Health/Fitness » Fitness

Dangerous Exercise Moves

by Kent McGroarty
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Feb 8, 2012

It is essential that all exercises you engage in be "correct to form." Exercises performed incorrectly can result in strained muscles and tendons, stress on the knees and other joints, and hernias from improper handling of weights. In addition to injuries resulting from incorrect exercise performance, some exercises are downright dangerous. Many dangerous exercises are those performed in a gym with various machines that can injure the back or dislocate the shoulders. So instead of potentially hurting yourself in an effort to get fit, look for workouts that are low impact and won't stress the body.

A gym staple, the leg press can result in lots of back stress. It involves sitting on the machine and using your legs to push a weighted platform to increase leg muscle and definition. Working the machine is not unlike playing an accordion, except you are the "squeeze box." Fitness experts now say the position of the body when working the leg press is completely wrong for handling of a heavy weight. To place the feet high on the weighted platform is to create more "hip flexion" in the body. The greater the flexion, the more you lose your back's natural curve. Since you won't perform a dead lift with a rounded back, why would you use your legs to push heavy weights with a rounded back? Instead, try getting the legs in shape by performing front, back, and split squats, which are much safer for the back.

The sit-up is a traditional abdominal exercise that can also cause injury to the back. Feet are anchored by either an ab board or the weight of a trainer, and then the torso is raised up, which tenses the abs before lowering the torso back down. Sit-ups are considered dangerous because "shearing forces" are placed on the vertebrae and spinal disks. When the spine is flexed and rounded, this means pressure is mainly on the disc area of the back. This can result in small disc ruptures. Rather than using this dangerous move to tone the abs, get them in shape by performing planks, which target the core.

The leg extension machine at your gym is another one that should be avoided. The machine is used by sitting in its seat with your feet hooked under a padded lever. You use your feet to raise the weight until the legs are fully extended in front of you, then slowly lower the lever back down. Since the legs are straight for the last 15 degrees of the exercise only, the legs are subject to strain and potential injury. The quads (thighs) and glutes (buttocks) should be used simultaneously, which they are not in this exercise. The weight of the machine rests on the ankle, even though it is supposed to work the quads. Leg extension machines also put pressure and potentially pain on the knee and joint line. Lower back pain may also result from use of this machine. The heavy weight of the machine causes the back to arch, which generally results in lower back pain. If you insist on using this machine, keep the abs tight to avoid this type of back pain. Also try speed walking (or walking hills if you have strong shins) as an alternative to leg extensions. As an additional bonus, walking works the hamstrings as well as the quads, while the leg extension machine only works the quads.

The pec deck and the behind-the-shoulder press are two more dangerous exercises. The pec deck is an exercise machine that works the pectorals (chest) and front deltoids (shoulders). It is performed by sitting at the machine with the back flat against the pad, and the forearms on the padded levers. The upper arms should be positioned so they are parallel to the ground. The arms are used to bring the padded levers together, which causes the weights to lift, before slowly bringing the levers back to their original position. This exercise is dangerous because it places the shoulders in the dislocation position. The extreme positioning when beginning the exercise can also tear ligaments and hurt rotator cuff tendons. A more effective method for toning the arms is the old-fashioned bench press, though the bench press must be performed a specific way to avoid injury. Arms should be at shoulder width and elbows in horizontal line with the body, as they should not drop below the body line. A spotter should be used for best results.

The behind-the-neck press works the deltoid (shoulder) and trap (neck) muscles. It is used by placing a loaded barbell onto the upper back right below the neck muscle. Performed while standing, feet must be shoulder-width apart with hands on the bar about three inches wider than shoulder width. The bar is pushed overhead to arm's length and held before being lowered back down to the shoulders. The behind-the-neck press is dangerous because it puts the shoulders in the dislocation position. The range of motion experienced on the machine stresses the shoulders as well as the rotator cuff tendons. Avoid these kinds of injuries by performing bench presses instead in the aforementioned correct method.

Go for low impact exercises whenever possible, such as walking, biking, swimming, circuit training, and yoga, to keep fit without stressing the body! Exercise machines can be great additions to a workout, but be absolutely sure you are using them correctly! Minor adjustments to your workouts will make for a happier and healthier body.

Kent McGroarty is a freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor to EDGE’S Style, Travel, Health, and Fitness channels. Contact her at


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