When you hit the gym you want to get fit – not carried out on a gurney. Research has shown that these exercises all have the potential to injure you if they’re not performed correctly. If you are doing any of these exercises at your gym, we would advise you to ask a fitness trainer to make sure that you’re doing them safely.
Here are the exercises to take extra care with and other ways of attaining the same results.
This is one of the many exercises that requires you to hyperextend your lower back. This can put an enormous strain on that area. If you perform it in a bouncing style, you’re at even more risk of injuring yourself.
Safer Alternative: A gentle extension of the lower back is important when exercising. However, stretching and gaining strength needs to be done in a slow, controlled way.
Straight Leg Sit Ups
This exercise carries several risk factors.
By keeping your legs straight, you’re using your abdominals but you’re using your hip flexors more. When your hip flexors contract they can make your lower back hyperextend and make your pelvis tilt forward. So the result is that your abdominals stay relatively weak but your hip flexors are strengthened. This exercise also puts your lower back under too much pressure.
Safer Alternative: Try curl ups instead. These are performed as a partial sit up with your knees bent. This gives your abdominals a safe and effective workout. Having strong abdominals can decrease low back pain.
Straight Leg Toe Touch while Standing
As a general rule, it’s safer to avoid exercises that keep you bending forward while standing. Toe touching is to achieve a stretch in the hamstrings. However, it’s not only relatively ineffective – it also places an unnecessary and potentially dangerous strain on your back as well as your lower back muscles.
Safer Alternative: For a more effective hamstring stretch, lie on your back and raise one leg up, keeping it straight. Put your hands around your raised leg and pull it gently towards your chest. Make sure that you keep that leg as straight as possible to get the most benefit.
Rolling Circles with your head
When you roll your head around in circles you are putting unnecessary stress onto your neck. This is especially true if you’re doing it quickly. Hyper extending your neck can compress the nerve roots in your neck. They’re even more risky if you have degenerative disk disease and should be avoided altogether.
Safer Alternative: If you want to roll your head to make you neck feel looser, make sure you do it slowly and in a controlled way.
Stretching like a Hurdler
In this exercise, you sit on the floor with your legs apart and one leg tucked behind you, facing outward. You then reach forward to touch the toe of the straight leg. This puts the ligaments in the knee joint of your bent leg under too much stress.
Safer Alternative: It would be safer to do this exercise on a bench. This would ensure that the leg you are not stretching stays in a comfortable position. When you bend forward, bend from your lower back (not your mid back) and this will give a more beneficial stretch.
Full Squat or Duck Walk
This exercise is ineffective, so not only will you get no benefit from it – you may injure yourself in the process. This is because it puts huge pressure on your knees. It also makes the ligaments and cartilage of your knee very vulnerable.
Safer Alternative: Perform partial squats instead. These will give you the muscle stretch that you want without stressing the ligaments and cartilage in your knees.
If you make sure that you’re performing exercises correctly you are much more likely to avoid injury. Start slowly and don’t be in a hurry to go up a level too fast. Also, choose exercises that are appropriate for your current level of fitness. It’s better to cautious than to injure yourself and put yourself out of action for weeks or months.
Get With the Program
Most gyms offer the facility of working with an Instructor who will build your own personal program for you. The Instructor will help you to choose exercises that are appropriate for your age and the level of fitness that you are starting out with.
One of the main benefits is that they will see you perform exercises and will be there to correct you if you’re not doing it safely. Getting an individualized exercise program built is an investment to ensure you get the maximum benefit – safely.