Lat pulldown in the neckPhoto: ifong (Shutterstock)

Whatever your goals, there will be some exercises that are perfect for you (as part of a well-designed, loaded accordingly Exercise program) and others who may not be a good fit. But there are no exercises that one should “never” do.

Unfortunately, trainers and fitness writers like to make lists of supposedly bad exercises. The one that upset me this morning had the title Never do these ab exercises if you are over 40, the trainer says. It’s from Eat This Not That, a website and diet book empire, that seems to draw energy from the collective gasps of people who suddenly realize they’ve been doing things wrong all along! (Spoiler: You’re probably fine.) The premise doesn’t even make sense: It’s not that a 39-year-old should train his abs differently than a 40-year-old.

According to this article, no one should do side bends, situps, or Russian twists over 40. According to another about good housekeeping, No one should use the hip adductor machine or leg extension machine, crunches, upright rows, neck lat pulldowns, side bends, back extensions, hanging leg raises, triceps dips, chest flies, or time with the elliptical. This article from Shape agrees with the leg extension machine and neck pull-ups, and adds that we should never do squats in the Smith machine, do abs, adductor, or abductor machines, or even lay face down on the floor and do supermen . Lest you think that one solution is to leave Planet Fitness and join a Crossfit box or powerlifting gym, there are people out there who will tell you too never squat, never deadlift, and the there are 11 ways Crossfit will “destroy your body”.

If you tried to stick to all of these lists, you would end up with almost nothing to do. (Except bird dogs. Everyone loves Bird dogs.)

Just because a trainer doesn’t like an exercise doesn’t make it dangerous

I’ve also been in the fitness world long enough to know that exercise is getting in and out of style simply because of the clique and trending nature of the field. And I’ve done and seen enough strange elevators knowing that any exercise one person swears by will ruin you is exactly what another person has been doing with no problem for a decade.

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How can the trainers and writers of these “never” articles support their conclusions? Well, for the most part, they don’t. The reasons for not doing these exercises usually boil down to one of the following:

Just none of these are good reasons to avoid exercise. It can make perfect sense for a trainer to say, “I don’t like Russian twists and turns because they usually get them wrong, so I like to recommend this other exercise instead” or “Standing chest flies are more of a” shoulder exercise than a chest exercise , so I like to program something else when we’re trying to work the chest. ”But there’s a long unsupported leap from there to“ never ”doing an exercise.

The complaint that some exercises aren’t “natural” is hilarious to be honest. There’s nothing natural about going to a gym and using purpose-built equipment to change the shape or capabilities of your body. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Our bodies are adaptable and we can teach them lots of fun things, from climbing trees to ice skating to driving forklifts.

The last two points here – on stress and injury – deserve a closer look. Anyone who puts a lot of strain on their body is at risk of injury (as is anyone who doesn’t move their body, because lack of exercise is not good for us either.)

First of all, it’s important to know that these injury risks are almost entirely theoretical. There’s no study showing that tricep dips cause injury; These warnings are based on the trainers’ gut instinct. The studies we have of injuries teach us things like Runners suffer a lot more injuries per 1000 hours of training as People who do weight trainingwhich suggests that our gut feeling is not very well calibrated.

What that means in the real world

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that almost anything works for someone. Exercises don’t exist in a vacuum either: the way you load the exercise and how it fits into your program probably matters more than the actual exercise.

I remember being taught by a trainer that physical therapists hate the extensors because they ruin people’s knees. Years later I was in physical therapy after ACL surgery and the PT made sure I did a lot of leg extensions to build the muscles that would protect my knee. It worked: my knee recovered and my leg is strong.

I still have dozens of stories like this. I used to think that deadlifts made an old injury to my back worse, but the more deadlifts I did, the less my back hurt. I used to “know” that back presses were dangerous, but sometimes my trainer gives me back presses and I do, and my shoulders haven’t self-destructed; In fact, I think they’re stronger for that.

So instead of taking a lift off your exercise plan because someone said you should “never” do it, you may just have to wonder if it makes sense for you. Is it actually working the muscle you need to work? Are you doing the exercise in a reasonably safe and effective form? Was it programmed for you by someone who knows what they’re doing? Does it feel good when you do it? If you can answer yes to these questions, don’t let a writer or trainer you have never met talk you out of it.