8 Bodyweight Exercises You Should Stop Doing Immediately
Bodyweight exercises can be an ideal way to squeeze a workout in even when you’re stuck without access to a gym, but don’t let the lack of equipment fool you: You still have to focus on your form. In a new video, Athlean-X founder Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. runs through the bodyweight exercises that people often perform wrong with little care because they’re not using a load—and some moves that can be downright dangerous.
First up: the bench dip.
“The reason we do this exercise is because it allows us to get that long head of the triceps into its fully contracted position,” says Cavaliere. “However, at what expense to your shoulder?”
He points out that this move can put a lot of pressure on the anterior shoulder capsule, which should be all about providing stability. Cavaliere advises adjusting your hand position when doing this move, turning your fingers outwards instead of letting them face forward, opening up the chest, and externally rotating the shoulders, creating a better shoulder position. Alternatively, he suggests trying cobra pushups as a means of achieving the same tricep benefits without wrecking your shoulders.
The second move that Cavaliere is 100 percent over is the standard plank.
“It really is an underwhelming, under-delivering exercise, because it simply doesn’t provide enough challenge to those who are doing it trying to strengthen their core,” he says. “Look, if the world record holder can maintain a plank for more than 8 hours, likely it’s not challenging enough for you.” He adds that extended planks can contribute to problems such as back pain and poor posture. Flipping into a reverse plank can combat these issues, although be warned: you may be surprised by how weak that side of your body feels at first.
Hurdler’s Hamstring Stretch
The third move is the incredibly popular hurdler’s hamstring stretch, which Cavaliere says doesn’t actually stretch your hamstring.
“It’s biomechanically flawed, because what you’re doing is putting yourself into a posterior pelvic tilt, which is taking all of the stretch off of the hamstring and throwing it more onto the mid-back and the low back… To get the hamstring stretched, you want to be in more of an anterior pelvic tilt.” Alternatively, he recommends a standing hamstring stretch.
Fourth is the neck bridge, which Cavaliere says shouldn’t be attempted by anybody. “This is an absolute crusher,” he says. “We’re getting an unbelievable amount of compression directed down through that cervical spine by simply getting into position to start the exercise. Then when you factor in whether you’re going forward or backward, the amount of shear that gets thrown in on top of that is simply a recipe for disaster.”
If you’re still keen to build muscle in your neck, isometric exercises are a safer bet: lay on a bench with your head and shoulders hanging off and hold a towel over your head to add resistance as you go into flexion and extension. “The good thing about isometrics is the amount of force that you apply is one that can increase as the strength in your neck improves itself,” says Cavaliere.
Next up are kipping pullups, which Caveliere believes have more in common with “a monkey fucking a football” than an actual pullup. “All you’ve got to do is go straight up and straight down,” he says. “It’s hard enough, I promise.” And if you insist on challenging yourself, strap on some weights.
Sixth is the scorpion, a move aimed at increasing spinal mobility. “The problem is that you don’t want mobility through your entire spine,” Cavaliere explains. “The lumbar spine is designed to be stable, and you get your mobility from below, through the hip.”
The scorpion, however, derives most of its rotation from the lumbar portion of the spine, forcing it to move outside its natural range of motion. Cavaliere demonstrates how rotating the thoracic spine, using T-spine bar rotations, is a preferable option, as all of the movement is originating in the upper body.
Then there’s the sissy squat. The exercise is meant to work the quads, but Cavaliere says that it actually places stress on the area, as well as your patella. “You can screw your patella tendon up with just one set of this exercise, let alone day after day,” he says.
Switching to a pistol squat reduces extension of the hip in favor of flexion, which takes away some of the overload on the quads and patella.
Finally, there’s the humble pushup—which Cavaliere calls a worthwhile exercise, when it’s performed correctly. “People make it way too easy by cheating,” he says says.
Modes of cheating include the “floor fucker,” where you lower your hips but don’t move your upper body enough, and abbreviated pushups, which don’t explore the full range of motion as you approach lockout in your arms: “Those last 2 to 3 inches are the most difficult part of the exercise.”
Getting that full range of motion might mean that your number of reps goes down to begin with, but it’ll also mean you’re finally getting the maximum benefits of the exercise.
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