7 Worst Exercises Ever Part 1

Previously, I’ve shared my best exercises for rapid fat loss and muscle gain, featuring a host of multi-joint, compound movements for your upper body (e.g. push-ups, pull-ups, rows, dips, etc.), lower body (squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.), and core (pillar holds and rotational core exercises).
These “multi-muscle” exercises provide the biggest bang for your buck during your workouts to generate maximum results in minimal time. Even better are total body exercises like a deadlift to curl to press or a squat thrust variation that takes the meaning of a whole body workout to a new level.
But, I think today I’m gonna switch it up a bit and focus on the WORST exercises you can add to your workout routine.
Now back when I was in high school and college, I fell into the trap of making these following exercises the main focus of my workouts. But with gaining more knowledge and experience over the years, I wouldn’t be caught dead doing these exercises anymore.
These movements deliver shoddy results and flat our hurt people- they are movements that have far greater risk than reward. So please DO NOT make these exercises the main focus of your workouts!
So without further ado, here is Part 1 of a two part series for:
The 7 Worst Exercises of All Time
1.) Abs Machine
Everybody wants to get six pack abs. The problem is that most people do excessive crunches to try and get that washboard midsection. Crunches and sit-ups only promote excessive flexion of the lumbar spine and tend to cause neck and back pain. This should never be the sole focus of your core work.
What’s worse than crunches or sit-ups? Doing a similar movement with added weight in a machine that only trains your body in an unnatural front to back motion in a seated position!
Yes, abs machines, like crunches and sit-ups, do make your feel your abdominal muscles, but there are far better ways to accomplish this without the high risk of short and long-term injury to your spine.
Remember, the true purpose of your core is stabilization, both static and dynamic- to be able to maintain a neutral, straight-line position from your hips to your shoulders in all 3 planes of movement (front to back, side to side, and rotational) no matter what the external stimulus may be.
21 Century Training Upgrade: For rock hard, athletic abs focus on pillar stabilization exercises like front, side, and back pillars. Also, focus on ground based rotational core work like chop variations and upper body torso twists.
2.) Back Extension Machine
Well, if I HATE the abs machine, how do you think I’m going to feel about the back machine? I mean this is just such a stupid exercise for so many reasons.
First of all, people already use too much “back” on most movements because of tight hips and inactive/weak glutes. Thus, I prefer to focus more on hip extension movements that strengthen your butt rather than continually overloading the spinal erectors.
Plus, adding in corrective stretching for the hip flexor complex, the hip rotators, and the hamstring complex that opens up your hips and alleviates excessive spinal flexion and compressions is literally exactly what the doctor ordered.
Second of all, just like the abs machine, this bootleg exercise trains your body in one plane of movement in a fixed path and as a results doesn’t work your key stabilizer muscles.
Lastly, the way that most people perform this movement in such a spastic out of control manner for speed just makes me want to vomit.
21 Century Training Upgrade: For a strong, stable back focus on deadlift, good morning, and hip extensions variations while simultaneously focusing on the corrective stretching and self-massage of the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip (LPH) complex.
A superman, or airplane, as it is sometimes called, is also a great exercise to improve spinal erector endurance while simultaneously improving scapular strength and stability.

3.) Leg Extension Machine


This exercise is usually the staple of most people’s leg day workouts. I used to be guilty of performing this exercise thinking this was the best way to get stronger legs. I’d often jack the weight up to 180-200lbs trying to crank out as many reps as I could.

My hands would be grasping onto those handles under the seat and holding on for dear life to try and keep my butt from coming up off the seat while I extended my legs out. How stupid was I!!

Here’s the bottom line with this exercise- it will wreak havoc on your knees! The excessive compressions on your patella will without a doubt results in the brake down of articular cartilage which will in turn results in a bunch of arthroscopic knee surgeries to remove loose bodies and eventually full blown crippling arthritis. Avoid this machine like cancer!

21 Century Training Upgrade: For strong, stable knees, focus on both knee-dominant (lunge, step-up, and single-leg squat variations) AND hip-dominant single-leg exercises (single-leg hip extension, deadlift, and good morning variations) to prevent strength imbalances between limbs AND to prevent strength imbalances between your front and back thighs and your inner and outer thighs.

4.) Elliptical Machine

Look- if you are really, really overweight and haven’t exercised in over a decade, then I think an elliptical has some use. But, other than that, I think it’s relatively useless.

Yes, it is a low-impact alternative to running on a treadmill, but there is very little range of motion during the movement and does not burn nearly as many calories as the machine claims it does.

Furthermore, the elliptical is not a good machine to do intervals on because it promotes excessive hyperextension of the knee. This can easily result in injury at high levels of speed and resistance.

Think about it- what’s the first machine people who are new to cardio exercise jump on? The elliptical! Why? Because it’s so friggin’ easy!

Don’t try and convince yourself that the elliptical is a good option because you have bum knees. This is what will help your knees. If you are overweight, then lose some weight. Perform a ton of corrective stretching and self-massage on your front/inner/outer hips and thighs to improve your tissue health, and work on hip and ankle mobility to take pressure off of your knees so that you can get back to running pain-free.

At the end of the day, you can read a dang magazine like this guy while on an elliptical….So how much benefit do you really think you will get from this overpriced waste of space?

21 Century Training Upgrade: For optimal results during your cardio training, you must focus on intervals. They burn 9 times more body fat than steady state aerobics and also result in greater improvements in overall conditioning than long, slow, boring cardio.

If you are overweight/de-conditioned and/or have joint issues, the best place to start an interval training program is on a spin bike, or better yet, an Airdyne Bike which has both upper and lower body attachments to make it more of a total body conditioning experience.

Another awesome form of full body cardio is the rowing machine. Perform intervals on the rowing maching and I’ll guarantee you’ll be dripping after 20 minutes.

If you need to rock your cardio equipment-free and/or at home or on the road, use body weight based exercises like jumping jacks, stationary running, split jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, etc..

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week…

Get after it!


PS- What other exercises do you see people doing in the gym that make you cringe? What other exercises do you absolutely hate? What exercises have gotten you (or your clients) hurt in the past? Please share your personal experiences by posting a comment to this blog post, thanks!

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