When looking at the risks associated with exercise, you have a much better chance of long-term survival if you choose working out over staying on the couch. Still, there are some moves that just aren’t safe, especially for beginners.
Here are a few dangerous exercises you should avoid — or, at the very least, learn to perform correctly before making the risky attempt.
1. Overhead squats
Lifting things over your head makes you feel strong — but that’s not going to do you much good if you’re not actually strong enough. Full-body exercises like these require all your muscle groups to be on the same page. If you haven’t been working out your hips, for example, you risk injuring those muscles.
2. Seated leg extensions
Forcing yourself to straighten out your legs while sitting doesn’t really make them stronger. In fact, you’re putting yourself at risk of a knee injury the more weight you add to this machine. You’re much better off doing squats — the right kind — the next time leg day rolls around.
3. Lat pull-downs
You risk a serious rotator cuff injury in your shoulder if you try these, especially if you’re doing them behind your head. There are better ways to strengthen and tone your shoulders without putting too much unnecessary stress on them.
4. Romanian deadlifts
Many people who try deadlifts either don’t distribute the weight properly with their feet or round their backs as they lift, which are both ineffective and dangerous. You should never put all the stress of a lift like this on your back. Your butt and legs have to carry some of it, too.
5. Kettlebell swings
People who try this seemingly simple move before learning how to do it right risk shoulder injuries, which can take you out of the strength training game for much longer than you’d probably prefer. It’s all in the hamstrings and glutes, not your arms.
6. Bicycle crunches
These moves offer little to no lower back or neck support, which means doing them as fast as you can puts you at risk of several different serious spinal injuries. Either slow your bicycle crunches way down or do something safer and more effective, such as alternating side planks.
This exercise actually isn’t that dangerous — but most people do pull-ups incorrectly, which is a definite risk. If you don’t know the proper form for doing a pull-up, or you aren’t strong enough to do them right, practice with a resistance band and someone spotting you to correct your form.
8. Bent over rows
Rows are great strength training exercises if you want a strong back, but many personal trainers advise against doing them while bent over at the waist. That position will likely interfere with your posture and could lead to an injured nerve in your spine.
9. Backward medicine ball tosses
Unless you want to deal with a herniated disk, you probably want to avoid exercises that require your spine to bend backward at any speed other than slow. You can use medicine balls to build up your strength, but you typically shouldn’t try throwing them behind you.
10. Preacher curls
This strength exercise involves sitting on a bench while doing curls with a barbell. This positioning puts your shoulder blades in the worst possible alignment — plus, leaning forward doesn’t offer any core or back muscles. Bicep curls should always be done in a kneeling position.