“Stop exercising.”

That’s something you would never expect a personal trainer to say, right?

But in some cases, this has been my advice to my clients.

I would never tell my clients to stop exercising all together because there is an appropriate exercise option out there for everyone.  But the challenge is to make the right choices for your particular body.

This is the problem with general exercise recommendations.  There will be someone who shouldn’t be doing those exercises.

So let me give you a couple examples of when I told my clients to stop doing a particular exercise.

Client #1

A client came to me with chronic tightness and pain in her neck and shoulders.

Through testing, I discovered her upper trapezius muscle was really overactive.  That means it’s chronically hyped up and can’t relax.  Take a look at where those muscle fibers are:  right along the shoulder and neck.  Naturally, that overactivity would cause discomfort.

The upper trap muscle fibers were so toned up that they were shutting down the function of her neck flexors, glutes, and hamstrings.  When I tested those three muscles, they were quite weak.  So she has to work on massaging and stretching her upper traps in order to calm them down.  And she has to work on strengthening her weak muscles.  This is what I mean when I talk about correcting muscular imbalances.

Getting back to the point though………she stretches her hamstrings daily.  They always *feel* tight to her.  But remember her hamstrings are weak.  The brain is interpreting the weakness as a stability issue.  So her weak hamstrings feel tight as a protective mechanism.

Stretching a weak muscle is not a good idea.  It perpetuates the weakness.  So I told her to stop stretching her hamstrings.  She looked at me like I had two heads too!

This is why it’s so important to test muscle function and how an overactive muscle relates to an underactive muscle.  Following a general recommendation to stretch because it feels tight is not the right answer for her.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve read examples of why you shouldn’t stretch.  I may sound like I am against stretching.  And I am against stretching if it’s not the right stretch for you!  But I do include some stretches in my clients workouts when it’s warranted.

Client #2

The next example is from a client who came to me after his second back surgery.  I evaluated his posture and found a rounded spine and forward head posture.  In this posture, your chest gets closed off and tight, your abs typically shut down, and it’s hard to maintain a healthy breathing pattern.  Your lower back takes the brunt of holding up the weight of your torso and head.

He’s finishing up physical therapy and is limited on what exercises he can do.  For a life-long competitive athlete, not exercising is really hard!  So he’s been doing pushups.  It’s one exercise he can do that doesn’t trigger back pain.

But guess what?  Pushups strengthen the chest and reinforce tight, closed off shoulders if you’re not balancing them with A LOT of back strengthening exercises.  So you know what I told him……stop doing pushups!

Mind you, I love pushups.  The majority of my clients do some variation of pushups.  So it kind of hurt me to tell him to stop.  But, it’s just what’s right for him at the moment.  He can certainly do other exercises for now and work pushups back into his routine in the future.


So there you have it.  Two examples of a personal trainer telling her clients to stop doing particular exercises.  It’s so important to know what’s going on with your muscles so your workouts can be effective.  And it’s humbling to take a step back in order to address an underlying issue.  But you may need to STOP doing certain exercises in order to make progress.