6 Really Good Exercises That I Will NEVER Do Again

I know, I know. A list of exercises that either should or should not be done is nothing new in the weight training world. It’s something you see all the time, actually.

But hear me out, because in this case it’s coming from a different perspective. You see, typical lists like this have titles like “10 Exercises You Must Always Do!” or “10 Exercises Everyone Should Avoid At All Costs!”

Now take a look at the title of the article you’re reading right now. Notice the difference?

But if you’re a regular reader of mine, it shouldn’t surprise you. One point I feel like I repeat over and over again is that there are very few absolutes in terms of things everyone must do or not do. Rather, most aspects of diet and training should be adjusted to suit each person’s individual goals, needs, preferences and body.

And what you’re about to see now is my own personal example of this involving perfectly good weight training exercises that I’ve decided, for one reason or another, I will NEVER do again.

1. Dips

I’m not gonna lie, this one hurts the most to include on this list. And I actually mean that both literally and figuratively.

I’ve written about my history with shoulder injuries in the past and how to avoid them, and while I can think of a few different causes of those injuries at different times, I’m pretty sure the original and most significant culprit was dips. Nothing screwed up my shoulders more than they did.

Which sucks, because at the same time, they were quickly becoming my favorite exercise. This was probably back in 2004. I’m pretty sure I had worked up to doing sets of 6-10 reps with maybe a 25-30lb dumbbell held between my feet.

Progress probably would have gone amazingly well after that, except for the fact that they were killing my shoulders. I didn’t know it was them at the time, but after adding them in and taking them out a few times, I finally realized they were the problem.

I’m certainly not the only one to experience shoulders problems because of dips, either. It turns out that they’re one of those exercises that seem to bother a lot of people’s shoulders for whatever reason. It took me a while to understand that I was one of those people, but as soon as I did, they were gone.

I don’t think I’ve attempted a single rep since 2005, and I hereby vow to keep it that way. Although, I may still shed a tear every time I walk by the dip stand at my gym.

2. Incline Barbell Press

Speaking of exercises that bothered my shoulders, the incline barbell bench press is another exercise I’ll never be doing again.

Now unlike dips which felt absolutely perfect up until the second they weren’t, the incline barbell press always felt a little awkward and uncomfortable for me from day 1, long before it caused any actual pain. I probably should have taken that as a signal to stop doing it.

But once I finally did start to notice it was aggravating my shoulder, it was really easy to drop. With dips, I actually felt bad about not doing them and spent some time “trying” to make it work (turned out to be a terrible idea).

But with the incline barbell press, I didn’t care at all. It was never an exercise I really liked during the period of time that I was doing it, and considering that my primary chest exercise is usually the flat barbell bench press, I’d much rather make the secondary exercise something that doesn’t involve a barbell.

And in that case, there are 2 exercises I absolutely love. The first is the Hammer Strength incline press. I’ve probably said it before and I’ll probably say it again… it’s my favorite “machine” exercise on the planet. Feels just right for me in terms of positioning, range of motion, strength, and training the target muscle group(s).

The other is the incline dumbbell press. Since one of the benefits of dumbbells over a barbell is that dumbbells allow you to move each side individually of the other (whereas a barbell forces you into a fixed position), I’m able to make the tiny adjustments my body needs for it to become shoulder-friendly.

3. Behind The Neck Pressing/Pulling

If you’ve ever read any list of supposed exercises “everyone must avoid,” you’ve probably seen the behind the neck shoulder press, behind the neck lat pull down, and behind the neck pull-up make an appearance.

Why? Because doing anything behind the neck is just another one of those things that seems to cause shoulder problems for a lot of people.

The funny thing is, I mostly wasn’t one of them. I did both the behind the neck barbell shoulder press and behind the neck lat pull-down for years without any problems whatsoever. In fact, I never actually had THAT much of issue with either exercise.

However, as I’ve mentioned, I did have shoulder problems as a result of other causes. And, the feeling of waiting around for things to finally get back to 100% sucked hard enough that I basically just decided to drop any exercise that is known to be not-so-shoulder-friendly, even if they haven’t specifically been the cause of my problems. I guess I just didn’t feel like finding out if they’d ever be.

4. Chin-Ups

Pull-ups (overhand grip) are by far one of my favorite and strongest lifts. But chin-ups? Not so much.

Like a lot of people, the underhand grip used during chin-ups completely destroys my wrists, forearms and elbows. It just feels like such an unnatural way for me to be grabbing the bar… like my arms are being rotated in a way they just weren’t meant to be.

I do still sometimes use a chin grip for higher rep lat pull-downs (seems to bother me a lot less), but to actually hang from a bar (typically with additional weight strapped to me) with that same underhand grip? No thanks.

It’s pull-ups and/or neutral grip for me from here on out. My wrists, forearms and elbows are in full agreement.

5. Barbell Biceps Curls

And sticking with exercises that haven’t always felt perfect on my wrists, forearms and elbows, the straight bar biceps curl fits that description quite well. It’s not that surprising I guess considering it’s done with that same underhand grip that gives me problems on chin-ups.

These are actually the most recent addition to my list of exercises to avoid permanently. I’ve done them on and off up until as recently as a couple of months ago. I’m not sure if it just catches up with you after a while or it just gets a little worse once you work up to having a certain amount of weight on the bar, but whatever it is, they’ve been feeling much crappier than usual on my wrists, forearms and elbows.

So much so that I basically stopped in the middle of my set one day and thought to myself, “nah… time to stop doing these.”

Fortunately, between various dumbbell curls and the infinitely more comfortable EZ-curl bar, I doubt I’ll miss them much, if at all. Although, I will miss curling in the squat rack.

6. Lateral Raise Machine

Honestly, there are only 2 different times over the 13 or so years I’ve been training that I ever even knew my gym had a lateral raise machine.

The first was back when I first started lifting and my workout consisted of basically walking around doing a bunch of random machines for a random number of sets and reps. Fun times!

The second was maybe 3 years ago. Since lateral raises (of any kind) are usually best suited for higher rep ranges and just generally not an exercise you’ll be increasing weight on very often, you’re not exactly going to be using too much weight when doing them (especially with anything close to good form).

And when you take into account that most people in most gyms are just doing a bunch of nonsense with lighter weight, you end up with a situation where the dumbbells you need for lateral raises are often in use by 40 other people.

So this one time, I just didn’t feel like waiting around for dumbbells. And since I had just switched back to dumbbell lateral raises after doing them with cables for a while, I didn’t feel like going back to cables.

That’s when I remembered that over on the other side of my gym, there might be a lateral raise machine. And there was! Hooray! So, I used it, liked it and kept using it for the next few weeks.

But then at some point over those next few weeks, one of my shoulders started to feel a little… off. Nothing too crazy, just a very slight twinge of something not good. But with my shoulder history, even a “very slight twinge” makes my “stop-and-fix-this-now!!!” alarm go off immediately.

So, the first thing I did was drop the lateral raise machine. And wouldn’t ya know… that slight twinge of pain instantly went away. And so went the lateral raise machine with it… permanently.

What the exact issue was is hard to say, but I can only imagine it had something to do with the fact that machines force you into fixed positions. If those positions happen to perfectly fit your body, you’re in luck. But if they don’t (which is the case more often than you might think), problems will eventually arise.

In this case, those problems didn’t take long at all. Turns out waiting an extra minute for dumbbells or cables ain’t so bad after all.

You Should Have Your Own List For Your Own Reasons

Like I said back at the beginning, this isn’t a list of exercises I think everyone must always avoid under every circumstance. It’s just a list of exercises that have each given ME a really good reason to permanently avoid. So, I’m being smart and avoiding them… for good.

I know, they say “never say never” (and for any 12 year old girls reading this, I’m not quoting Justin Bieber). But, I’m saying “never” anyway. I will never do these exercises again. I just see no reason at all to ever “give them another shot” or “try to make them work.”

I’ve done that before, and it was soooo not the right thing to do. Instead, I’m listening to my body, and my body has done nothing but give me reasons to avoid these exercises.

Maybe you have similar reasons for avoiding some of these same exercises? If so, you probably should. Or maybe those reasons haven’t shown up yet but they will at some point in the future. Be sure to keep an eye out for it and listen to your body if it happens.

And if it doesn’t? And these exercises all feel perfectly fine, safe and comfortable for you and don’t raise any red flags in your injury history and they suit your body/goals/needs/preferences? Then hey, feel free to keep on doing them.

But the second that changes… don’t wait and don’t be stubborn about it.

Put it on your list of exercises that you just shouldn’t do, period. And don’t fear it, either. Because with VERY few exceptions, there are always plenty of suitable replacements that will yield equal if not better results, and it will always be the right decision.

111 thoughts on “6 Really Good Exercises That I Will NEVER Do Again”

111 Comments

  1. Very good article. I used the lateral raise machines about three times in 7 years, some of the equipment and a few people should be trashed at the gym. lol

  2. Good article. All those are on my list except the barbell bicep curl which I don’t seem to have a problem with and I quite like going heavy / low rep once a week. I would use an EZ bar if my gym had them heavy enough tho. One that I’ve just added to my list is the bent over barbell row. I’ll never do that again which I’m a slightly peeved about cos they seem like the perfect counter balance to bench press. Cos im super protective of my lower back, I just find I use too much energy and strength trying to hold my core tight and keep my lumbar in a neutral position and this takes focus away from my upper back muscles. Either that, or they end up looking like shrugs im so upright ! Anyway, my core and lower back get a good workout with deadlifts and I get a better range of motion with dumbbell rows.

    • That’s pretty common with bent over barbell rows. If you’re squatting/deadlifting throughout the week, the extra lower back stress from bent over rowing is just going to be overkill for a lot of people.

      Plus, like you said, once they get heavy enough, it just becomes harder on the lower back to stabilize the movement than it is for the mid/upper back to actually row the weight. The easiest way to work around this of course is to just let your form go to shit, which most people do. Either that or just take forever (if ever) to actually make progress… which most people do too.

      I personally prefer seated cable rows and the tons of different chest supported rows to any kind of bent over rowing for exactly these reasons.

      • I just remembered another exercise that just doesn’t feel right and that’s close grip bench press. Do you find that awkward too? It doesn’t feel right on my wrists at all.

        • Most people take the “close grip” part way too literally and go way too narrow, which is probably the cause of most people’s wrist issues.

          I don’t do them too often though, mostly to avoid extra stress on the shoulders. But when/if I do, doing them on a decline bench seems to be a bit more shoulder-friendly.

          • I’ve heard as wide as a near shoulder width grip is ok for close grip bench along with elbows really tight against the sides. Have you tried it that way?I haven’t tried that due to being fond of weighted dips with a forward lean and elbows fairly close to the sides. Zero shoulder pain so far but as soon as I lose the forward lean and go more upright i can feel a twinge in that bicep tendon in my left shoulder. I get a slight chest inclusion to boot but the tri’s flame out long before the chest does.

  3. Dips have always felt wrong for my shoulders. It’s a little sad because I think it replicates well the action of a “take-down defense” when you try to push your opponent’s neck down the floor (wreslting, grappling). But hey, my health is my priority. I’m sure I’ll still be able to build a strong take-down defense without the dips…

  4. Great post. #3 gives me chills to think about. Can’t do that. I bought a chin-up bar cuz I really wanted to master that. And it just ripped my elbows up, so no to that. I love incline barbell press, though. I also don’t do anything on a decline anymore. It just scares me to think about it and I don’t know if I would be able to come back up after declining for ab work. Ha. I can commiserate with you on shoulder problems. I’ve had surgery on both.

  5. Concur. I was doing Pull Ups and Push Ups one day and Dips Chin Ups the next at the ripe old age of 48. At a weight of 245 I was happy to do them at all. My elbows and shoulders started to scream. I then whittled it down to Dips and Parallel Grip Pull Ups. It has been all good after that.

    • Smart move, glad it’s working out.

      I feel bad for the people who have similar problems with an exercise but keep doing it anyway because they read “it’s an exercise everyone must be doing!!”

  6. For a brief period I added “deep” dips to my routine. I could just “tell” they were putting undo stress on my shoulders. And then a person I trust told me he had shoulder surgery and his surgeon said he pinpointed the source of his injuries to deep, chest dips. And furthermore, the surgeon said that of the weightlifters he’s performed surgery on, the number one and two culprits of shoulder injuries are deep dips and heavy decline chest presses.

    However, I still do triceps dips, going to no more than (upper arm) parallel.

    • Not that surprising to hear dips are such a problem for so many people… although I am a little surprised decline pressing was also so problematic. Compared to flat and incline, it’s usually the most shoulder friendly form of chest pressing there is.

  7. I actually clicked on this post after reading the title to see if you had included dips. I love dips. Arthur Jones called his pullover machine “the upper body squat.” I disagree with him–the dip is the true upper body squat. No other exercise hit my pecs and tris like the dip. I loved them. Always recommended them. I even had dipping bars in my basement.

    And it totally blows that I can’t do them anymore after relying on them for almost 20 years. Some muscle in my right shoulder just starts hurting after a few sets and after pushing for a few more sets, I get to the point where the pain in my shoulder literally keeps me from being able to maintain a position at the top of the movement.

    • I think at this point I know significantly more people who can’t do dips than I know people who can. But yeah, it does indeed suck being unable to do them.

      I feel your pain… literally.

  8. How weird… this is almost the exact same list that I have for myself! I started using a Jungle Gym XT for pull ups, push ups and dips. I wrap it around a bar set at the top position on a Smith machine. Gets me some weird looks at the gym, but it makes such a difference to how my shoulders and wrists feel, wish I’d done it years ago.

    • Ha, definitely noticing a trend here with these exercises.

      And good point about the Jungle Gym XT (and another good use for the smith machine). I’ve occasionally used something similar wrapped around the pull-up bar itself. It’s definitely much more joint friendly. It’s also a good progression for something like push ups.

      But even with them, I’d still be afraid to attempt dips. I’m officially scared off them for life.

  9. great post. Good info here. I actually like lat raise machines but after reading your post, I realize i’m trying to go too heavy. I love your book.

  10. Great web site!,Behind neck press go no lower then your ears. Works for me. If you feel pain in any movement don’t do it. Just because your buddy johnny big arms swears by exercise,it might not be right one for you.

  11. Dips are not that bad. Just do not let it be your first exercise nor your second nor your third. Only do them when you are pumped in the triceps i.e at the end of your routine.You will never risk injury that way.

      • While I do them after everything else, if I could do dips earlier it would help a lot. But then I would be weakened for Bench or Military.

        Never had a shoulder injury during dips though, just a slight pain in the middle of my chest that soon went away the more i did them properly. Guess I’m lucky.

  12. Hear me out first before discarding my take. I guess I should feel fortunate for not having shoulder injuries or any other injury for that matter. What I am saying is dips are too hard of an exercise to begin with in any routine and most injuries caused by dips are caused by improper warm up and going all the way down. If I warm up a with a 20 push ups or and 1 to 3 dips I will most likely get hurt or they will feel very akward and my bones will crack. On the other hand If I perform them at the end of the routine my pumped muscles( not that I am looking for a pump it just something that happens)will prevent me from going too far down and my whole body including my shoulders can handle them a heck of a lot more than if I were todo them first. I will give you another example of proper warm up. When doing squats I can always lift more on my 3rd lift than I can on my first lift the reason being that I train in the morning about an hour or so after waking up and even though I warm up progressively to my maximum weight for the day it still feels easier on the last set than it does on the first set.
    To each his own as you posted above but in my opinion most injuries happen for 3 reasons. Improper warm up, too heavy a weight and improper technique. Anybody can get hurt doing bench presses if they go too far down. A lot of people are trying to lift very heavy weights for 1 rep which is very dangerous injury wise and besides if you can do 3 sets of 8 and increase the load progressively then the results will come about strengthwise and injury free. Just my take and by the way your workout routine is the best I’ve ever come across and the gains are constant. Thank you.

    • Glad to hear everything is working well.

      First, saying “you will never risk injury that way” in regards to anything is never right. There are very few absolutes in the training world, and injuries certainly aren’t one of them. There is always some risk of injury in everything, especially when being done under the assumption that “you will never risk injury that way.”

      Second, yes, improper warmup, improper form, using too much weight, etc. etc. etc. are 3 of the most common reasons an injury occurs on any exercise, including dips. I agree completely.

      However, even with the right amount of weight, being fully warmed up and using the most perfect form ever, dips still destroy certain people’s shoulders. Not everyone, but plenty of people.

      From my own experience, I always went down no further than parallel, and I always did them nearly last in my workout after various other pressing exercises (so everything was warmed up and pumped like you said). They still bothered my shoulders.

  13. For me SQUATS are a worthless exercise and always have been. Ever since I first started working out, years ago, I have read and heard nothing but “You’ve gotta do squats.” Apparently you’re a bodybuilding sinner if you don’t do squats. And I bought into the squat propaganda inspite of the fact I never gained any thigh development to speak of, despite my best efforts. I bought into squats even though they hurt my knees. And I continued to believe the squat lies until I discovered the Nautilus Compound Leg Machine and finally built some decent thigh muscles. Then I discovered the Cybex Leg Press and once again built decent thigh muscles. I now consider every rep of every squat I ever did to have been wasted time as well as unnecessary wear and tear on my knees. You want to squat? Knock yourself out. But squats aren’t for everybody; they certainly aren’t for me.

    • Yup, squats vs leg press is something I’ve written a bit about before. Both are useful exercises depending on your goals and needs, but for certain people, squats just don’t feel right. Leg press on the other hand feels just fine.

      Moral of the story: do what’s best for you.

    • Agreed, Ted. The “Squats Are King” contention falls on deaf ears with me. An extremely technical lift that does not serve my needs athletically (swimmer) nor aesthetically (quads explode). I love Deadlifts, though – an exercise superior to the Squat, IMO.

      • Maybe you weren’t doing your squats to below parallel? My thighs have grown a few inches in just a few months from squatting deeper compared to 3/4 squats i was doing. Eating A LOT also helped.

        Leg Presses are still a viable option in place of squats, however I will say I’m a hardcore squats nazi.

  14. I agree to avoid Dips & chin-ups, they are shoulder & wrist killers!
    Im also considering to leave skull crushers (though i love them)… btw, i read your post about alternatives and will give it a try. Great job!

  15. Found your website a couple of days ago. I’ve been lifting/exercising for a couple of decades (early 40s) and have heard it all (whew!). You’ve done a very good job at distillation. This post is particurarly important because it shows just how different each one of is and why that MUST be respected when choosing/changing programming. For instance, I will never ever Bench Press again. Kills my front deltoids. But Weighted Dips? Love them. Dream about them. Zero shoulder pain. And Weighted Chins? Love ’em. Would weep if I had to drop them. Two of my essentials are two of your discarded. And we’re both right. Appreciate you helping novices understand they need the requisite humility to follow what their bodies are telling them over the advice of anyone else.

  16. I wrecked my elbows doing even neutral grip pullups at home. I made the mistake of ignoring the pain and kept going. I am going to master them though. The elbows are slowly getting better and I probably started wrecking them when I started chinups palms forward. When things get better will try again and definitely take things slower.

  17. This website is awesome! I was curious about what the title to your article on alternate exercises was called. I wanted to see what you suggest to try if one had trouble with particular movements. I read it once and thought you had mention diamond pushups in lieu of dips (but could be wrong.)

    Thanks!

  18. Wow im doing your begginner weight training program and im wondering is there another excercise I can replace the bench press with. Ive always experienced a slight pain in my left arm when doing a benchpress. Interesting because whenever I do a pushup im fine.Any suggestions?

      • I absolutely cannot do flat barbell bench press and I have slight difficulties with flat dumbbell bench press without at least 45 minutes of warm up, just kills my shoulders. So I have officially cut out all flat bench exercises, except skull crushers. I just found this post, randomly, and greatly appreciate that others simply cannot do certain exercises because of shoulder pain. Thanks

  19. Hi Jay!

    This is my 5th month on the begginner routine and im gaining a lot of strength and weight, i just love it! (I hope more muscle than fat though).

    I have a little problem: due to my life schedule, i can only go to a gym that is close to my office at lunch time and have my workouts there.
    I have been warned about doing too much noise with the deadlift.

    Currently i deadlift 210lb 3×5. I really tried to do them slowly to make less noise but it is almost the same, and i feel that lowering the weight slowly hurts my back.

    Have you ever experienced this issue? Any thoughts?
    Do you think that dumbell deadlifts are a good substitute for this problem?

    Thanks!

    • I definitely wouldn’t change the tempo/technique of a properly performed deadlift to avoid making noise. That sounds like an injury waiting to happen.

      I don’t really have any good suggestions other than finding a better gym. 😉

  20. Whenever I do pushups or bench presses, anything to do with chest workouts, i feel a pain in my left shoulder/chest area. I cannot completely eliminate chest workouts. Ive tried perfecting my form and reducing weight but its just always a present. Are there any chest workouts you can recommend that is less stress full.

    • Impossible to say. The best advice would be to see someone in person who is qualified to diagnose your specific injury issue so you can correct it and/or figure out how to best work around it.

  21. I have arms that do no straighten at the elbow. As a result I have now taken out several exercises from my routine which were causing a tendon in my forearm to get sore over months which would not repair unless I stopped exercising altogether for 3-4 months. Since getting rid of these, I have had no issues:

    barbell bench press – I now do dumbell bench press as it just hurt my elbows too much
    ezy-bar or preacher curls – the angle my arms are at cause me issues with the tendon
    pull ups on straight bar – once again the angle on my elbows/arms is just wrong for me
    skull crushers – the straight bar just doesnt work for me on this, I can hear my elbows going crunch/crunch/crunch with each rep

    So everyone is different and it is important to listen to your body! Good article 🙂

  22. I’m reading this article about two years after the most recent comment so who knows if you’ll even see this. But, thanks for writing this article, I have the same problem with dips and I think they’re the cause of my shoulder pain. I hate having to take out dips because aside from bench press they are my favorite lift. I don’t want to destroy my shoulder so the easiest way to prevent this I think is going to be exiling dips permanately. 🙁

  23. One of the best websites. I come back to your website after time and time again to educate myself. It is tough giving up on certain exercises, such as dips, but one also got to look after long term goals and progress. Thanks for writing all these articles and also responding to all comments. Much respect!

  24. I don’t like bar dips at all… although, ring dips are another story. Rings are like dumbells.. they naturally flow to where you are most comfortable (unlike barbells or dip bars). If you like dips I would suggest you invest in a pair of rings. Once you are comfortable… my fav exercise is Bulgarian dips.

  25. Enjoyed reading this thread, very nice article on what exercises to avoid.

    I’ve been weight training since age 15, I’m now 40. A couple of tips it took me a long time to learn, and which have benefitted me greatly, is this: When performing any pressing movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you have a tennis ball between your blades you are trying to squeeze. This forces you to retract your shoulders, and puts them in a very stable position.

    Another tip is to not go deep with any movement. When looking straight ahead, you should see your hands through your peripheral vision. If your hands leave this field, you’ve gone too far back. Example is bench press (or incline or decline): if you go so deep such that the bar is close to touching your chest, you are going too far. When lowering the bar, your upper arms should go to parallel to the floor, not further. Any further than this you put too much stress on your shoulders and risk injury. People talk about good range of motion, yada yada…but what is the point of hurting yourself? It is better to stick with a range of motion that keeps you injury free and allows you to get stronger and stronger. So keep your hands in your peripheral vision, retract your shoulder blades (squeeze them), and you’ll be able to lift relatively heavy and stay injury free.

    • The first tip is always a good idea, and the second one is actually something I’ve written about before (right here), although I think this is more dependent on the individual.

      Some can go as low as possible on every lift forever and never have a problem, while others can go a bit too low on a single set and instantly be in pain. This can vary due to body type (e.g. longer arms vs shorter arms), preexisting injuries, issues with mobility, etc..

  26. What is your opinion on hammer curls? I have been doing your beginner program and it has been working great but something about turning my hand to do dumbell curls is uncomfortable to my forearms. What would you recommend?

    • My main opinion above all else is that you should do the exercises you can do comfortably and safely, and avoid the ones you can’t. So if hammer curls happen to be one that’s good for you, then by all means do it.

      There was actually a year or so where I had an elbow issue and hammer curls were the only type of curl I could do without pain.

      • Thanks for replying my only concern was the effectiveness. Do they work as good as regular curls how big is the difference? Also do you know of any common form mistakes that could be causing the discomfort because it doesn’t seem to be all the time only on some sets? I’m also unfortunately going to have to switch gyms due to transportation issues and all that’s accessible for a few months is the dreaded fitness super center with no free barbell weights I’ve figured out how to adjust everything pretty well except deadlifts. I have my own dumbbell bars so i could put enough weight on them to make it as heavy as a barbell but it doesn’t seem like a good idea to me so what would you recommend substituting.

        • Hammer curls train the brachioradialis more than a regular curl would, which means a bit less biceps and a bit more forearms. But in your case this difference doesn’t matter. Injury prevention and safety > everything else.

          As for the cause, it could be a million things. Something with form, maybe a preexisting injury that just happens to be hurt during curls (medial epicondylitis for example). No way for me to say for sure.

          If you can’t deadlift, some kind of weighted hyperextension (bending from the hips, not the lower back) would be something to consider. Cable pull-throughs, leg curls, etc. as well.

          • Thanks for the help one more question it’s only uncomfortable when my arms are like parallel to my thighs so could the version where you start as a hammer curl then turn it into a regular curl on the way up be a good technique or should I stick with regular hammer curls.

  27. this is the best article I read about shoulder injuries. if I only read it at least one year ago I would avoid dumbbell incline press, dips, push-ups… and I wouldn’t have to use ice compress on both shoulders today. saving the whole page and the comments to keep me warned about what to really do at the gym. thank you so much.

  28. I really appreciate this post.I am just starting out a serious routine and working out at the gym, and I’ve had random wrist and shoulder pain here and there. I never thought to NOT do certain popular exercises because of body movement and not just physical limitations. Thanks for the tip and I will surely listen more to what works for me.

  29. Found this list interesting and can relate to many exercises on the list. I love dips and have been doing them for many many years. Both heavily weighted and just body weight. Recently however shoulder pain has been too intense to continue them so have to give them up for a while and see how things heal.

    Pullups are great and I love them, but have been doing chinups on my home tower using an ez curl bar in place of the straight bar it comes with. This has made a huge difference in wrist pain, which is not existant now, and I love how palms facing in hits the biceps.

    Cheers!

  30. Man, I did a record amount of dips (for me), and went really low, too.
    Now I’ve got this horrible stiff back, like I had a big ring on my middle torso.

  31. Which type of dips is it that hurts your shoulders, parallel bar dips or bench dips? I tried bench dips, and I love them. Can bench dips replace bench press on the beginner workout?

    • Parallel bar dips are what’s being referred to, though bench dips are also problematic.

      And no, bench dips wouldn’t replace bench press. They are strictly a triceps exercise whereas the primary focus of the bench press is chest (along with triceps and shoulders).

  32. Interesting article. Many people have trouble with their shoulders because they have a great deal of scar tissue from using computers/mouse/phones — and generally being forward disposed in posture.

    This is a great way to clear scar tissue from the shoulder and take the joint through a full ROM. Build up to doing a single set of 50 reps, making your grip on the stick slightly closer every 5 reps.

    Incredibly effective and therapeutic motion:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoGtrEcsqPQ

  33. I agree with the key message of this article that you shouldn’t do any exercises which don’t feel right just because it is a staple exercise for most gym goers, however there are quite a few posts of people saying that they’ve stopped doing exercise X or Y because it was causing pain, but don’t necessarily understand the cause.

    For about a year I had pain in my right shoulder the day after a chest workout, which would come about with certain movements, for example reaching into the back of a cupboard and slightly rotating my arm to retrieve something. I finally went to a doctor and got an MRI. it turned out to be minor inflammation in the AC join, nothing serious, but the physio said she’s seen it develop into more serious injuries with continued overuse. I’ve learnt the problem can be caused by bad posture, especially for people working desk jobs. I’ve also learned flaws in my bench technique which were likely responsible for the problem.
    If I had just stopped doing shoulder and bench stuff and not gone to a physio I would probably still have bad posture and the shoulder issue may occur later in life.

    This is a long winded way of saying if a particular exercise is causing pain it’s possible you are not doing it properly, or there is some imbalance in your physiology, and it can be beneficial to try and understand the underlying problem..

    • This is certainly a good point, and in an ideal world people would be able to properly find the underlying issue and correct it.

      However, many people just won’t be able to do that. And in those cases, it’s sometimes better to simply avoid that exercise rather than spend years trying/failing to find/solve an underlying problem.

  34. Hi, Jay. I just want to say that I love the site and have gotten a lot of useful information. I do have a question about avoiding exercises. To make a long story short, I’ve suffered from back problems for almost 15 years (several bulging discs and a fractured vertebrae). After years of x-rays, MRI’s, injections, therapy and finally surgery, I still suffer from stiffness/soreness, the occasional “flare-up” and I have some permanent nerve damage that affects my right leg. I have to avoid all types of weighted squats but have solved that problem with leg presses and bodyweight squats.

    However, I am having trouble finding a suitable replacement for deadlifts. I love doing them, but as the weight climbs up my back really starts to protest. Even trap bar deadlifts do this to me. Yesterday I did 150lbs (plus the bar) for 3 sets of 8 and it felt good and easy, but I’m extremely apprehensive about going heavier as the last time I approached 200lbs my back went out again.

    I know that there are no replacements for the deadlift, but what would you recommend I do instead of them? I’m thinking of pull-throughs and hyperextensions (neither of these bother me) and maybe walking dumbbell lunges. Thanks in advance.

  35. This is a great article. It’s taken me several years to figure it out. I have been on a 1-2 year hiatus because of some self-inflicted injuries to my left wrist which has nagged me since my teens (28 now). I’ve noticed I’m starting to get a belly.

    The issue was flat bench and shoulder presses. I’m not a huge bench press fan, but I did them anyway. I really like shoulder presses. I ignored the discomfort at first, which, of course, led to considerable pain later and several months for the pain to fully heal. I couldn’t even squat. The act of holding the barbell, which would be very little pressure, was painful.

    Now I know precisely why the pain occurred, so I’ll be avoiding those two exercises.

    To those folks younger than I am, if something irritates you, don’t do it! Don’t stick to an exercise that bothers you just because your friends do it, it’s a “good” exercise, or any other reasons. Weight training can be very dangerous and it’s entirely possible to permanently screw yourself up.

    My list:
    Flat bench, leg press, leg curls, dips, pull ups, shoulder press. I avoid these like the plague. Pull ups are just really uncomfortable, leg curls and press cause me knee pain, and dips bother me around my collarbone, wrists, elbows, and palms.

  36. Mine is cross-fit. I took advantage of one of those special trial online deals, and that whole workout jacked up my shoulder. Never doing that again!

  37. Two things……What about no pain no gain,…Isn’t it supposed to hurt some,..when do you know when its too much pain?….Im 3 mos in to the beginner workout, its working fabulosa…..Im losing weight, gaining muscle , and fighting arthritis/heart health,….those are my goals…. i have lost 27lbs so far , and am still increasing weight and strength, and joints are better and more mobility,….Im 49 and never worked out before now……IM now at 245lbs, goal is 220lb….Im 6’2…I use a powertec leverage machine and barbell deadlifts……2nd thing;..My left rotator has always been weak and painful at times,,..It hurts some when doing shoulder press,(most times)….I stop increasing weight for a few sessions till feel better,… then increase weight and some pain again, and so on…….Is this typical pain or be concerned pain?…..I can endure it and have been,..im of the mindset that a little pain will go away when I am stronger and have muscle and tendon strenth ……I hate to give up shoulder press(powertec machine)…any suggestions?? Thank you for all your effort and heart…………The world needs more givers like yourself…..

    • “No pain no gain” refers more to pushing past things that are hard and putting in effort… not having some kind of injury and ignoring it/training through it. That’s a terrible idea.

      And there’s really no such thing as “typical pain.” You’d have to be evaluated in person by someone truly qualified to do so to know what the issue is.

  38. Totally agree re dips. A sure fire recipe to destroy the shoulders. I think my right hand shoulder has been permanently damaged from doing dips. Extremely overrated exercise IMO.

  39. I’ve been trying to make deadlift work pretty much since I first started lifting. I’ve caused a lot of pain to my lower back because of this. I have kept coming back to it, I keep trying to make it work and trying to make my form better. However I know my body doesn’t like this movement, yet I still keep trying.

    I’m now convinced that for the betterment of my body that I should not do this movement any longer, simply put it is causing more harm than good.

    It’s a hard lesson that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

  40. Same with me as for dips; my shoulders don’t like them at all. The only other exercise body weight wise I have to avoid is pull-ups. They just kill the the tendon in my left forearm. But chin-ups and neutral/hammer grip ones give me no problems. Thanks for this great article; nice to know it’s okay to skip certain exercises.

  41. I came in on this article a few years late, it seems, but I’m wishing I had known of this website a few years ago, too. Great article! I’ve had a lot of shoulder issues as well, and I think I’ll take this information to heart.

  42. Good post, do you have another post sharing with us alternative exercises you do instead as I feel you’ve listed there my two main exercises for chest (dips and incline bench), and also two main exercises for arms (chin ups and bicep curls)?

    Thanks.

    • Pull-ups with an overhand or neutral grip in place of chin-ups, dumbbell curls or EZ bar curls in place of straight barbell curls, incline dumbbell press or incline Hammer Strength machine in place of incline barbell press, and pretty much any chest compound exercise in place of dips.

  43. Squat used to be my favorite exercise but I have too much knee pain performing it now.

    Was going to do the outstanding arm routine in the ‘Best Routines’ you wrote. I can Leg press on the first day but I can’t squat right now. What do you suggest I do instead on the second day?

  44. Definitely figure out what works for you, but as you say, we’re all different. I’ve been doing dips 3+ days a week for 33 years and am now 49. Dips and pullups (including behind the neck) are the central part of my routine. Shoulders are just fine and probably my strongest area. Triceps and chest next, and I give all the credit to dips. For dips I vary the weight but tend to do around 70lbs up to 20 reps per set. I used to do no weight but I could do way too many dips (60-90) and worried the repetition would take a toll on joints. My form is very slow and controlled, and do dips generally in chest position (head down, arched forward, feet back). I used to do twice as much weight but gave that up a decade ago as that did seem a recipe for disaster (especially the mount/dismount and the last rep). With pull-ups I ditched weight a decade ago and just do body weight reps. Slow and controlled I think is the key to avoid injury. For pull ups, I never jump to the bar anymore but gently step off a stool. Also as you get older, don’t go to failure. Until age 35 I worked out to ultimate failure, then until low 40s to first failure, since then I stop right before failure. Body type likely key to those who can do dips and pullups for decades. I’m not that tall (5′ 8″) and don’t weigh much (just under 150). One of my reasons for loving dips and pullups is the need for no spot. After lifting for decades, efficiency is high on my list to get in/out of the workout. Every exercise I do can be safely done without a spot. Half are body weight type exercises, others are dumbbells or machine. I do some others on your list, including dumbbell curls and chin ups. If lifting for a lifetime is your goal, vs being insanely strong or big, and form is slow and controlled, some of the things on your list can work for some. Dips are probably the reason I still work out – definitely the highlight of the workout and the only exercise I enjoy in a Zen like way. Pull-ups are almost that way, but after all these years the last 5 reps still seem like work. Some of the other movements I can’t wait to be over. Not so for dips. Knock on wood.

  45. Barbell presses, skull crushers, bench presses, barbell squats… mostly anything with a barbell! I know that sounds like blasphemy, but dips and pushups take care of my pecs, DB presses and HSPU’s take care of my shoulders, and Kroc rows, inverted rows, and pullups take care of my back. Honestly, I think the trap bar deadlift is the greatest thing since sliced bread, I find that it is the perfect hybrid of the squat and deadlift. Barbells just f*** me up. That’s not to say they aren’t excellent tools for some people, but not me.

  46. Even though I’ve been training for years and I can easily do weighted pull up for reps.
    When it comes to pull up grip preferences, the opposite is true for me compared to you.
    The supinated grip feels much more natural and comfortable, same goes for the neutral grip.
    Prorated grips on the other hand feel soooo uncomfortable!. Its hard to put into words how it feels but I can only describe it as if the tension is more in my skeletal structure (by that I mean my bones, spine etc) than my actual muscles.
    Weird, isn’t it?

    • Nah, not too weird. People are different. Different bodies, bone structures, injury histories, flexibility and mobility, etc. So it would make sense that certain people will be better suited for certain things than others. Just a matter of figuring out what that is for you, and then doing that.

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