5 Exercises Athletes Do Not Need in Their Program

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There are a lot of exercises that someone can perform.

A lot of our lifting came from the bodybuilders of the 70’s and 80’s. Some of the guys like Arnold and Franco really kind of made lifting weights popular.

Some people have never progressed beyond that point though. There are still people who are going off of Arnold’s old programs to the most minute details.

When it comes to training athletes for performance this kind of person can be very dangerous for the safety and effectiveness of the program.

This person typically ignores the advances that have been made in the last 30-40 years. This is the “this is how we did it when I played” guy. Nothing sounds dumber than that statement. 30-40 years smoking was cool and the majority of people did it cool. Right, good call.

An old school bodybuilding program is designed for, well, bodybuilders. Athletes are not bodybuilders. They need to perform well in their specific sport. They might look shredded but they are useless if they cannot play. Performance programs are intended to help make athletes stronger, more powerful, more mobile, and durable. Training isolated body parts does not get it done.

Some of the movements in these programs are poorly designed for athletes at a high injury risk. Sports put a ton of wear and tear on the body which would warrant training to reduce some of that pounding. There are a lot of exercises that are bad choices for athletes even if they do help make X body part look huge. Never mind the idea that training a tiny muscle in isolation is not going to make an athlete any better at their sport.

So before this becomes a whole thing, remember that these exercises can be good for the right person. They are just not so effective or important for athletes. It all depends on the goal of the individual to determine what exercises are good for that person.

5 Exercises that Athletes Do Not Need in their Program

1. Wrist Curls

Wrist curls do not provide a ton of benefit to an athlete. The ability to curl the wrist does not come up a whole lot in sport. Unless of course you need to stop a bat that went flying. 

Some people mistake wrist curls for being able to handle a stick in lacrosse or hockey. Those are skills. Skills must be learned and trained for a really long time.

Improving the ability of the forearm to curl will not make a better stickhandler. It also does not really do a whole lot for grip strength.

Grip strength is best trained by holding heavy things until you give in. Farmer carries are a great option here and should be in most programs. Grip strength is great for sport unlike the ability to curl the wrist.

A variation we have been using a lot lately with our high school athletes is a hex bar carry, based off of Dan John’s recommendations for weights. Under 135lbs- carry 135, under 185- carry 185, everyone else- carry 225.

2. Front Raises

front raise

This is an exercise that can potentially damage the shoulder. The goal with these is to train the anterior deltoid. Well, the anterior deltoid is a muscle smaller than a post it note and does not provide a whole lot of use in isolation.

Bodybuilders can make or break a competition with this kind of detail but it is useless for sport. Weighted front raises can also potentially cause injury to the shoulder.

Instead, use landmine press variations. These are much more shoulder friendly and they train a pushing pattern. Athletes must push in just about all sports. Getting strong in this pattern will transfer over to the field and improve performance.

3. Supermen

Supermen put enough compression on the spine to cause injury. If there were no tendons, ligaments, or muscle back there the actual vertebrae would become damaged.

It also reinforces a pattern that we typically try to reverse in our athletes. Supermen train the spine to extend. We often are putting a lot of time in to teach athletes how to resist extension. It helps them run faster and get stronger when they can lock down the rib cage. Performing supermen is going to stunt progress.

As a replacement, the birddog is great for training stability and anti extension. It might not be the glamorous choice but it is really effective. Do them.

4. Situps/Crunches

Situps and crunches kind of piggy back on what we talked about with supermen. They put a lot of compression on the spine and reinforce bad patterns. We are typically teaching core control and these two choices teach the trunk to flex.

The spine was designed to be a column and columns are not supposed to bend in half.

If you really want to light your abs up try rollouts. You will be insanely sore. Soreness and the burning feeling doesn’t mean crap when it comes to training but I will also concede that some people are looking for that.

Perform 3 sets of 10 rollouts the right way and you will struggle to get out of bed for the next 2 days. Just what everyone is looking for!

5. DB Chest Flys

These are even worse when performed on an incline bench.

Letting the shoulders and arms to get into this fly position with weight and gravity is not a good thing. Too much can go wrong with little benefit.

If you must do flys, use a cable or a band. Its safer and just as effective.

I would prefer dumbbell pressing options. You can do regular DB press, alternating DB press, DB press combo, or single arm DB press. All of those can also be done on the floor or an incline bench. You now have 12 options of pressing to replace chest flys.

I work with athletes primarily and everyone else seems to have some issues with their back or shoulders. I do not coach bodybuilders so do not hold me to that type of training. The exercises above do not seem to have a lot of use for most people. When safety and effectiveness come into question it is best to remove the risk for a better alternative.