So this is a bit of a continuation-slash-response to something from last week. When do you not do a particular exercise, or what exercises should you not do?
I usually don't like this discussion. I feel like it runs the risk of becoming an all-talk-no-action trap sometimes, and generally I prefer to tell people what they should be doing - it's more active and positive. But that said there are some circumstances where some exercises shouldn't be done.
I should say first off that different people will say different things at different times in the fitness world (and some folks are infamous for flip-flopping on what they say). So everything I say now may be outdated in a matter of months. I am also not a medical professional. Also, and most important, no one who reads this at time of writing is someone I have worked with personally. Different rules for different people. I wouldn't make the blanket statement that people should not do barbell snatches or overhead squats, but I won't do them because my impinged shoulder. So it's very important to at least try to consult with a professional for intense workout programs. Also, ALL loaded exercise carries some risk of injury. All of it. Sometimes your luck just runs out at the worst time and a light bicep curl blows out your elbow, and sometimes you can squat 800 pounds and walk away fine with no real rhyme or reason that you can see without really diving deep into the individual cases.
So here are the ones I see a lot. There are definitely others, but if I tried to write down every exercise that the internet - or even just professionals or semi-professionals - have said not to do at some point or another I'd write down every exercise.
As for where I got this information, I won't be citing individual sentences wikipedia-style, but this is a combination of my own knowledge as a trainer, my continuing education since then (I can't become a CSCS or CSC but I am reading some of their testing materials) as well as various physical therapists that I know and work with.
The argument: Squats place unnecessary load on the knees.
The facts: If you don't squat with proper depth then the argument is actually true. It may sound counter-intuitive, but squatting down to sub-parallel depth is safer than parallel or above! Let me explain a little. Per a physical therapist I've worked with, the point of maximal tension on the patella and surrounding structure of the knee is at parallel (for new or non-lifters, when your thighs are parallel to the floor during the squat is just shortened to "parallel" in the gym). If the direction of force changes from down to up (as in, the muscle action reverses) then that maximizes the amount of tension at that point in much the same way there's more energy going down landing from a jump versus standing. However if you squat to proper depth some of that tension is lightened, making it safer to switch from the downward motion to the upward.
When you ACTUALLY shouldn't do it: This would be when you have a knee or major hip injury. Basically, if flexion and extension of the leg causes pain in the joint, especially under a load, then you would need to find other ways to keep your legs strong - things like glute bridges, for example.
Argument: Deadlifts are bad for your back
The facts: Because the deadlift is the strongest lift for a lot of people there's a great deal of temptation to ego-lift more weight than you can actually handle. This leads to doing the exercise with improper form, causing the spine (which is supposed to stay stable) to bend under an extreme load. So the real case is that crappy deadlifts are bad for your back. Done correctly and with the right weight, deadlifts are actually fantastic for strengthening your spinal erectors.
When you ACTUALLY shouldn't do it: This one is contraindicated if you have a back injury, since it does require a lot of spinal stability. Fun fact, I once had a consultation who claimed he had no injuries but before we did deadlifts "remembered" that he once was thrown from a horse and broke his back in three places. In the case of a back injury, definitely find some other way to work glutes, hamstrings and erectors. Glute bridges and hamstring curls may be a friend here, again.
Argument: Upright rows are bad for the shoulder
The facts: This one is kind of a grey area - I honestly use it in very specific cases only. Np PT I've ever worked with has specifically contraindicated it for any client I've worked with, at least. It does leave the shoulder in a compromised position that can cause some discomfort if the grip is in the wrong place, but in terms of shoulder hypertrophy it actually works well in instances where overhead press is not possible (like high blood pressure situations).
When you ACTUALLY shouldn't do it: If I ran a Functional Movement Screen on you and there was pain on either side. To be honest, I see this one come up the most but it always seems to have the least meat to it - both in terms of benefit and in terms of how often it actually seems to go wrong. I definitely see how it CAN - but I also see how every exercise can potentially, maybe go wrong. In either case, if possible just do overhead press instead if you can. It gets better results and you won't have people giving you dirty looks over your choice of exercises.
Any Olympic Lift
Argument: Olympic Lifts Are Bad and Will Break You
The facts: I don't hate on crossfit as a whole, but if there's one thing that it has absolutely done bad for the fitness community it has made the association between olympic lifting and injury potential. Olympic lifts (snatch, clean-and-jerk, variations thereof) are very high intensity, requiring strength, power, speed and coordination. They are definitely best done by advanced lifters. However crossfit entails doing a lot of Olympic lifts for a lot of reps, still at high weight and often without enough focus on proper form and technique. This means a lot of folks who aren't ready to do snatches are doing A LOT OF SNATCHES. An expert lifter could probably make it through the workout feeling pumped up and awesome, but anyone else is really just putting themselves in harm's way.
(Aside: High Pulls, a subsection of a clean, are basically just super-fast upright rows)
When you ACTUALLY shouldn't do it: Well first off, don't do a lot of them under heavy loads until you're sure your technique is up to snuff. And even if you do, don't do them injured. They require multiple joint actions and muscle groups, so they can and will aggravate prior conditions in the shoulders, knees or hips.
So what's it all mean? I said at the beginning I hate these kinds of discussions, and the most basic reason why is that it really doesn't mean all that much since these are blanket statements for use over individual cases. But if you do take anything away from this one, I have two main talking points related to this topic.
My big bugaboo with fitness talks on the internet is that the amount of people talking about what exercises are "dangerous" very rarely actually lift. Sure, some do, but more often than not it's people with no profile picture commenting on some YouTuber's lifting video saying that they are Bad And Wrong for doing the program they're doing. That kinda frustrates me - it kind of reminds me of a much less severe Not All Men in that it completely derails the actual discussion going on almost all the time to force focus on what is at best a peripheral point - and in much the same way, there's a world of difference between "upright rows mean you're a bad lifter and worse trainer" and "I prefer to do lateral raises, shrugs and face pulls for shoulder and trapezius development because I feel my shoulder position is less compromised that way."
The second talking point is trust your judgement. Every lift has injury potential that goes higher and higher the more advanced you become, from the mightiest of deadlifts to the most cursory of bicep curls. As you get more advanced, though, your ability to read your own body will grow and you'll be able to back off of things you know your body doesn't work well with. Maybe you have an impingement of the shoulder that allows for vertical pulls but you can't reach overhead for presses or snatches, or vice-versa. Maybe you have a busted knee that only acts up once in a blue moon. More important than any number of articles or videos is your ability - a cultivated, learned skill - to listen to your body. And if you can't learn to trust yourself as you currently are, a qualified trainer can and will help you until you become the person you can trust.
(Gus voice): Speaking of qualified trainers, I just want to remind everyone that I do have online coaching available for a discount rate of $100 (normally $150), for which you get twelve written workouts sent to you via an Excel email attachment or Google Spreadsheets that will be tailored based on your fitness goals and current abilities. Send me request or inquiries via DM or on twitter @jeroic9 or Instagram @jeroic