So what makes a fitness pro grimace? For starters:
1. When you "butcher" a great exercise by using poor form
2. When you use an exercise that puts you at unnecessary risk for injury.
We polled several top Men's Health advisers and asked them for specifics. The result: The top 5 exercises that make trainers cringe.
EXERCISE 1. THE CLASSIC UPRIGHT ROW
Yes, this "upper trap" exercise is a highly popular move used by everyone from serious bodybuilders to novice lifters. But it can be murder on your shoulders. "It's my pick for the absolute worst exercise," says Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Indianapolis Sports and Fitness. "It puts your shoulders in a horrible position."
That's because the exercise requires you to rotate your upper arms inward while raising them to shoulder level or above. This puts you at high risk for shoulder impingement, a painful condition in which the muscles or tendons of your rotator cuff become entrapped in your shoulder joint. We say this is one to skip entirely; there are plenty of other great exercises you can use to work your shoulders. (You'll find more than 40 shoulder exercises in The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises and The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises.)
EXERCISE 2. THE PUSH-UP!
A well-executed push-up is a beautiful thing: It makes trainers smile and nod with respect. Trouble is, that doesn't happen often enough. "What you usually see is a person whose head is jutted forward and hips are sagging, both of which signal an underlying weakness or just poor form,” says Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., owner of B.A.S.E. Conditioning in Long Island, New York. "Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles." To test your form, get into a push-up position and have someone place a broomstick or dowel rod on your back. It should touch your head, upper back, and butt, and remain in contact with all three points as you perform a push-up.