Dangerous Workouts: 15 Exercises You Should Never Do

One of the reasons going to the gym can be so intimidating is that there are so many ways in which to injure yourself, or simply waste your time. A particular exercise may look like a great way to get a good workout, but in practice, might not be doing anything beneficial for your body at all, and could even be harming it. With an influx of new workout routines and popular fitness regimens, what’s beneficial and what’s not is quickly becoming even harder to discern.

Here are 15 exercises to avoid the next time you hit the gym. The exercise on page nine may seem routine, but they are so dangerous.

1. Behind-the-head lat pull-down

A man doing a lateral pull-down.

Make sure your form is correct to avoid injuries. | Gerry_fents via Instagram

One way to develop a killer set of arms is to incorporate the lat pull-down into your routine, but make sure you’re performing the exercise correctly. One way to completely screw it up and put your body at risk is to bring the bar down behind your head, rather than in front of you — much like a pull-up. There’s risk of shoulder and back injury when you bring the bar down behind you, so be sure to always pull it straight down.

Next: This machine seems like a good idea, but it leaves little room for movement.

2. The Smith machine

A woman using the smith squat machine.

This popular machine is actually hard to master. | Eveteka_blog via Instagram

The Smith machine is the squatter’s favorite helper. While a Smith machine is a great way to start squatting, doing so with traditional free weights and a barbell is probably a better and safer bet. Basically, the Smith machine limits your range of motion and allows you to perform squats with improper form, which can lead to injury. It can be a good tool, but you’re better off just hitting the squat rack.

Next: This awkward exercise is popular but very dangerous.

3. Kipping Pull-up

A woman doing a kipping pull-up.

This move puts major stress on your muscles. | Ashkhowell via Instagram

If you know any CrossFitters, you may be familiar with the kipping pull-up. The mechanics of the exercise, and how you put all the moves together are extremely important. The problem is that it’s a dangerous move that can result in injury.

The whipping of your body on the bar can put heavy stress on your muscles and tendons. It is recommended that you instead opt for traditional dead-hang pull-ups. There is still some debate, but outside of the CrossFit community, kipping pull-ups are not often recommended.

Next: If you have ever wanted an excuse out of leg day, here’s your evidence.

4. Leg press

Athletic girl doing the leg press at the gym.

The leg press can be dangerous. | Creative-Family/iStock/Getty Images

The leg press is a fixture in many gyms and can be beneficial for many people. But it does have some problems, and when used incorrectly or without proper form, you can end up hurting yourself. And that’s the key — you have to make sure you’re using the machine properly. The whole point of the leg press is to alleviate pressure on your back, and if you’re not on the machine in the correct position, it’s a bust. Researchers suggest you just do squats instead.

Next: This machine promises you the body of a god, but delivers serious pain.

5. Ab machines

A man using a machine at the gym.

Skip the ab machines. You’re better off focusing on losing fat. | iStock.com

You’ve seen all of those ab machines at your gym, with people twisting, turning, and contorting themselves in an effort to build a six-pack. Yeah — avoid those. Using them can lead to poor posture and muscle imbalances. These machines don’t provide many benefits.

They are typically used by people who think if they target their stomach muscles during the workout, they’ll develop washboard abs. Well, you can’t spot-burn fat, so you’re better off getting a balanced workout if you want those abs to show up.

Next: Why people are doing these is beyond us.

6. Jumping jack press

A woman doing jumping jack presses.

Watch out for this tricky move. | Anitaparmelee via Instagram

Jumping jack presses are not something you see a lot of people doing, and with good reason. On the surface, it looks like a great way to get in some cardio, while doing a bit of weight training simultaneously. It can be, but the move also puts a lot of undue pressure on your body, and many experts suggest you avoid them.

Jumping jack presses can lead to joint and tendon problems, particularly in your legs. Some trainers say there’s absolutely no benefit to doing them at all — so you’re better off just going for a run, or doing some military presses instead.

Next: This Romanian activity will leave you serious pain.

7. Romanian deadlifts

Male athlete in the gym preparing for a deadlift.

This move will take a lot of preparation and practice. | iStock.com

Improper execution of this exercise is super dangerous. Most people don’t properly distribute the weight across their body and some even round their backs as they are lifting. Keeping the back straight and lifting with the legs and butt is the only way you should ever do this exercise.

Next: Swinging this thing around is just as dangerous as a maul. 

8. Kettlebell swings

Kettlebell swings will get your heart pumping.

Kettlebell swings will get your heart pumping. | iStock.com

This exercise is really popular with CrossFitters, but newbs can cause some serious damage. The exercise is meant to exercise the hamstring and glutes, but some people put a lot of their arms into the action. This can lead to a lot of shoulder injuries.

You can also really hurt the person next to you. If you’re not properly taught how to use the kettlebell, there’s a chance that you can knock someone out.

Next: 

9. Bent Over Rows

Man with weight training equipment at sport gym club.

Have a personal trainer help you out if you’re itching to try this one. | iStock.com

Building up back muscles is extremely challenging. That’s why a lot of the exercises associated with those muscles are pretty dangerous. Rows are no different. That position is kind of awkward with your posture and improper execution can lead to some pinched nerves or back injuries.

Next: Squats are great, but this one risks more injury than any other.

10. Overhead squats

A man performing an overheat squat.

Don’t try this move if you’re new to the gym. | iStock.com

Squats are a great way to get a full body exercise. However, the keywords in there are “full body.” When you try to do a squat and one location of your body isn’t as strong as the rest, you’re risking a lot of injury in that area. It is best to reserve complicated squat positions for when you’re a little more advanced in your training.

Next: Throwing stuff behind your back comes with inherent risks. 

11. Backward medicine ball throws

A man catching a medicine ball.

This move can cause accidents and injuries if done incorrectly. | iStock.com

These types of throws are great for improving your jump speed and height. Coming from a squatted position and thrusting upward to toss the ball behind you has the potential to take you out of training. That sudden and sharp bend of the spine can slip a disk or pinch a nerve.

Next: Here’s another advanced squat that just needs to be executed perfectly to not hurt yourself.

12. One-Legged Pistol Squat

A man performing a pistol squat.

A challenging move to say the least. | iStock.com

Form has everything to do with this exercise. People tend to roll their shoulders into the dip which rounds the back.  They also don’t get the dip low enough to the ground which makes the exercise a little less effective. Your thigh should be getting parallel with the ground.

Next: This exercise can lead to overloading your joints and ruining your day … if not your year.

13. Overhead dumbbell triceps extension

A man performing an overhead tricep extension.

Don’t let yourself be distracted while performing this exercise. | iStock.com

This is already a really odd way to hold anything. However, it is still a great exercise that targets the triceps effectively. People go wrong with this exercise because of they grip the handle of the dumbbell. Pictured above is the proper way to hold the dumbbell in this exercise. Improper execution can overload your joints, rather than your muscles.

Next: Here’s another deadlift that has to be executed perfectly to prevent injuries.

14. Turkish Deadlifts

A man performing the Turkish deadlift.

This move requires concentration, flexibility and balance. | Keonihudoba via Instagram

Also known as the Turkish Getup, this exercise has ten positions incorporated into it. From lying down to going completely vertical and back down again, the risk of injury is everywhere. Like the Romanian Deadlift, you need to be an advanced lifter to do this exercise. Any weak spot along the way could suffer serious injuries.

Next: Explosive power doesn’t lead to explosive gains.

15. Snatch

A woman doing a snatch lift.

This move is definitely not for beginners. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

The power of an explosive Snatch Lift can seem very rewarding. But the risk of tearing one or both of your labrums is extremely high. You could also rip one or both of your rotator cuffs. Doing that will leave you out of the gym for at way longer than the time you saved doing them.

Additional reporting by Phillip Francis.

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