I stumbled upon an article by muscle & fitness.

Entitled; “8 worst exercises for building muscle”.

As I was reading down the article I found myself surprised.

This author is thinking outside the box.

He’s questioning the convention, challenging the norm.

Even seeking better and safer exercises.

This is highly unusual.

When I reached the bottom of the article I realized it was an April fools prank.

No surprises I must say, its typical.

I mean let’s be serious here for a second.

When it comes to the fitness industry were still driving round in horse and carts.

Anyway, let’s dive in.

Some of these exercises are abhorrent and you should never attempt them if you respect your body.

Worst Exercises – New perspective on these common exercises


1. Barbell Step-Ups


It amazes me how this exercise was not included in a single one of the other articles on the 1st page.

In 2007 a college football player after performing this exercise twisted his ankle, fell over and suffered serious injuries to his spine.

I’m aware that exercise is as effective as the person using it.

Yet, in this case, the trainee was a college football player.

Being supervised by a ‘professional’ coach, in a professional environment.

An exercise should never injure someone. Exercise Law No.1.

There is no reason to do this exercise at all. It has zero magical powers.

There a few big problems with it.

The 1st part of the exercise is done with the lower body and back, the strongest muscles in the body.

This means that the unenlightened trainee will select a heavyweight.

A barbell represents a very unstable lifting device.

The bar is a long lever, with its load distributed in half, at opposite ends.

Any slight movement and the lever begins to shift and the weaker ancillary muscles will be disproportionately and dangerously loaded.

This isn’t normally a problem in bilateral exercises like a squat.

But as soon as you take one leg out the equation, the dynamics completely change.

Once you remove one leg you immediately place a load selected for the lower body.

Onto the smaller weaker ancillary muscles of the torso and hips. Add to this the extra resistance created by the unstable lever.

Add also to this the need to travel a relatively great range of motion both concentrically and eccentrically.

You have a poorly thought out recipe for disaster as demonstrated in the news.



Pretty much any other exercise except for no.5 in the list.

If you want to replicate this exercise, in terms of biomechanics try a split squat in a smith machine. If you are thinking of setting up a home gym then a smith machine is essential.

Watch this video by Bill DeSimone if you want to learn more about this monstrosity.

2. Upright Rows


Upright rows work the traps (trapezius) muscle of the shoulder girdle.

As well as the anterior (front) and lateral (side) deltoids.



The further you place your arm across and in front of your body.

The more the coracoid process of your shoulder girdle. Begins to impinge upon your rotator cuff muscles.


image of the acromion process in the shoulder girdle where shoulder injuries can occur with over head pressing exercises

This impingement is a rubbing of the muscle that can lead to injury and/or wear and tear.


Dumbbell Lateral raise using machine or dumbbell.


3. Pronated Behind the Neck Pull Down


As demonstrated in the top image of this article. Many people do this exercise with a standard pull down bar and a pronated grip (overhand grip).


This grip limits the external rotation you can achieve.

It forces you to crank the neck forward. This is the bodies way of adjusting itself to allow you to finish what you are trying to do.

This compensation by the body will lead to injury.

A twinge somewhere in the rotator cuff or traps is common and uncomfortable.

It’s an annoying injury to have and will end up affecting your sleep.

I speak from experience.

4. Dumbbell Flyes


Terrible mechanics.

Due to other neighboring muscles assisting this exercise.

Like the triceps, biceps, and deltoids.

The weight used can be too heavy relative to the weakest position of the movement.

The full stretched, end position.

Image demonstrating that the position in the dumbbell fly at full extension. Is the most vulnerable point in a chest fly exercise.

This means that the weight you can lower is far more than what is safe to hold at the bottom stretched position.

The resistance is only present in the 1st, approximately, 30 degrees of movement.

After that, there is practically no resistance close to, and in peak contraction.

If you have ever felt peak contraction in the pecs like when doing a single arm fly movement in a pec dec or similar.

You will straight away see the limitations of the dumbbell fly.

Also, having the arms straight or even near to straight.

Greatly increases the resistance and stressors placed on the long head of the bicep and ligaments around the elbow.


If you do not have access to a pec dec machine of some sort. Try using cable machines to perform this ‘fly’ movement.

If you do not have access to cable machines. Then a dumbbell press with wrist rotation at the top would be a good alternative.

The wrist rotation is done like so:

Start with your arms locked out and your palms facing each other with the dumbbells touching. Then as you lower, rotate your palms so they are no longer facing each other.

5. Plyometrics



Huge impact on joints and totally unnecessary.

There are no reasons to perform plyometrics, they will add nothing that you can’t achieve with a slower, safer non-explosive movement.

Explosive movements do not isolate and train fast twitch muscle fibers.

This is a common misconception. Fast twitch muscle fibers or type 2 muscle fibers.

Are named fast twitch not because they respond during fast explosive movements but because they fatigue fast due to their high force potential.

Yes, you may recruit a greater percentage of type 2 muscle fibers vs type 1 muscle fiber during plyometrics.

But you can also recruit them during slower more controlled movements just as effectively. Provided the intensity of effort reaches a high enough degree.

“MU’s (motor units) are generally recruited in order of size in voluntary contraction of increasing force or effort”.

It is not about speed, it is about the intensity of effort and pushing a muscle until MMF (momentary muscular failure).

If you are an athlete of some sort, do not perform plyometrics.

Break down the event you are competing at.

Train those specific movements. Stay as close to the actual nature of the event/movement as possible.

Adding weight or derivate movements. Will only serve to confuse the neurological pathways that represent ‘skill’ blueprints.


Train in the gym for strength, conditioning, and muscle. Using weights safely and effectively.

Practice the event or skill on the field. Staying as true to the skill/movement as possible.

6. Olympic Lifts




Olympic lifting is a sport, a demonstration of strength within a specific skill set.

Just because the men and women performing these exercises.

Demonstrate impressive strength and/or impressive physiques.

It does not mean they would not have developed such strength or physiques with other safer more efficient, methods.

If your goal is general health, fitness, strength etc. You have no business performing Olympic lifts.

If you think it’s fun, that’s different.

Judo is fun and I understand the dangers associated.

I do not, however, partake in Judo to get fit or strong.

I do it because I find it fun. Like a human chess match.

I train in the gym to get fit, strong and healthy.

In less time, with no injuries.


General weight training that is done in accordance with congruent muscle action and done safely.


If you are performing any of the above exercises I recommend ceasing immediately.

Doing more research and finding alternatives that are safer and more effective.

Don’t just find a more efficient or safer exercise.

Try and find the safest and most effective exercise replacement humanly possible.

Spend some times investigating it. The injury avoidance will make it worth your time, alone.