When you start out in the fitness industry with a degree right out college, you think you know all there is about exercise. I was once the doe-eyed trainer that couldn’t wait to give my clients the most awesome exercises I could possibly find. I thought my clients would become bored after doing the same few exercises during their training sessions. So, off I went searching the internet for something new and different.
This mentality shifted after a few years. Why would I give my client a new exercise when they haven’t mastered technique or shown significant strength improvement in their current exercise? It turns out that I did still have LOTS to learn about exercise after college.
Here are 3 exercises I no longer ask my clients to do:
In my first few years of training, everyone did crunches because everyone wants amazing abs! While everyone still wants a flat belly, I now recommend improving nutrition as the fastest way to a flatter tummy. There is a prominent spine researcher, Dr. Stuart McGill, who is showing that spinal flexion (aka, crunching) is more harmful than beneficial for the spine. Especially, first thing in the morning when your vertebrae are the most swollen. Crunches only target one of your abdominal muscles anyway. So, I choose exercises that work more muscles and have more bang for your buck.
Core stability exercises such as planks, dead bug, half-kneeling chops, Pallof press, and carries are all fantastic alternatives to crunches and may help improve hip mobility as well.
In my early days, if a client said they had low back pain, I would think the area needed to be strengthened. So, I would have them do back extensions (aka, supermans.) However, based on the prevalence of anterior pelvic tilt, chances are those lower back muscles are already super tight and need to be released and lengthened more than they need to be strengthened. [Watch the video below to see if you have anterior pelvic tilt.] Also, lower back pain does not necessarily mean that your lower back is weak. It could be poor pelvis alignment, it could be poor posture, it could be a lot of things. Nowadays I try to find the reason why your lower back hurts rather than assuming it needs to be stronger.
Stretching feels good, I get that. But often we’re stretching for the wrong reasons. Several research studies have shown that stretching before your workout does not prevent injury. Stretching to release tight muscles is somewhat beneficial if the muscle stretched is actually tight. Some muscles feel tight simply because they have tension on them from resting in an overstretched position.
My clients do more mobility exercises than stretches. We do self-massage with a tennis ball or foam roller to release any kinks or trigger points and then move the joint through a range of motion thereby stretching the muscles surrounding that joint. Here’s an example:
So there you have it. The reasons why these exercises have been removed from my exercise library. Hey, we live and we learn and we get better. The message here is that there is always an alternative exercise that is truly appropriate for each client.