Getting fit is a lifetime learning process. Like any trade, you improve over decades with study, experimentation, modification. Fitness is a hobby for smart people. I like to think that the way I evaluate and rework my exercise program, muscle by muscle, is similar to the way Tiger Woods is known for repeatedly engaging in “disassembling, reconstructing and mastering his golf swing.”
I cringe when I think back to how I performed certain movements. I know they decreased the effectiveness of my workouts, and contributed to injuries down the line. The internet has accelerated the learning process for today’s fitness gurus, but development also includes consultations with doctors, physical therapists, biohackers, personal trainers, and even psychologists (is chronic tendon pain part mental)?
With that being said, here are the three worst exercises I’ve done, followed by the three most important changes I’ve made to my exercise program.
- Good Mornings. I’m old enough to remember when gyms had Good Mornings posted on their walls as a suggested low back exercise. It’s so close to the Romanian deadlift, yet so far.
- Behind the neck military press. In my lifetime—I have seen a widely available book suggest: sit on a standard bench, face a loaded barbell, bend under it, and press it behind your neck. For a time, I actually thought this movement was a good way to target my middle delts.
- Rotational movements for obliques. For many years I sat on a decline bench and did Russian Twists while holding a barbell plate. I stopped doing these not just because the name includes the word Russia. I don’t know how much this exercise contributed to my low back problems, but I know it didn’t help.
- Stop using a straight bar for bicep curls or pullups. These movements put tremendous strain on your elbow—the fast track to golfer’s elbow. Instead, use an EZ bar for curls and a pullup station that has alternate grips. In addition, do not engage in a full hang at the bottom of your pullups. The minuscule extra range of motion isn’t worth the gigantic extra stress on the elbow.
- Jog with a 180 beats per minute cadence. This step speed fixes all problems with running form and greatly reduces the risk of injury through a midfoot strike and less pounding on your joints.
- Exercise fasted. The idea of pre-fueling does not make evolutionary sense. First you kill your prey, then you eat. Once you get past the mental block of exercising on an empty stomach, you’ll find you power through your workouts with more energy and strength.