Do This, Instead of This

Since the first half of my week I was incommunicado due to the hurricane, I want to get in one more post this week.  I have a great article for you to read, written by my strength coach, Tony Gentilcore.  Tony has his own blog and frequently writes for Men’s Health and more recently, for  His newest article for Livestrong got picked up by the Huffington Post and is titled Choose the Best Exercise Move for You.  I’m not sure I really like the title ~ I think a better title would be more like “Do This, Instead of This.”  In the article Tony discusses 3 exercises that are frequently seen in the gym that are not particularly effective nor are they particularly good for you…yet you see them ALL-THE-TIME.  He then gives three better exercises that target the same muscle group.  Unfortunately, for some reason the Livestrong articles do not have any photos or video links, so Tony does the best job he can to describe each exercise.  I am going to help you out by giving you some video so there is no question what Tony is talking about.  Use the video clips below, in conjunction with his great article.

First up is bench dips…I know you’ve done them before.  I used to do them several years ago too.  Do you feel like they hurt your shoulder?  Bingo!  As Tony says:

… you’re placing your shoulder joint into maximal extension and internal rotation, decreasing the subacromial space. This alone will often result in an irritated rotator cuff.

Here’s the not so good exercise:

Tony recommends doing board bench presses in lieu of bench dips ~ still targets the triceps but in a way that will save your shoulders.  Here is a video version that isn’t loaded with weight but works well for demonstration purposes:

The next exercise Tony suggests you avoid is the leg curl machine.  Every gym will have one of these, in either the seated version:

Or the lying down version:

The reason this exercise is useless:

In his book, “Advances in Functional Training: Training Techniques for Coaches, Personal Trainers and Athletes,” world-renowned strength coach and author, Mike Boyle states, “The hamstring group, a secondary hip extensor, is still mistakenly trained as a knee flexor [curling heels toward the butt]. … Hamstrings are only knee flexors in non-functional settings. In any locomotor activity, the function of the hamstrings group is not to flex the knee, but to extend the hip.”

So what should you do instead?  Slideboard leg curls (here is a great teaching video clip from Mike Boyle himself):

If you do not have access to a slideboard (and admittedly, I think it is rare to see them in a commercial gym) then you can use valslides, as demonstrated here (you can purchase valslides here, which are currently on sale):

And the final “what not to do exercise?”  Crunches!  I already discussed this in my post called Ab Do’s and Don’ts.  Read Tony’s article for more on why this exercise is both useless and bad for your back.  I’m not even going to post a video clip of crunches…we all know what they are and at some time all of us have done countless reps, hoping to obtain wicked abs (a little New England slang thrown in there for you).  What does Tony suggest you do instead? One of my all-time favorite exercises, the Paloff Press.  This can be done with a cable column or with a band.  Here is my coach Tony, using a cable column.  Note his fairly wide stance.  The exercise can be varied by using a narrower stance (there are actually a lot of great variations of this exercise ~ I will post on that another day):

Here is it with a band…although the head position is off ~ he should be looking straight ahead not down.  I also like a little slower movement of the hands away from the body ~ the hardest part is when your arms are fully extended, so don’t rush it. 

If you think this looks like an arm exercise, try it.  As your hands move away from your body you will start to feel a pull towards the cable column or the anchor point of the band.  Your job is to resist that pull ~ keep your hips pointed forward, do not allow them to rotate & stand nice and tall.  You should feel your abs, specifically the oblique muscle on the side nearest the cable column/anchor point, as your core resists the pull ~ doing what the core is meant to do, which is stabilize your body. 

So there you have it ~ three exercises you should chuck and three great ones to replace them with.  Give them a try and let me know what you think!

About Lisa Van Dore

I have lived in Sherborn, Dover and most recently North Walpole, for a total of 15 years (and counting). Having recently been through the process of selling a home and buying (and renovating) a new one, I understand the conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety inherent in the process, whether you are a seller or buyer, whether this is your first home purchase or your tenth. I have a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University. My early career found me working as a CPA, and later as the controller of Crate & Barrel. More recently I spent seven years running my own personal training business. I understand the hard work and dedication necessary to build a business and a reputation...most of my personal training clients came to me by referral and my first client was still with me when I decided to leave personal training. This speaks to the level of effort I put forth for my clients, week after week. On a more personal note, I raced triathlon for seven years and more recently completed my first half marathon. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, Maine, hiking and, in the fall, following college teams are the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and Texas Christian University (Go Frogs!).
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