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5 Exercises that Keep Physical Therapists in Business

From machines to free weights — and even bodyweight exercises — there are numerous different workouts you can do to maximize your gains, progress, and time in the gym.

The physical therapist office is full of gym injuries and there are exercises that fill them.

That being said, there are a couple quite popular exercises that should definitely be avoided because the risk of injury is too high. Here are 5 different exercises that you should stop doing immediately.


This exercise is a dangerous variation of the standard, yet highly effective overhead press. It is a high risk, low-reward move, especially considering the havoc it can wreak on your shoulders and rotator cuffs.


To perform the behind-the-neck press, you must externally rotate the shoulders, thus placing them in a vulnerable and compromising position. Doing this exercise can seriously damage the rotator cuff and the chances of injury increase with the amount of weight you are lifting. Many people even further increase their risk of injury by exaggerating their neck forward to compensate for the bar path.

So, what should you do instead? For building shoulder strength and size, stick to the military press, overhead press, and Arnold press.

Doing this exercise can seriously damage the rotator cuff and the chances of injury increase with the amount of weight you are lifting.


Blasting your legs from different angles with a lot of squat variations and numerous machines is great, but definitely skip out on the hack squat machine unless you feel like ending up in rehab.


The hack squat machine has a sketchy track record of injuring both gym “noobs” and professionals alike, and this is because it places excessive stress on the delicate knee joint.

One of the first things people are taught when performing the squat is to not allow the knee to pass in front of the toe, as this can inevitably compromise the knee ligaments.1

The way the hack squat machine is set up, though, depending on your feet placement, the knees are forced into an injury prone position, way in front of the toes, putting a tremendous amount of weight and stress on the knee joint.

For the best overall leg growth, stick to leg curls, lunges, and squats with all of their different variations.


The skull crusher exercise is a quite popular exercise used to target the triceps but it is actually a one-way ticket to tendonitis and tennis elbow. This exercise places an unreasonable amount of stress and force on the elbow, compromising its integrity and function, and this damage becomes increasingly exacerbated by weighted repetitions.


There are several other exercises you can do to blast triceps such as dips, tricep cable pushdowns, and close-grip barbell bench presses.


These two exercise variations are typically done to place more focus on building the latissimus dorsi muscle, more commonly referred to as the lats.


Much like the behind-the-neck press, however, movements done behind the neck such as the pull-down and pull-up variations invariably put too much stress on the rotator cuff, bringing about serious injury.

Not only are the shoulders forced into an awkward, externally rotated position, but once again, the neck is often slouched forward to avoid the bar as it descends, which compounds the risk of injury.

Do pull-ups and pull-downs in front of your neck, in the standard position. You’ll still work several different muscle groups, mainly the shoulders and lats. Other good lat exercises you can throw into your workout include cable rows, straight-arm rope pull downs, and bent over barbell rows.


What could possibly be dangerous about doing sit-ups, you ask? Doing full sit-ups tighten up and build the hip flexors and hip flexors that are too tight or overly built, will pull at the lower back causing discomfort and pain.2


Another reason why sit-ups should be left out of your ab work is because to execute this movement repeatedly, the lower back tends to be used as the driving force to start the movement upwards, rather than using the hips.

There are better exercises you can do to target the abdominals and even get better results. The next time you do some ab and core work, try leg raises, planks, crunches, and all their variations.


Many people want to lift heavy and maximize their strength, size, and performance. However, there’s no reason to jeopardize your health with dangerous, low-reward exercises that can just as easily be replaced with safe — and even more effective — workouts. Run through this list, and even write these exercises down as a reminder to avoid them the next time you hit the gym.

Any time you try out a new exercise, start with a lighter weight so you can learn and perfect the form. If you start to notice slight discomfort in your joints and ligaments as you perform the movement, different than the burning feeling of a muscle being worked, you’re better off substituting it with a different exercise.

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Stefan R. Wilson
Stefan R. Wilson is a marketing professional, as well as a freelance author for nutritional supplements. He is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah and holds a BS from Brigham Young University. Stefan's expertise resides in the field of supplements to be used by athletes and bodybuilders while training.


  1. McLaughlin, T., Lardner, T., & Dillman, C. Kinetics of the parallel squat. Research Quarterly,49(2), 175-189.
  2. Want a stronger core? Skip the sit-ups. Harvard Health Publications.


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