In your 20s, your fitness and health related goals should revolve around two main things: getting into (or staying) in shape, and avoiding injury. Exercise, at this point in your life, should be a part of your daily routine, and you should at least have begun transitioning away from eating junk food all the time to a healthier diet. Also, you should start getting your sleep schedule locked-in — which may require some social sacrifice as you get closer to 30.
Your 20s are a time of transition, away from being a carefree teenager to an adult. And adults have to take care of themselves. So, if you haven’t already started down that path, you’ll need to get yourself together before you’ve done too much damage to your body to get back on track.
As far as exercise goes, you’ll want to make sure you’re working in a healthy balance. You should be getting your heart rate up several times per week, keeping an eye on your cardiovascular health, and doing your best to incorporate weight lifting or bodyweight exercises to keep yourself in good shape. There are a myriad of ways to keep yourself in good shape, but there are a handful of things that you should definitely avoid.
At the top of that list are a few specific exercises. As a guy in your 20s, you’ll want to remember what your goals should focus on: getting or staying in shape, and avoiding injury. If you hurt yourself now, you could hamstring your ability to exercise for years into the future — not to mention your ability to work. With that in mind, don’t go crazy in the gym. Learn how to exercise efficiently and with proper form.
Here are five specific exercises you should do your best to avoid. These are the worst exercises you can do, particularly for men in the transitional period of their 20s.
1. Upright rows
Rows are an extremely common lift, but if there is one variation you should drop from your routine, it’s the upright row. While you’ve probably done plenty of upright rows and been fine, the issue with this particular lift is that it can lead to ligament damage in your shoulders and wrists. If you end up with a bum shoulder, it could easily impact your ability to move and exercise for the rest of your life. So, drop the upright row, and stick with an overhead press instead.
Or, you can do what The Rock does to build massive shoulders and arms.
2. Box jumps
Box jumps are about as simple and easy of an exercise as there is, but they are inherently dangerous, to a degree. While you’re likely quite confident in your ability to jump on top of a box without killing yourself, there’s always the chance that you could slip and fall. Or, given enough jumps, you could do some serious damage to your Achilles tendon. There are numerous other, less dangerous exercises you could do in lieu of box jumps — so stick with those instead.
3. Behind the neck pulls and presses
You may have learned, at some point, to bring bars up and down behind the back of your head. Stop doing it. Forget all of it. The real danger with these lifts is that they can cause injury to your shoulders and neck. By jutting your head forward to avoid bashing your head with a bar, you’re straining your neck and shoulder muscle groups. There is some contention from those in the fitness community on this, but your best bet is to stick with exercises that involve the front of your body.
4. Kipping pull ups
If you’re unfamiliar with a Kipping pull-up, it’s what you see Crossfitters doing all the time. Here’s an example:
Now, if that looks dangerous, it’s because it is, in many ways. Traditional pull-ups are a fantastic exercise, that help you build almost every upper-body muscle you have. Kipping pull-ups, on the other hand, take some of the strain off your muscles, and put it on your ligaments and joints as you use your body as a whip to get your chin above the bar. Do it enough times, and your bound to experience some real problems with your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
5. Smith machine
The trainer from the Livestrong video above demonstrates what a Smith machine is, and how to properly use it. While the machine isn’t inherently evil, it’s not a very good substitute for actual lifts, like squats or bench presses. You should avoid it, if possible, because the fixed path that the machine gives the bar and weight can contort you into weird positions, leaving you susceptible to injury. Free weights allow you to incorporate your whole body, as needed, to get the weight up. Smith machines will channel the strain into specific muscle groups, which you may not naturally use for specific lifts.
For best results, stick to a simple squat rack or bench press, with a spotter.