Recent Comments

    Exercises Not to Do

    By Cinder Ernst–

    I was answering an inquiry about what exercises trainers never do and realized that most trainers no longer have their clients do abdominal crunches. I decided quite a few years ago that abdominal crunches were not useful at best. They are actually bad for your posture. I have often found myself ahead of the trends in fitness.

    Why were/are crunches still so popular? I believe people think that, if they do crunches, they will reduce belly fat. That will never work. You can’t spot reduce. If you could spot reduce, people who chew gum would have skinny faces.

    Crunches will strengthen your abdominal muscles, but they also can cause a more forward posture, as in rounded shoulders. In today’s world, the last thing we need is a more forward posture. Our phones make us do that in an unhealthy way. Maybe you see people all the time looking down at their phones. Perhaps you do that? Crunches train you to do that even more, so skip the crunches. Using your phone less might also be good!

    Instead of crunches, look for abdominal exercises that can make you longer and stronger. Try this right now: Sit with your feet on the floor and just press your feet into the floor. Do you feel your core engage? Hold that and lift both arms over your head. Reach for the ceiling as you press your feet down. When you do this move, you are strengthening your core in a long and healthy way.

    Most abdominal exercises you learn in Pilates or yoga will also be appropriate and beneficial. In the gym, you can try rope pulls or kettle bell swings.

    Another exercise to avoid is the Behind the Neck Lat Pull-Down. The most effective way to do this back-strengthening exercise is instead to move the weight down in front of your face. Come as close to your nose as possible and stop by your chin. Usually, if you pull below your chin, your shoulders will begin to roll in. Notice the next time you try this at what point your shoulders do start to roll forward, and then end the exercise there. The primary movers in this exercise should be the muscles working your shoulder blades. Put your focus on these muscles.

    A good shoulder exercise to leave out is the Upright Row. Upright Rows contribute to shoulder joint impingement. You may not notice the damage until it’s too late. The shoulder is an amazingly mobile joint. The rotator cuff muscles act as the “socket” part of the ball and socket joint, which explains why you can move your arm around in so many ways. (Think of the difference between what your shoulder joint can do and what your hip joint can do.) Because the shoulder is so mobile, it is also vulnerable.

    A good rotator cuff strengthening exercise to add in is the Arm Alphabet. Stand with your arm straight out to your side, pointing your index finger toward an imaginary chalk board. Now draw the alphabet on the chalk board. Make your letters big and use the area equally in front of you and behind you. Do one arm at a time.

    You may not get through the whole alphabet when you first try it, but you will get stronger quickly. Doing this exercise can prevent future shoulder problems. If any of the letters hurt or the positions are uncomfortable, stop and get some advice from a good trainer or heath professional.

    As always, go slow, pay attention and have fun!

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Her book, “Easy Fitness for the Reluctant Exerciser” (, is available in paperback and eBook. She specializes in fitness and rehab for plus-size clients, but her stress-free approach is suitable for all. Find out more at