5 Overrated Exercises…and how to replace them!

Okay, time to stir up some controversy… I thought about calling this “5 Worthless Exercises”, but that seemed a little too harsh…

This list contains 5 exercises, or exercise ideas that I (and research) believe to be non-productive, or even harmful to an exercisers potential goals. Now, I would never say “NEVER EVER DO THESE EXERCISES!” The point I’m trying to make is that I often have seen people doing these exercises in excess, incorrectly, or both. These exercises are fine to throw in once in a while just to get a different feel for something, or switch it up. This being said, I would never have a client perform these in the first place, unless for a very specific reason (rehab, limitations, PT orders, etc.)

1. Dumbbell Side Bends

dumbbelll side bend


Even if this was good exercise, this girl isn’t even doing it “right”. The whole idea behind the dumbbell side bend is that you counter balance one side with resistance (usually a dumbbell), with nothing on the other side. Using two dumbbells completely defeats the purpose of what this exercise is supposed to do. Also, using 15 lb dumbbells wont get you anywhere, no matter your strength level. I do know that power lifters perform these to build up a strong overall core…but with 75 to 100 pounds dumbbells.

For your average Joe or Jane, these are a “waist” of time. Just because the abs and obliques and move this way, doesn’t mean they will really get much of a workout.

“But I want to lose my love handles!” Well, to be blunt, spot reduction (training one area over and over to lose fat) does NOT work. Also, doing these too much could actually bulk up your “love handle” area, making your waist look thicker. Lastly, some trainers and doctors really question the overall safety of lateral flexion of the spine, which could potentially cause serious injury.

REPLACE WITH: Side Planks side_plank_5800_7– side planks will work the same area through isotonic contaction, keep the spine straight, and still work on core stability. More to come about losing fat…

2. Heavy Front Raises

front raise


The front raise puts a lot of sheering, downward force on the anterior deltoid head. The front part of your shoulder. If you are already doing some sort of pushing movement (bench, incline bench, shoulder press…) you are already sufficiently working this area of the body. Granted, this exercise can be uses with LIGHT weight as a warmup, prehab, or rehab movement. The main reason to stay away from doing front raises heavy, is overall risk for injury.

REPLACE WITH: Seated Arnold Press



The Arnold Press will work your entire shoulder, but I feel more emphasis on the front of my deltoid, without the downward sheering force of front raises. Start seated with your palms facing you, and as you press up, rotate your hand outward so at the top of the lift you are finishing like a standard shoulder press.

3. Overkill on Abs to Get a Six Pack



Sure, everyone wants a flat stomach or a 6 pack. Doing endless crunches wont get you there. As stated earlier, spot reduction just doesn’t work. You would need to do about 250,000 crunches to burn off one pound of fat…good luck. Yes, when you do a bunch of crunches and ab exercises, you feel it. But everyone has abs, it might just be hidden under 50 pounds of fat, or even 1/2 stubborn inch. Also, abs can be done incorrectly, and potentially cause injuries (pulling on the neck, spinal hyperextension, improper flexion).

REPLACE WITH: Cardio and Diet

Not what anyone wants to hear, but its the truth…

4. Hip Adductor/Abductor Machines 

adductor1First reason, SPOT REDUCTION DOESNT WORK!!! Most people (females in general) go these because they want to get rid of the stubborn fat that accumulates on their inner thighs. Also, you technically have no “inner thigh” muscle to be working. You have you quads and hamstrings that make up the mass of the leg. The only muscle this exercise really works in the piriformis which is deep inside your hip and no one, except your surgeon will ever see. These machines can also lead to groin pulls. I would MAYBE recommend using this as a way to warm up tight hips, but even then, highly questionable.

REPLACE WITH: Incline Cardio (for fat loss) or Lunges/Squats for muscle and toning

By doing cardio on an incline, you still cannot spot reduce, but you will be working more than just your cardiovascular system. You will definitely feel the burn more in your hamstring and butt area, and also burn much more calories. For muscle or toning, you cant beat good ol’ fashion lunges (glutes) and deep (parallel) squats. And no ladies, you wont bulk up —> Why Women Should Lift Weights  

5. The Shake Weight (couldn’t think of a good 5th one)



No…just, no…

Replace With: Anything for your arms, chest, or shoulders

Published by Mike Gorski

Registered Dietitian and Fitness Coach OWNER OF MG FIT LIFE LLC

3 thoughts on “5 Overrated Exercises…and how to replace them!

  1. Informative post on overrated exercises and how to replace them and will be of great help for those who are new in fitness world. Like to add some tips to avoid exercise injuries here. Warm up before regular workouts and dress properly. Listen to your body, know your limits and stop if it hurts.

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