5 Exercises That May Hurt You Instead of Helping You

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Your exercise regimen can actually damage your health.

No, that’s not an excuse to become a couch potato, but it underscores why it’s imperative to understand your family health history, talk to your doctor before taking on new exercise regimens (yes, really) and avoid moves that might not be right for you. That’s true whether you’re just getting into exercise or are an avid athlete.

Details magazine reported how an otherwise healthy 38-year-old man recently broke his thighbone while attempting an advanced yoga pose. True, that’s an extreme case, but it illustrates how even some seemingly benign exercises can cause serious injuries.

“I see plenty of type-A folks who are also so-called ‘weekend warriors’ who want to push, push, push in every pose,” Jessica Stickler, an instructor at Jivamukti NYC, told the magazine. “We have to quiet that urge to squeeze every last drop of sweat.”

Protect your health by avoiding — or at least carefully considering — these exercises:

  • Behind the head pull down: This is the exercise where you pull a weighted exercise bar down behind your back. The problem? Too much stress on the shoulder joints can cause rotator cuff injuries, said Michele Olson, an ACSM fellow and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, talking to SparkPeople.
  • Overhead arm exercises with weights: “You should never do ‘arms’ exercises,” Jeremy Frisch, owner and director of Achieve Performance Training in Clinton, Massachusetts, told Shape magazine. Such exercises can damage your elbows and shoulders. Besides the injury risk, the exercise isn’t even effective at toning your arms. “You’ll hit those muscles so much harder doing complex exercises anyway,” he said.
  • Crunches: When you do crunches, you push vertebral discs back toward your spinal cord. That may lead to a herniated disc in the lower back, according to Medical Daily. Planks work your abs without putting you at risk, notes SteadyHealth.
  • Inversion during yoga: There are countless articles in the New York Times and elsewhere warning against the dangers of inversion during yoga that can cause everything from “floaters” in your eyes to strokes. The risk comes from bending down for an extended period of time and is especially risky for those with high blood pressure.
  • Leg extensions with weights: The exercises that have you sit while lifting your weighted legs can wreak havoc on your knees. The leg extension machine ties an unnatural movement with a dangerous weight placement, said Aaron Brooks, a biomechanics expert and owner of Perfect Postures in Auburndale, Massachusetts, speaking with Shape magazine. “Because the load is on one end [instead of centered], there’s tremendous strain on the knee,” he said. “And most times, people aren’t sitting in the chair properly. They’re trying to generate more force by moving their pelvis.”

What’s your exercise regimen? Have you been injured by pushing too hard or plunging into new activities? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.

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