The 3 Worst Exercises for Busy People (And What to Do Instead)

The 3 Worst Exercises for Busy People (And What to Do Instead)

Do you feel like you’ve tried every exercise ever invented?

Do you notice nagging aches and pains that just refuse to go away?

Have you been overwhelmed by the information overload, leaving you uncertain what to do?

Instead of chasing the latest fad, here’s what to do instead:

Make longevity your goal. 

What matters most is being pain-free and so you can always be there for family and friends.  (It doesn’t hurt to have a great physique and high career achievements, too.)

So make the best use of your valuable time in the gym. Do exercises that help you, as opposed to leaving your body in agony.

Start by eliminating the three top exercises you can — and should — do without.

Exercise #1 To Avoid: Side Bends

Do you have love handles spilling over the sides of your suit pants?

Are your love handles cleverly disguised by your suit jacket?

Well, if you do, your love handles are out of control!

So, you become demoralized by the sight of your own body. You’ll do whatever you think every “bro” does when they hit the gym on their quest to destroy those pesky love handles:

Dumbbell Side Bends

I totally understand. Before I became a coach and lifted weights with reckless abandon, I made this mistake, too.

Endless sets of dumbbell side bends aren’t the way to go. Let me explain why.

The core is a set of “anti” muscles designed to help protect your spine. Anti-flexion (bending), anti-extension (lengthening), and anti-lateral flexion (side bending) exercises will help reduce back pain, improve your ability to move, and get you stronger.

Side bends do the complete opposite. The exercise flexes your spine on each side into an unnatural position. When you consistently direct your spine into an unnatural position, guess what happens?

You’ll have back pain. The back pain leads to time off from the gym. Time off from the gym leads to larger love handles.

Is that what you want?

I don’t think so.

Your core is the most important aspect of your body. You may not realize it, but the core controls everything you do. When you walk, sprint, pick your kid up, or turn to kiss your significant other, your core is being put to good use.

What to Do Instead: Half Kneeling Cable Lift and Chop

If you want to win the battle against your love handles while protecting your spine, you’ll have to train your external obliques.

What are the obliques? What do they do?

The external oblique is one of the outermost abdominal muscles. It extends from the lower half of the ribs around and down to the pelvis.

The external obliques rotate the trunk, help pull the chest downwards, and supports the rotation of the spine. It’s extremely important for these muscles to be strong, especially for walking and running. If you strain or tear of these, it’s debilitating. When these muscles become unstable, it can lead to an acute lower back injury, sharp lower back pain, spinal disc degeneration, or possibly knee pain issues as the force from the feet is unable to travel up the entire spine.

What does this mean for you?

Your goal is to strengthen your core to improve your ability to move, and dominate compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts without tearing your spine to shreds. Dominate these exercises.

The half kneeling cable lift and chop accomplishes this goal.

Tips for you:

  • Remain as upright as possible.
  • Squeeze your glutes and core.
  • Don’t put too much emphasis on your arms. Yes, they’re involved, but your core performs most of the work.

Add this exercise to your arsenal. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps per side.

Exercise #2 To Avoid: Pistol Squats

You’re not an acrobat, tightrope walker, or trapeze artist.

You’re a busy professional. You’re more likely the likes of a CEO, attorney, or an elite entrepreneur.

Your training performance should be driven by movements you make every day. A pistol squat isn’t one of those. How often do you stick one leg out and squat down with the other? Never.

A well-executed pistol squat looks incredible. But, most people lack the lower body strength, hip and ankle mobility required to execute a polished pistol squat.

That’s not even the worst part. You’re increasing the risk of causing menacing back pain. 95% of people I see performing it round their back as they sit down into a single leg low squat.

If I saw you round your back during a double leg squat, I’d be concerned and lend a helping hand. If you did the same thing on a pistol squat, I’d be mortified. If it doesn’t look good on two legs, why would it look better on one?

What to Do Instead: Front Curled Single Leg Squats

Kickstart your freedom from pistol squat purgatory with Front Curl Racked Single Leg Squats. Dr. Joel Seedman popularized this technique and I’ve used it with several clients. He states:

“…the front curled squat is probably the single most simple and user friendly squat I’ve ever used so much so that just about every athlete and client I work with will have these incorporated into their routine in some form or another.”

Thanks, Joel.

Tips for you:

  • Point your feet straight ahead. Dig your big toes into the floor.
  • Create a fit sized space between the dumbbells.
  • Perform the eccentric phase (lowering) of 4 seconds.
  • Pause at 90 degrees for 2 seconds. Then, lift yourself back up.

Toss this in your leg day. Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps per leg.

Exercise #3 To Avoid: Burpees

Coaching someone how to properly perform a burpee is like teaching quantum physics to a freshman English major. It’s advanced and you’ll never need it.

A “basic” burpee involves three movements: a push up, low squat, and vertical jump.

In my experience of coaching clients via classes and private personal training, 90% of people are unable to perform each of those movements without expert coaching.

Let me explain…

A well-executed burpee requires intense core strength, proper hip alignment, spinal stabilization, and upper body strength.

Whether you’re stuck in a cubicle from 9 to 5 or dashing down the road visiting sales prospects, you spend most of your time sitting. Sitting for hours on end puts your core in a weakened position. A common mistake made by burpee lovers occurs when they put their hands on the floor and thrust their feet back: the hips drop and a ton of stress is placed on their lower back.

For your upper body, you must correctly position your shoulders and elbows during every rep to avoid placing bone crushing stress on the ligaments and tendons around your shoulders and elbows. Flopping your upper body down on the floor like a you have a one-way ticket to Seizureville isn’t going to do your upper body any favors.

“But Johnnie? I need a total body exercise and burpees seem like the real deal.”

Sure, I know you’re excited about getting in a quick workout and the burpee appears to be a great total body high intensity exercise. But let me ask you this…

Why risk damage to your back, shoulders, or hips when you can have a better and safer option?

What to Do Instead: DB Clean and Push Press

For the dumbbell clean, you must keep your back straight, with the hips back and a slight low back arch. Keep your knees flexed enough so that your legs carry most of the workload. Don’t look down and keep your arms straight.

The push press is an overhead press with a kick start. Use a ¼ squat to drive through the legs as you press the dumbbells overhead. Due to the leg drive, use a heavier weight than you can on an overhead press.

Tips for you:

  • Begin with the dumbbells at your side, palms facing inward.
  • Keep your back straight as you use your hips (not your arms or back) to clean the dumbbells above your shoulders as you slightly squat under them. They should be at ear level.
  • Perform a quarter squat, then push the dumbbells overhead.
  • Perform the eccentric phase (lowering) of 4 seconds.
  • Bring the dumbbells down to your sides after each rep.

Toss this in on an upper or full body training day. Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

The Takeaway

Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids. There’s zero need for you to include the above three exercises in your workouts. From side bends to burpees, there are a host of other exercises that can be included on this list.

The best exercises are those that work for you. Perform reliable exercises that make you unstoppable during your workouts. An exercise may seem cool or popular, but it doesn’t mean it’s suited for you.

Save your time and energy for exercises that matter. If you need help, structuring a plan that eliminates confusion and reduces information overload, apply to the JP Fitness Coaching Program today.