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If you’re working out on your own, or if you’re following workouts from a personal trainer on YouTube, you should be warned that there are several common strength training exercises that are bad for you:

Upright rows are bad for your shoulders

The upright row is a shoulder exercise that is the specific recipe for how to damage your rotator cuff!
If you want to pinch your rotator tendon (rotator cuff impingement is the technical term), you’d pull your arms out away from you and internally rotate the arms. And that’s exactly what some personal trainers have you do when they have you do upright rows.

So please don’t do that exercise. Better exercises for your shoulders are the overhead press and the (correctly done) lateral raise.

Bench dips are bad for your shoulders too

Bench dips are very common in home exercise programs, because they don’t require any special workout equipment. But just like the nefarious upright row, the tricep bench dips are murder on your shoulders.

In order to perform this exercise, your arms have to go so far behind you that it’s impossible to keep correct shoulder mechanics and not dump your shoulders forwards at the bottom. (The technical term for this is anterior scapular tipping, but I like “shoulder dumping”, it’s much more descriptive.)

So regardless of what your Instagram personal trainer puts out, please don’t do tricep bench dips. Tricep exercises that are safer for your shoulders include the tricep pressdown, tricep kickbacks, and lying elbow extensions (lovingly known as “skull crushers”).

Curtsey lunges are bad for your knees

Curtsey lunges are popular for some reason, but they are bad for your knees. One important rule of knee safety when you lunge or squat is to make sure that your thighs are rotated so that your knee is not falling inward towards your midline. The technical term for this is a “valgus knee position” and it puts unwanted stress on your knees. Guess what? A valgus knee position is exactly what you get every time you do a curtsey lunge!

Heels-elevated squats are bad for your knees too

Speaking of exercises that are bad for your knees, the heels-elevated squat is still around.

When you stick something under your heel, it throws your weight forward towards the ball of the foot. This puts extra shear force on your knee. Don’t do heels-elevated exercises, keep your feet flat on the ground.

Lateral raises can be bad for you

The lateral raise is not bad for your shoulders when done correctly, but most demonstrations are incorrect (like the one below):

Your arms should raise not directly out to your sides, but slightly in front of you. (This is called the “scapular plane”). A slight external rotation of the arm (thumbs up) will avoid any shoulder impingement.

If you want to learn exercises correctly…

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