7 Exercises Personal Trainers Wish You’d Stop Doing

Going to the gym with an exercise plan in mind is the best way to maximize your workout. But because there are so many strength exercises to choose from, things can start to get confusing. You may be familiar with certain exercises, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get the best results from doing them. And, just because you see everyone else in the gym doing a specific exercise doesn’t mean it’s a good one or even safe for that matter. As a disclaimer, most of these exercises are fine if you are a beginner. For those who are in the more intermediate and advanced levels of fitness, the alternatives are what’s recommended.


In an earlier blog we discussed why you should avoid isolating muscle groups during your workout. In addition to this, you should stop doing exercises that carry little to no benefit. Confusing if you’re not in the fitness industry, right? That’s why we put together 7 exercises your personal trainer wishes you’d stop doing and provided recommendations for alternatives.

1. Skip: Glute Kickbacks

Sure, you may feel a burn when you’re doing glute kickbacks, but the truth is, these aren’t really doing much for you in terms of results. This feeds into the gym myth that you can spot reduce fat from specific areas of the body by performing exercises that target those areas. Women are guiltier of this than men are and are under the false impression that glute kickbacks are going to tone their glutes.

Alternative Exercise: Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift is a variation on your typical deadlift in which you activate the hamstring, glutes and lower back more. 

2. Skip: Walking backwards on the treadmill

Talk about dangerous! If you’re guilty of walking backwards on the treadmill or stair master, please stop right now. Besides the fact that it’s dangerous, it’s not great for your lower back because it throws your posture and body alignment out of whack.

Alternative Exercise: Body Weight Squats

Body weight squats are a great low-impact exercise that help build muscle strength. This particular exercise also positively impacts your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hip extensions. But wait, there are even more benefits! In addition, body weight squats strengthen soft tissues, help with core stabilization and posture, and are great for conditioning and cardio if you’re doing a high number of reps.

3. Skip: The Fire Hydrant

This is another one of those exercises that you may feel a burn from, but again, isn’t doing much in terms of functionality. Functionality is when you imitate real life actions within your exercises.

Alternative Exercise: Cable Abductions

Using the cable machine to perform your adduction and abduction exercises are more advantageous for many reasons, but the main reason is that you can load the muscle as to not loading the muscle. Since the only way to get stronger is through progressive overload, this is an obvious better alternative.

4. Skip: Weighted Standing Side Bends

Chances are, if you look around the gym today, you’ll see someone holding dumbbells on each side of their body doing side bends. This move should be avoided because it puts your spine in a compromised position, making it hard to maintain alignment to isolate the obliques properly. People performing this exercise also tend to use momentum to rock side to side, which can put strain on your lower back.

Alternative Exercise: Side Planks

Side planks are a great way to strengthen your obliques, shoulders, and core muscles more effectively. Instead of focusing on isolating one muscle group, which is what weighted standing side bends do, side planks successfully recruit a larger group of muscles.

5. Skip: Hip Abductor Machines

Strength exercises performed on hip abductor machines aren’t as beneficial as exercises done with free weights or even your own body weight. This tends to be more psychological, as people think machines make it easier to do the exercise movement because they appear to be more user friendly. There are alternative exercises you can do that are more effective and will drive better results.

Alternative Exercise: Theraband Exercises

Standing theraband exercises are a better alternative to hip abductor machines because they include functionality. Again, functionality is when you imitate real life actions within your exercises. If you’re sitting down doing an exercise, it’s in no way functional. When working your adductors or abductors you should never be sitting down.

6. Skip: Smith Machine Back Squat

The Smith machine holds the barbell in place while you move up and down, forcing your body to move in a straight line. Naturally, the body turns to a small degree, making it unnatural for your knees, hips, and lower back. The machine also limits your range of motion, meaning the exercise isn’t as efficient as if you were doing squats with free weights.

Alternative Exercise:Barbell Back Squat

Back squats help you build strength and flexibility and allow your body to naturally move up and down through a full range of motion, maximizing your fitness results. Back squats also help build your glutes, hamstrings, and quad muscles.

7. Skip: Leg Extensions

Leg extensions are an example of an open chain exercise. According to Dr. Eric Hegedus, founding chair of the doctor of physical therapy department at High Point University in North Carolina, closed chain exercises are more “functional”, meaning they mimic day to day life more than open chained exercises.

Because the quads are contracting on their own, their shortening through tension will have an impact on the knee. Open chain exercises isolate specific muscle groups, making your workout less efficient.

With all that said however, open chain exercises have their place in pain management, injury, imposed surgical care.

Alternative Exercise:  Deadlifts

Squatting or deadlifting is an excllent alternative to leg extensions because it encourages co-contractions from surrounding muscles. This will keep you more balanced and prevent knee strain. Doing this spreads joint pressure out evenly. Squats and deadlifts are closed chain exercises, which are better because of what I mentioned above and they recruit numerous muscle groups, helping build more strength.

Sick of feeling you are always doing things the “wrong way”. Contact me for now and try personal training free for a month.