can be prevented.  Play safe.  Light and love from us at BauWave.

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