Exercises I hate

Exercises I hate

A few people have asked me to write about the exercises I think are a waste of time. I resisted at first because posts like this usually spark criticism and cause confusion, but it’s all in good fun. This is just my opinion and, as always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

As you should know by now, I’m a big fan of the compound lifts. I’m not going to go on and on like a broken record, but you can read this post and this post for more information.

There is nothing that breaks my heart more than seeing people spending 1-2 hours in the gym 6 days per week doing body-part isolation workouts. I will be blatantly honest: these workouts are an inefficient use of your time. Unless you are a serious bodybuilder, you do not need to be doing body-part splits. If your goal is to gain strength and improve your physical appearance (I’d estimate 99 per cent of people fall into this category!), you will be much better off with full body or upper/lower body split workouts.

I can say all this now having been through both strength- and bodybuilding-focused programming. When I first started lifting, I was much more into the bodybuilding side of things. The beauty of blogging is that my ignorance is documented all over this very website! I was training five or six days per week, with ridiculous splits including a ‘calves and abs’ day. When I read about other people doing full body workouts, I thought they were crazy – how do you get a delt pump with only one shoulder exercise per workout?!


Thankfully, I saw the light and started training for strength. My workouts halved in duration but increased in intensity. My strength improved rapidly and I felt like a beast.

I train the majority of my clients in the same way. Your time in the gym is precious, and you shouldn’t waste it doing isolation machine exercises.

Always ask yourself if there is a more efficient and effective way of performing an exercise. For example, instead of performing a tricep kickback – which isolates a small muscle in exclusion to everything else, and places unnecessary pressure on your joints – perform a push up, which not only hits your triceps but your chest, shoulders and abdominal muscles as well. Instead of doing a bicep curl, work your way towards completing an unassisted chin up.


It is true that performing isolation exercises will help improve the physical appearance of muscles. But you have to ‘earn’ your isolation exercises by first filling your workouts with big, compound movements that treat your body as a whole moving part (these exercises also build muscle and promote even greater fat loss as they engage more muscles). And for heaven’s sake, limit the number of sets and reps you do – 3-4 sets per body part is more than enough. You don’t need to do 30 sets targeting the guns!

Finally, you will reach a limit with how much you can lift for exercises such as curls, pushdowns and lat raises pretty quickly. I’m sorry to say that I don’t find bicep curl PRs exciting. Instead focus your attention on building up your squat, deadlift and bench!

Here are some exercises I won’t be caught dead doing:

– Anything on a Bosu ball: This is the most over-abused piece of equipment ever!! I hate when my clients see other trainers getting their clients to do ridiculous one-legged moves on the bosu, and then they worry that they should be doing the same thing. If you want to work on your balance, try split squats or single leg deadlifts. Although a single leg squat on a bosu sounds like a blast, get yourself on to a flat surface and add some real resistance in the form of a weight.

One can only dream!

One can only dream!

– Anything using a smith machine: Just use a free bar and allow your body to perform a full, natural range of motion (exceptions: working to failure and performing drop sets with exercises such as the incline bench press and shoulder press).

– Tricep kickbacks: A completely unnatural exercise – is an elbow injury really worth it for a 5lb kickback?!

– Anything using a machine which would be better executed without (eg crunch machine, back extension machine, bicep curl machine)

– The adductor/abductor (AKA good girl, bad girl!) machines: Under absolutely no circumstances should anyone ever use this machine, not least because of how ridiculous you look on it.


– Standing on one leg doing an exercise that would be better performed with both feet on the damn ground: see above regarding the bosu ball.

– Running up and down on the spot while doing a lame upper body exercise with barbie weights: Either focus on cardio OR weights, or doing something that actually combines them well such as kettlebell swings.

– Balancing on a swiss ball: I love swiss balls for leg curls and knee tuck-ins, but heaven help me if I see someone trying to kneel on one of them!

WTF is this?!

WTF is this?!

– Quarter reps on the leg press: Put your ego aside and drop the weight.

– Kipping pull-ups: This is another exercise that looks ridiculous, can cause injury, and would be better performed properly without cheating.

– Walking on a treadmill, holding onto the rails for dear life: Walk outside in the sunshine, and don’t let the treadmill walk you.

– Curling in the squat rack: Do I need to explain this?

squat in curl rack

Do you perform any of these exercises (I hope that as of now you won’t!)? What exercises do you hate?

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