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5 Exercises You Need To Stop Doing Now (And What To Do Instead)

5 Exercises You Need To Stop Doing Now (And What To Do Instead)

Are you still training with many of the same exercises you did back in gym class?

Are you using upright rows to build your shoulders? Maybe ending your workout with a few sets of sit-ups?

Just as we now know that the sit-and-reach is not an effective metric for your flexibility, there are a handful of strength training exercises that not only lack in effectiveness, but may even elevate your risk of injury.

You see, our collective understanding of fitness has evolved rapidly over just the past 10 years. It’s becoming more and more clear that we need to be training movement patterns instead of parts in isolation (think: squat vs. the knee extension machine). We have also learned that some exercises represent not only an unnatural movement pattern, but may even be potentially damaging over the long term.

This is especially important to recognize if you have less than ideal posture (who doesn’t?!) or grumpy joints. Therefore, it is important for you to consult with a medical professional and a certified personal trainer to ensure that you know which exercises and programs are right for you.

That being said, the health and fitness community has generally identified a handful of controversial exercises that are worth substituting with their safer and more joint-friendly counterparts.

So, let’s get to it! Here are five exercises you need to stop doing now, and what you can do instead.

1. Upright rows

Are upright rows a part of your fitness program? Are you using a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, or maybe a sandbag? It’s not the weight used that defines an upright row, but the movement. You stand upright with the weight at arm’s length and then with an overhand, closed grip, lift the weight to near collarbone level.

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I remember being instructed on this exercise back when I was in high school. Since then, I performed the exercise with just about anything that was heavy. If I wanted to train my shoulders and traps, well, upright rows were my go-to exercise.

However, we now know that the upright row movement is a less-than-ideal pattern. Performing too many upright rows may increase your chances of shoulder impingement and overworking your rotator cuffs. Your humerus is impacting against the acromion process in your shoulder joint. This is because your arm is locked into internal rotation by holding the weight close to the center of your chest.

Try this instead: Lateral dumbbell raises

Lateral dumbbell raises are a safer alternative. You’ll need to adopt a well-rounded shoulder workout to make sure you get at all heads of your deltoid, but lateral raises are a good start.

From standing, grip a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length and, keeping your arms straightened, raise the dumbbells out to the sides so they are level with your shoulders.

2. Seated knee extensions

We’ve all done this at one point or another, haven’t we? It’s one of those very familiar weight machines that people seem to flock to in the gym, probably because it’s very straight forward to use. And if you’re wearing shorts you can see your muscles flex–it must be working, right?!

Unfortunately, seated knee extensions have a tendency to put your knee joint under a lot of stress. Those small and very important tendons and ligaments in your knee will be a heck of a lot happier if you stopped putting so much stress on them in an unnatural way.

Does the seated leg extension look like a natural movement pattern? Of course it doesn’t. Our bodies simply weren’t designed to move a load from our ankles.

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For bodybuilders and those interested in muscle hypertrophy, the leg extension can indeed build muscle tone. However, for the majority of gym goers–those who simply want to move better and feel better–there is a far better alternative out there than extensions.

Try this instead: Goblet squats

Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell, hold it at your chest, and push your hips back as you bend your knees and squat down to a comfortable level. Drive through the heels and press back up.

The squat pattern is a simple movement that we all did wonderfully when we were children, but as we grew up and earned office jobs, many of us started to lose this pattern. The goblet squat is a great starting point for you to relearn how to squat properly.

It’s worth mentioning that a squat can be a very technical lift, but you have to start somewhere! So grab a kettlebell and have a good trainer watch your form. You’ll be moving in both a purposeful and practical manner while sparing your knees from any unnecessary stress.

3. Sit-ups

Oh yes, even the once venerable sit-up is on my list. For decades the sit-up wasn’t considered controversial in the very least. But today, those of us in the health and fitness community have a much better understanding of what the muscles in our core actually do (they do much more than just flex the spine!).

I encourage you to do a quick Internet search and find out for yourself why there are better alternatives for building your core strength than the sit-up. But here’s the least that you need to know: spine bio-mechanics expert Dr. Stuart McGill has learned that sit-ups may put you at a greater risk for disc herniation and disc bulge2.

So how do you work your core?

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Try this instead: Plank slides 

The plank is a great core builder, but I’ll be the first to admit, it can feel a little dull sometimes.

Here’s how you spice it up: Using towels on a slick floor, or gliding discs that you might find in your gym, assume the plank position and place your hands on the towels or discs. Now, play with moving each arm six inches up and down. Then try side to side. All the while, keep your torso in place and mitigate movement everywhere except your arms.

Now that’s a core workout!

4. Behind the neck pull-downs

Similar to upright rows, behind the neck pull-downs are placing extra stress on your shoulder joint. In this case, the humerus is being externally rotated and having to really stretch the front of your shoulder.

To make matters worse, if you’re a desk jockey, odds are that you already have rounded shoulders from hunching toward a computer screen. This posture will only accentuate the stress placed on your shoulders.

Try this instead: Pull-downs (or pull-ups!)

In other words, do the original pull-downs by pulling down in front of you, towards your collarbone. This is a much safer movement pattern and will spare your shoulders from that unnecessary stress. And if you can lift your bodyweight, then why not do the real deal? The pull-up!

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5. Bench dips

We see a lot of bench dips in the gym. Again, I think it’s one of those exercises we learned years ago and continue to perform by habit. The problem with bench dips is that with your hands so far behind your body, you end up putting a significant stress on the front of your shoulders (are you starting to see a theme?). If you put weight plates on your legs, then you’re just amplifying the problem.

Simply put, the risk outweighs the reward with bench dips.

Try this instead: Tricep push-downs

With tricep push-downs you’ll still be able to focus on your triceps (which actually comprise the majority of your upper arm), but you’ll be doing so with your shoulders in a much safer position.

Wrap up

So, there you have it. Five alternate exercises that will help keep you healthy and lifting for a long time to come.

Is this an exhaustive list? No, of course not. But I hope it will get you thinking and encourage you to think critically about your own workout program. Everyone’s body is different and it’s up to you to make sure you’re lifting smart.

We resistance train to keep our bodies healthy, right? But sometimes it is all too easy to do just the opposite unless we take a step back from time to time and take a close look at the movements we’re doing.

Safe lifting everyone!

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

1. Create a Daily Plan

Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

3. Use a Calendar

Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

4. Use an Organizer

An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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5. Know Your Deadlines

When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

6. Learn to Say “No”

Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

7. Target to Be Early

When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

8. Time Box Your Activities

This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

11. Focus

Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

12. Block out Distractions

What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

13. Track Your Time Spent

When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

15. Prioritize

Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

16. Delegate

If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

For related work, batch them together.

For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

  1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
  2. coaching
  3. workshop development
  4. business development
  5. administrative

I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

19. Cut off When You Need To

The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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