3 exercises not worth your time (and what to do instead)

by Ryan Wagner

It may be my German heritage or my background as an engineer, but whatever the reason, I’m often thinking in terms of efficiency. We’re all so busy these days that it can be challenging to even get to the gym, let alone spend an hour there. Therefore, I wanted to revisit a topic I’ve written about in the past, but one that is ever so relevant – I want to talk about the three exercises not worth your time.

1. Upright rows

If you’re a typical gym-goer, you want to get healthy. Period.
That may mean losing a few pounds or maybe packing on a little muscle where there was none. So why on Earth are so many people doing upright rows?! Should novice lifters really be all that concerned with strong traps? I don’t think so.

In fact, with so many of us hunched over our computer screens and phones, there is a growing prevalence for hypertonic traps. Lifting more won’t help to alleviate this tightness, instead, it will probably reinforce the pattern. Whereas soft tissue work, on the other hand, will have a much more positive impact.

If you recall my past work on the risks of the upright row, you’ll remember that it can increase your risk of shoulder impingement and potentially overwork your rotator cuffs.

A better option: The Turkish Get Up

If you have a well rounded workout program, I think your traps will be just fine. What I think you should be focusing on in the first place are your shoulders. (And to be honest, I think a lot of people work the upright row because they think that it’s more or less a shoulder exercise – it’s not)

If you aspire to have healthy shoulders, then look no further than the TGU. It moves your shoulder through all planes of movement, demands both dynamic and static stability, and will increase your work capacity.

Here’s what you need to know.

2. Leg press

Attention body builders: You can do whatever you want, I’m sure you know the risks and rewards of using the leg press and loading it with all the 45s in the gym and then having your two favorite gym rats sit on top…

But for everyone else out there, the leg press just isn’t worth the risk.

Not only will it not teach you a thing about squatting properly, but it will encourage you to flatten your back and compress – a big no-no if you want to maintain a healthy spine for years to come.

A better option: Squat

If you don’t know how to squat properly, and forgive me for sounding bossy, but you need to. It’s the best way to keep your ankles, knees, and hips healthy. It’s also a great way to keep a healthy back.

But relearning how to squat can be a challenge for some. And I realize that hiding in the machine jungle can seem like relative comfort when you feel out of place in the free-weight zone, but remember the old Chinese proverb about the best time to plant a tree?

…Start squatting today.

3. Box jumps

For those of you looking to lose weight and/or gain muscle, I don’t think box jumps should be in your toolbox.
And yes, I know, box jumps are a staple in a very popular fitness trend at the moment. Nevertheless, they are largely a waste of time.

Let’s break it down.

First, what’s your goal? Let’s say it’s leg development.

OK, so you’re definitely using your legs in a plyometric manner with box jumps. You’re triple extending at the knee, hip and ankle – all good things. You need some coordination and landing control; stuff I like.

But all too often, box jumps are used as a cardio/bragging rights exercise, and not seen as what they are – a plyometric exercise. And plyometric exercise is really the final progression for movement development. But the problem is that most people have poor movement to begin with. If you can’t squat properly, you have no business squatting into a low position and then explosively jumping.

Let’s go a different direction for the sake of argument. Let’s say that your goal isn’t so much leg development as it is increasing your jumping height.

OK, but consider this – how do humans jump? Have you ever seen an NBA player jump like a box jump? Even in training?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather jump like a hurdler or Kobe Bryant: In stride.

And finally, box jumps just don’t have a good risk/reward ratio. When they are employed as a cardio exercise, it’s easy to get fatigued, get sloppy, and scrape your knees against the box on your way down (or up!). And if you find yourself falling to one side and out of balance, well, I hope you have a strong ACL.

A better option: See number 2, and jump on level surfaces

First and foremost, having a nice and smooth squat pattern will do more for your plyometric triple extension than any box jump program.

Secondly, re-evaluate your jumps.

Jumping in the broad jump style, or finding some of the fun agility exercises out there, are much safer alternatives to trying to jump some arbitrary height that you can then post on Instagram.

Personally, I can clear about 50 inches in the box jump style and I never train them. Instead, I focus my own training on the big movements and keep a close eye on my mobility and control.

Wrap up

There are a lot of exercises out there. And I completely understand the pressure to “do what everyone else is doing,” because I’ve been there myself when I was just a young buck. But putting in the extra effort to research the risk/reward of different exercises and finding what’s best aligned to your personal fitness goals is very important.

Simply put: Identify your goals and work to find the right tools. Trust me, it’s an on-going process.

Happy lifting folks.

By Ryan Wagner

Did this post help you? Do you think I’m completely wrong?! What do you think are 3 exercises not worth your time? Sound off below and let’s start the conversation.

3 exercises not worth your time (and what to do instead) by