Six exercises to do and to not do

Sure there are a million exercises out there. But that doesn’t mean you do all of them right? Some moves are legit and pure genius and will benefit you immensely as they have benefited millions of people of hundreds of years. Some others, mostly the new ones with fancy names, will more often than not mess you up and leave you looking like a weasel on wheels.

That said, though I will try my hand at as many different activities/exercises/training methodologies as possible, there are some exercises I will do for the rest of my life and some that I will never ever do!

6 exercises I will (and you should) always do…

  1. Deadlift because it is the king of all exercises. Working more muscles than any other workout, this lift strengthens everything from your grip to your lower back to your traps to your entire lower body. A strong deadlift literally means great pick-up strength in real life and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be picking stuff up throughout my life.
  2. Weighted Pull-up/Rope Climb because it is one of the most challenging upper body pulling movements. You’re not fit if you can’t climb a rope.
  3. Sprints/Sled Drag/Prowler Push because it develops speed, endurance and incredible lower body strength. The exercise taxes the lower body so much you have no choice but to get faster and stronger.
  4. Standing Press/Push Press because it is the one (and only) pressing movement that has relevance to real life. FYI – If you’re abs are not sore after a heavy pressing session, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. Plank/Planche because it strengthens the “core” without jeopardizing any joint or the spine.
  6. Push-up because it has more variations than I will ever need, it develops explosive upper body strength and it strengthens the core. In addition to being one of the most awesome bodyweight exercises, it is super functional and relates to real life activities. Also, one arm push-ups are just cool.

6 exercises I will (and you should) never do…

  1. Any kind of bosu ball crap because it’s just sad, lame and downright stupid.
  2. Kipping pull-up because it works nothing. Wasted reps. Waste of time. High risk of rotator cuff injury.
  3. Leg extension because never in my life will I need to exert force by extending my knee joint in isolation. Aesthetics? Not interested in disproportionate quads. My deadlifts work my lower body more than any machine ever will.
  4. Behind the neck press because risk >>> benefit.
  5. Any and all kinds of sit-up because I don’t want to end up with a surgery in my lower back.
  6. Anything on the smith machine because that’s as fake as fake can get. The whole point of barbell training is to strengthen synergists and stabilizers along with prime movers (agonists) and antagonists. By restricting the movement of the bar to only up-and-down the smith machine removes the synergists and stabilizers our of the equation resulting in uneven strength distribution which is a recipe for disaster.

While we are on stupid exercises, this one is a whole new level of stupidity!

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30 responses to “Six exercises to do and to not do

  1. Arvind Ashok January 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Wow, that last picture is crazy! This article reminds me of a video you sent across – squatting and then throwing the barbell across!

  2. Sukanya January 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Do you have any links to videos or instructions to do the 6 recommended exercises the right way?

  3. Vishwa January 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Raj,

    Your posts are awesome. I love your outlook on exercises. After 5 months of zero activity mainly due to my thesis and its mind numbing effect, I finally graduated and am working now. Time to get back to the gym. At this point I’m just trying to get back to where I was as quickly as possible. My strength has dropped tremendously. I would love to talk with you and discuss about the process.

    To begin with I can email you a pic of me and get a verbal confirmation that I’m indeed fat and workout a plan (hopefully both eating and lifting)…

    Also if you can post a video on the right way to do deadlift that will be awesome. I have to confess I’m always a little intimidated by the deadlift more than any other exercise.

    Thanks a ton.

  4. Kitty January 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I was just explaining why the top 6 are the key to functional strength and the key to a “keep it simple stupid workout” to someone yesterday…I’m sending them to your blog.
    And that pic is just about the most horrifying thing I have seen fitness wise. People do just fantastically stupid crap when they are uneducated and are fed the absolute wrong information by uneducated “trainers”. Jesus.

    • RG January 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      This – “People do just fantastically stupid crap when they are uneducated and are fed the absolute wrong information by uneducated “trainers”

  5. Smriti January 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Haha..the last pic cracked me up!!! 🙂

  6. Lavanya January 14, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Oh I used to do that bosu ball thing at LAFitness – the personal trainer told me to!

  7. malpaz January 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    nice, i like to know i do what you consider ‘worth while’ exercises…love deadlift but only do it once a week

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  10. Alissa February 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Raj — Can you elaborate on “Any kind of bosu ball crap because it’s just sad, lame and downright stupid.” I would add “and is taking up space in my living room that I’d rather it not.” But no value in core fitness? Thanks.

    • RG February 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm

      Alissa – Bosu ball workouts are overrated and I see ranked beginners wasting time and energy trying to squat on a Bosu ball when they can’t perform a below parallel squat on solid ground.

      Doing just the basic moves (squats, deadlifts, pushups, pullups etc.) without any crazy gimmicks will get you extremely fit and fine.

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  13. FitProAK February 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Wow, very cogent argument you make about Bosu balls. I assume you’ll indemnify me when a client’s knee explodes because I didn’t bother to help them improve their neuromuscular coordination before having them perform more functional exercises?

    • RG February 21, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      No idea what your background is but rule no. 1 in functional training – stable surfaces before unstable. I’d have a client do a hundred different exercises (in order to improve neuromuscular coordination and proprioception) before I put him on an unstable surface.

  14. Monkey Boy March 5, 2011 at 9:12 am

    This is a great post! I also enjoyed your “My Story” post. Thanks for sharing this information and bringing some common sense back to exercise. Keep up the great work!

  15. Jer March 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Love all your articles! But! I didnt like one of the things you mentioned in this blog.

    “Kipping pull-up because it works nothing. Wasted reps. Waste of time. High risk of rotator cuff injury.”

    I have gone from doing 5 strict pullups to being able to do 20 by only doing kipping style pullups in a short amount of time. They definatelly work. And for getting hurt doing them, its like every other exercise… Do it properly and everything will be fine. Please re-consider the kipping!!! ❤

    • RG March 23, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      Hello Jer,
      Thank you for the comment. I’m glad kipping pullups work for you and 20 strict pullups is great. But let me ask you this – what other improvements have you made in this short amount of time? have you lost weight? how much improvement have you seen on your other lifts like deadlifts, squats, presses? What did the rest of your training look like?

      My point is not that kipping pullups are evil. It is just funny the way crossfit uses it. Yes, it is by far the best way to pull yourself up (from a functionality perspective). Meaning, if I’m hanging off a bar and I had to pull myself up to save my life, I’d kip my ass off! That said, programming 100 kipping pullups as a part of a metcon is not smart for the ‘typical client’. Most people will either get hurt or cheat… resulting in high risk vs. low to medium benefit.

    • RG March 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm

      Check this post by Freddie Camacho (one of the few long time crossfit guys) – http://crossfitoneworld.typepad.com/crossfit_one_world/2010/02/this-is-not-cool.html

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  17. prashant December 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    raj!! some of your blogs talk about sit ups… (non gymmers)

    and here u say u would never do a sit up??

    im confused!! O_o

    • RG January 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      Prashant – I used to do plenty of situps during my earlier times and always wondered why my lower back constantly hurt. Once I knew better I recommended against them.

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