You can exercise for fun, or for training, or both. Exercise wisely, in ways that help you in sports or your daily life. But don't do exercises that are useless, or potentially injury-generating. Here are a few doozies that should definitely not find their way into your program.
1. Wall Squats
At no time in daily life does anyone sit stationary against a wall. This exercise overloads the kneecap by holding a stationary load on one area of the cartilage. This load depletes the cartilage of its lubricating fluid, or if the joint is already damaged, increases the breakdown of the exposed collagen fibers. The benefit simply isn't worth the risk.
2. Knee Extension Exercises
No athlete kicks a ball solely from a knee extension. The kick is generated as the hip rotates the powerful trunk, and then the leg muscles, into the ball. A seated, repetitive leg extension overloads both the kneecap and the trochlea (the groove in the femur in which the kneecap tracks). Repetitive leg extensions can lead to patellar arthritis and patellar tendonitis—and the damage is much worse when one's ankle or leg weight is added. So you've got an exercise that's ineffective in its carryover to sport and increases your risk of knee pain. A simple squat exercise is highly preferred, as it exercises all the muscles from the foot and ankle up through the leg, hip and trunk. Squats are what athletes do in almost all sports.
3. Isolated Machine Single-Muscle Exercises
Machine exercises like a Machine Bench Press may make your chest look good, but not much else. The time you spend doing a Machine Bench Press or a Machine Biceps Curl could be much more beneficially spent doing a dynamic exercise—such as a Hammer Curl to Overhead Press—which utilizes much more of the upper extremity musculature (biceps, triceps and shoulders).
4. Anything so Complicated You Can't Remember Proper Set-Up/Form
Exercises that require too much set-up to perform correctly can result in improper performance, over-compensation or injury. Doing exercises with proper form, appropriate pace and resistance are most effective. Don't waste your time on complicated exercises that you can't remember how to set up properly. The trouble is almost never worth the benefit. The crazier an exercise looks, the less transfer to sport it usually possesses.
5. Highly Loaded Leg Presses
Leg Press machines often allow people to utilize a load that's double or even triple their Barbell Back Squat max. If you are looking for lower extremity strength, you should be attempting to Squat standing up, double or single leg, with or without resistance (e.g., kettlebell, hand weights, bar), depending on your ability and form. These types of standing exercises will more effectively improve your movements for daily living and will challenge your core more usefully. A step-down exercise off a box, for instance, will build thigh muscle strength quickly, challenge your balance, and improve your ability to descend stairs. While moving a bunch of weight on the Leg Press machine may look cool, it simply doesn't translate all that well to sports or daily life.
6. Doing 'Cardio' on a Stationary Bike or Treadmill While Watching TV or Reading
To gain the most benefit from exercise, you must feel your heart rate, your breathing, and your muscles as they hit their limits and begin to tire. It is the awareness of your body's responses to exercise stress that help you push past today's barriers and become fitter, faster and stronger. You lose much of the psychological training benefit, as well as the skill improvements, by dissociating your mind from your exercise. Learn how to filter out all other distractions and become mindful during training. Then, enjoy the post-workout bliss. Exercise is the ultimate meditation and the direct connection to the god within you.
Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco. Learn more at http://www.stoneclinic.com/
Photo Credit: Sergey Nazarov/iStock
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